Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Since I got into a bit of a scuffle with one of those Michigan Militia types (apparently) over on another site, I thought I might let people know what I personally feel ought to be our firearms policy.

Lots of people have perfectly good reasons for owning guns. I asked Festus what he does about the deer and the woodchucks, and he said, "I blast 'em. I come out every morning and I shoot at chucks, and I come out every night I shoot at deer." I told him one guy I knew used to shoot one chuck and leave it in the garden as an example to others. He said, "Nope, we usually stew 'em up."

Festus's neighbor Earl moved in a couple of years ago and planted a garden. He couldn't bear to kill the woodchucks so he got a Hav-a-Heart trap and baited it with a piece of broccoli. He came over one afternoon and he said, "Festus, I caught a chuck, you gotta shoot it for me." So Festus went over and shot the chuck. Then Earl took the bloody piece of broccoli and threw it back in the trap. The next day, he came over again. "Festus, I got another one, you gotta shoot it for me." So Festus went over and shot the chuck, then Earl threw the broccoli back in the trap. Sure enough, Earl was over again the next day. Festus shot the third chuck then he said, "That's it, from now on you gotta shoot your own chucks. You got the same moral responsibility whether you do it yourself or you get me to do it for you." Festus thinks Earl might be a little bit mad at him but what can you do?

That's pretty funny and it makes you think that everybody out there just ought to get his or her own gun. But the next story isn't funny at all. I had some friends named Bert and Lina who moved out to Pennsylvania and started farming. A couple of years later my girlfriend got tired of me and she went out there to be the business manager for the farm cooperative they belonged to.

Bert got into some sort of a squabble with a neighboring farmer about Bert's dogs. One day Bert and Lina were sitting in the kitchen with their baby in Lina's lap when the guy walked in and shot Bert dead. The murderer was over 70 years old and apparently he was demented.

From my urban point of view, there's no obvious reason to have a gun in the house at all except because you're afraid of other people who have them. Bert owned a gun but obviously it didn't do him any good. The data show that if you own a gun, it's much more likely to end up being used for suicide or hurting somebody accidentally than it is to be used to protect you. That's why a lot of people, mostly city people who have a lot of problems with gun violence, are likely to think the best thing to do is have fewer of them altogether.

Here's the way I see it, and to me it seems obvious. Guns are dangerous. So are automobiles. If you want to drive an auto, you have to take a test to prove you know how to do it safely. You have to get a license, and they can take it away from you if you misuse it, or if you can't see well enough to drive or you're demented. If you want to own a car, you have to register it. You have to get it inspected for safety and the manufacturer has to meet safety standards as well.

So we ought to do the same thing with firearms. That doesn't violate anybody's rights, it's just common sense. And we shouldn't let people register weapons that there is no good reason for them to own, like 50 caliber rifles. If shooting a 50 caliber rifle is somebody's idea of a good time, let them be stored at licensed shooting ranges and used right there. We don't let people drive formula one race cars on the street either.

There, was that so hard?

Addendum: I originally thought I wouldn't be totally specific about the story of Bert and I even changed the facts slightly to protect people's privacy, but then I realized this was a pretty well-documented and publicly recognized event. People may be interested in the full story, here.

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