I’ve been demoralized too many times
But now I realize, ah, ah, no more
I’m gonna get me a gun
I’m gonna get me a gun
And all those people who put me down
You better get ready to run
‘Cause I’m gonna get me a gun
~ I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun, Cat Stevens
Guns again are an issue—this time at the University Mall in South Burlington. Although, according to news reports, no one was hit directly by a bullet, the fact that guns were the first line of retaliation between feuding groups or individuals once again raises the question of what our culture believes about the value of human life.
The U.S. differs from Great Britain in regard to even police carrying and using weapons. Of the four constituent British countries, only Northern Ireland officers all carry firearms. In the others, some specially trained fire-arms officers carry them, but most do not. This practice goes back to the 19th century and the formation of the Metropolitan Police Service and the fear by the majority of the public that armed officers were detrimental to its safety. Ten years ago there were fewer than 7,000 “Authorized Firearms Officers” and only five incidents where conventional arms were used.
Apparently, however, the continued practice by police is an annual topic of debate.
Not so here, though. I’m drawn back to the incident in Las Vegas in 2017 when a shooter staying in a hotel suite managed to get 47 weapons, loaded with high-capacity magazines, up to his suite and into two of his Nevada homes without being noticed and without having his guns confiscated. Several of these weapons carried high-powered ammunition capable of piercing police armor.
I opened the New York Times Sunday magazine December 20 last year and the main article, which addressed the debate over vote numbers in the presidential election as counted in Pennsylvania, carried along with it pictures of Trump supporters carrying loaded pistols and AR-15-style rifles plus 160 rounds of ammunition. These weapons and amount of ammunition were meant for hunting people, not game.
Coming from a hunting and gun-club family I was drawn into sporting arms at an early age.
My grandfather owned property that fronted on an hourglass shaped lake with duck blinds on a point in the lake’s middle. Twice a day the local ducks would migrate from one end to the other—mallards, teal, redheads, canvasbacks, pintails and an occasional ruddy duck.
We would have to arrive in the blinds early in the morning to kill from the first flock. Then we would sit in cold, wet blinds for most of the day until the flocks migrated back to the other end of the lake. Thank goodness Saturday was our primary hunting day and we could listen to the University of Minnesota football broadcast while we awaited the ducks.
I never got into hunting ducks or clay pigeons even though my grandfather gave me a shotgun for my high school graduation. It hung in our home gun closet for years.
To me there is a difference between shotguns carried by my family and handguns and multiple-round rifles carried by the protesters at the capital last month. I feel strongly that these latter weapons ought to be banned because they were developed primarily to hunt people, not birds.
I have held to that opinion. Lately, however, I questioned it after reading two opinion pieces in which the authors support protecting themselves through their own gun carrying.
Charles Blow in the Times last December wrote about being Black and armed, saying that the “surge in Black gun-buying is a response to America’s failing to create a society where all citizens feel safe.” His home town in Louisiana was predominantly Black and “gun ownership was the norm . . . including in the Black community.” Before the Civil War, gun ownership by Blacks had been prohibited, and many of them saw this as an attempt to block them from defending themselves. Although Blow believes that fewer guns in his Black community would make it safer, he does note that due to the “unrelenting series of unarmed Black people being killed on video . . . gun sales to Black Americans were up 58 percent through September.” He wishes that America could have created a society that felt safe “without the need for personal firearms. . . However, it chose not to.” “Many Black people feel the need to defend themselves from their own country.” Roger Cohen, another Times correspondent, said freedom had become the muzzle of a Glock.
Let us hope that, despite the recent incident in the mall, weapons should not be a solution to disagreement.
Life on earth should not depend on our ability to threaten the death of others. Despite what John Lennon said, happiness is not a warm gun.