Taking on the gun Goliath

-A A +A
By Rick Howell

It appears that we will have a major legislative battle in the New Year over gun control, a surprising development made possible only by the horrifying details of the latest gun massacre in Connecticut.
    We’ve tolerated these incidents for many years now, but when it comes to someone storming through an elementary school and murdering first-graders, using a weapon only the military should possess, well, that’s the stuff that should change hearts and minds.
    That feeling was very strong in the first several days after the shooting. President Obama led the way, reminding people that we simply cannot continue to accept these incidents as some kind of grim “new normal.”
    After several days of silence, we finally heard from the National Rifle Association, which has long been successful in preventing most meaningful gun control legislation.
    At first, even the NRA seemed affected by the killings, saying it would “be part of the solution” in trying to curb such incidents. Then, days later, we found out what their solution is, and we are never surprised: More guns, not less.
    The NRA has no problem with turning our schools into armed camps. They want teachers and administrators to be packing guns, lying in wait for the next creep who wanders in with an attack in mind.
    Well, that’s what they always wanted: More guns, not less. If an incident like the one in Connecticut can’t get that organization to budge and show a little humanity, nothing will.
    Remember that after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, then-NRA President Charlton Heston went to Littleton, Colo., and held a rally. Heston held his precious rifle up in the air and stated his “From my cold dead hands” mantra. It was a disgusting display of arrogance and insensitivity.
    It is time, indeed, to start taking some guns out of some hands, dead or otherwise. It’s time for decent people in both parties to lose their fear of the NRA and pass some common sense legislation.
    It wouldn’t hurt to study other countries and other cultures —  the ones that don’t worship gun ownership the way we do. Surely we can learn from places such as Canada and Japan, that have stronger gun laws than we, but also lack the feverish gun culture that is both common and dreadful here.
    The gun does go back deeply in American history and imagination. It both kept our ancestors safe and allowed them to hunt successfully, but was helpful in carrying out the genocide of the natives from whom we took the land, and it certainly helped us keep slaves quiet and servile.
    But we don’t live in colonial times or the Old West anymore, and it’s time to grow up about that. Sadly, there are many American males for whom gun possession seems to be the chief expression of their manhood. You’ve seen the type: they brag about their weapons, clean them constantly, and can never wait to get somewhere, anywhere to shoot at something, anything.
    I suspect some of these people need therapy, but will most likely never get it. It’s their dues-paying that has made the NRA into a feared organization.
    Yes, you have a right to own a weapon, and no one is against legitimate self-defense or any country boy’s right to hunt a deer. But we cannot maintain a civilized society by surrendering to our most primitive instincts.
    President Obama need not fear the NRA. But too many politicians are scared to death of it. That’s the first thing we need to change.
    Banning military-style assault weapons is the best place to start. Stay tuned; it’s going to be dramatic. But it’s finally time to take on the NRA.

* * * * *

Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com