As promised, this is what I’ve already written.
[As a preface, I would also like to say to Charles Schumer: yes it is true that I criticize the National Rifle Association and its leaders, particularly when I think they’ve made statements or comported themselves in a way that I found embarrassing. That doesn’t mean I don’t support them otherwise, though. We’re often toughest on the people we care about the most, as they say in France. Also, I decided to reverse the order of the title of this post, but that’s just because I see it both ways.]
Gun control imposed by legislators is a horrible thing and we already know that. It’s like anything else imposed on us by committee and by the government: it’s painful, it’s usually ineffective in terms of its stated motives, it has a large number of unintended consequences, and it tends not just to reduce our freedom but to create a sense of greater dependency on the government as the only people who can “take charge” of a situation and set things right.
We have a lot of things to talk about in the aftermath of Newtown, but one of the most important things we can do, and should do, is to redouble our efforts to make sure our own people are “doing it right.”
Make *sure* your guns are secured and accessible by only the people who need access to them. We need to enforce among ourselves a higher level of attention when it comes to keeping those weapons stored in a safe condition. We need to shift what really amounts to a bit more attention to the security side of keeping and owning the weapons, and only we can do it: at gun shows, at dealerships, at every place someone buys a gun – including in private sales. And in the home.
In the home is important, because we’re not just talking about putting armed police officers in schools, we’re talking about also allowing people to continue to have the guns they already do – in their homes. And that’s where the guns used in the Newtown shooting were stolen from – by a member of the household. We need to think very carefully about it.
This has to become a topic of conversation and self-enforced etiquette among gun owners. It has to become as much a part of the culture as admiring the latest firearm that is beautifully made, or talking about collectors’ pieces, or taking your gun out to the field. We have to reinforce that message. Safety is a tip-to-tail phenomenon. Eddie Eagle is great, and he works with children. What we need also is a redoubling of the effort to help guarantee that the parents are as committed to gun safety as their children, and that all of us really understand that message.
We’ll sell more gun safes, and that’s a positive thing. We’ll be training more people about how to keep guns where they need them but also with less risk they can be purloined and misused and abused. Nobody who owns a gun ever wants to confront the horror of having their weapons used in the way they were in Newtown, CT, and that’s a thing we all need to make imperative. I’m *positive* Nancy Lanza would have done everything she could to stop her son, had she been able to. She didn’t want to die. She certainly didn’t want the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School to die. Adam Lanza’s father didn’t want them to die. I’m sure none of them wanted anything associated with what has occurred. However, she might have not done enough prevention and preparation given the realitites of who she was living with. It seems pretty evident that she didn’t.
If we don’t take those steps ourselves, they are going to be forced upon us – in much more draconian form – and it will be a great deal more painful and distasteful and insulting and destructive.
Anyone who goes to a shooting range knows the rules – or you don’t stay long. Most people who shoot in their own back yards know the rules. They’re enforced while you’re on the firing line, in your booth, in competition. And among friends and fellow gun owners and among instructors, people need to make safety a more important part of the conversation. People do the same when they take their rifles out to shoot for sport or in competition. There is more to be done and we can take positive steps to make it a part of the culture – to keep the weapons secured more carefully and more thoughtfully.
The range culture **is** a safety culture. I know, because I spent three years in high school shooting rifles in competition – doing my homework between relays, talking with my friends, having fun, watching TV, and at the same time doing everything we needed to do to make sure we were safe in what we were doing. We shot at ranges throughout the Garden State including ranges at colleges, and places just a few blocks from school buildings, in bucolic towns not very different than Newtown, and in towns that were a little rougher, too. Literally two dozen kids with competition rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition per week. And not a single serious injury among our young men and women – or anyone else. In fact we helped the local economy by buying late lunches and dinners.
Why? It wasn’t an accident.
We were a group of high school kids, yeah. But we had also created and maintained a culture among ourselves – one that valued an acute sense of responsibility for each other’s – and everyone else’s – safety. Well, in a nation that has more gun owners than ever, we need to make sure that culture of safety is instilled everywhere someone owns a gun. I know that it can be done, because the enjoyment of what you’re doing all begins and ends with the desire to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, to keep your friends safe, and to wake up tomorrow and go back to school, to work, to your leisure pursuits, to your hobbies, and to anything else you want to do. You have to be safe in order to get there from here. To see your children again, to live your life in freedom, and to know that you’re respecting the machines you have the right to own and enjoy owning.
All of that depends on how seriously and with how much respect we treat safety.
If you’re going to have the weapons, and you want to have the weapons relatively unimpeded, and it is your right to have the weapons, it is UP TO YOU to do a bit more to make sure you secure them. That means YOU to people who are not just selling guns but also to those who own them.
That is the overarching principle, and we need to redouble our efforts. We have to do it in complement with our other efforts, and we have to come through on it. If we can’t get the random mass shooting trendline moving in the other direction, everyone who believes in the 2nd Amendment in this country as the individual right to own firearms of all different types and capacities is looking at a losing proposition.
We have to take the steps to help create the conditions where fewer of these kinds of crimes can be committed, in addition to the steps we already have. Responsible gun owners need to step up, here, and make it into a priority. This is a cultural moment for the “gun culture.” We have to stand and deliver.
Think about it carefully and make it your primary thought for the next month: what do I have to do to make sure I can use my guns if I need them, but they’re also better secured than they are now? From theft, from “mentally unstable” people, and from people who shouldn’t have access to them. Beacuse they are MY responsibility.
If we cannot do that, the Government is going to increase the level of ITS responsibility and everyone’s individual freedom is going to decline in lockstep.
If you want to bring the rate of “Adam Lanza” type crimes down, you can’t just try to stop people like Adam Lanza – once they have the guns. You also have to do everything you can to prevent them from having easy access to the weapons, and we can all do that in a way that doesn’t detract from our ability to use them when we need to, or just want to.
We have to be smarter about it. It is OUR responsibility. The answer to irresponsibility and chaos is more responsibility. But WE have to take that responsibility and lead, and show the way.
We have an epiphenomenon going on right now between gun ownership, the ability of people to defend themselves, freedom in general, and random mass shootings, which are in an inverse relationship to overall gun crime. It’s a problem that is mixed up with our culture and many other factors. Desensitization to violence might contribute; more mentally ill people on the street and not in care probably does contribute; video games and ultraviolent graphic movies sure don’t help much, but it’s hard to say if they contribute, and who they contribute to. Not having fathers around is probably not a good idea. But that’s the culture we’re living in.
Despite that, we have to be sure that we’re taking responsibility for our factors – the things we can control – in the nonlinear differential equation nauseous rollercoaster ride here, by demonstrating our commitment to safety – not just in words but in action.
As I’ve said, I don’t know whether Nancy Lanza had a gun safe in her house. Does anyone know?
I know where I’m buying my next one, and I know that I am going to take more careful stewardship of the guns I have than I already do. Each of us who owns guns can probably think of several things they can do right now.
Complacency is not going to suffice. Betting on political winds blowing one way or the other is not a strategy. All of us need to have an idea of what we will each do better.
We don’t have a Bill of Needs and thank God we don’t. However, there are occasionally some times when we need to take some steps to help sustain and strengthen the Rights we have. Right now is one of those times.