Guns, Friends and Fears

I have to say, right off, that what follows is Not the post I had planned for today. I had intended to write about a book and an author whom I and some dearest friends have a personal history with. I had mentally composed a caustic and scathing diatribe castigating our former acquaintance. But as with another recent post, I found in the end that I could not write what I intended. And the reason I could not write that bitter, ugly post? Not because I came to believe that I was wrong in my conclusions but because a friend I care about deeply, who is wiser and stronger than I am (and who rarely realizes that he is in fact wise and strong) simply asked me not to.

So there I was, shelving in Non-Fiction New Releases when I was confronted by a book that in the end seemed considerably scarier than Martians, wars or even utterly loathsome assholes. Armed America–Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes by Kyle Cassidy scares the shit out of me.

That a few of the pictured gun-owners appear to be quite poor, and one or two of them clearly not very bright and one the classic stereotypical image of a skin head did not disturb me. What will keep me awake and afraid to close my eyes tonight are the pages and pages of well-dressed, middle and upper class white Americans, pictured in clean and beautiful homes, surrounded by the sort of munitions I would expect to see only in pictures of Army depots and police evidence rooms.

In Kyle Cassidy’s America, it appears that all gun owners are white. Most are rich and articulate. And they own a staggering array of terrifying weaponry. The cover image of the middle aged couple, dressed in their Sunday best holding their rifles as their adorable toddler in the Superman pajamas waves at the camera are emblematic of the mostly non-threatening and not at all sterotypical images of gun owners, pictured in their clean and well-decorated homes, awash in cats, dogs, children and guns, Guns, GUNS.

I became quite upset when reading this book and decided today to do something a little different. What follows is a review of the book written by my partner, Ron Routzahn. His take on the book is a bit different than mine– for one thing he did not find it particularly frightening, not even this quote from a New Mexico skinhead:

"As the Founding Fathers said, sometime the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots. I will be ready, to defend my country against all threats, domestic and foreign. I have sworn eternal enmity to the forces of socialism and control. I own firearms, and have drilled myself to proficiency with their use because I have read Gulag Archipelago and I wil not let it happen here without a fight. Advocates of Gun Control think that they will someday take my arms from me. But they are wrong. I’ll own guns all my life."

From what I understand of this gentleman’s politics he most likely would likely include gays, Democrats and most of the people I care about in the world as "socialists" and I am terrified to know that he is out there clutching a machine gun suitable only for killing large numbers of humans and of no conceivable use in hunting or sport shooting, waiting for the day that he will kill me and my family, perhaps when Cheney gives the nod. Ron insisted that I take a Xanax and kindly offered to provide a less hysterical take:

This book is in essence a love letter to the NRA. It attempts to show how gun nuts are "just everyday people next door". Nice middle to upper middle class families who just happen to keep automatic weapons and Grannies with arsenals. And let us not even get into the issue of all of these heavy duty weapons kept openly around children.

And frankly some of the images are damned scary. If these people really do keep such arsenals in their homes then G_D help us all. Statistics show that people are more likely to get shot in the middle of family conflicts, ie arguments. And these people could have a family fight at the level of a small "Military incursion". There’s also a good chance that if publicly known to have large numbers of weapons, a house is probably going to be burglarized. Crooks want the guns either for their own personal use or to resell on the streets. And a gun doesn’t know who it’s pointed at. There are many stories cops can tell you about how a burgler was confronted by an armed homeowner and got the gun away and shot them.

People have the choice to keep guns. But they should choose more wisely. Being Southern I grew up around guns and people who hunt. But handguns aren’t hunting weapons. They have only one purpose. To kill humans. Even rifles should be kept cautiously. Especially around kids.

As an ex of mine once said "If you need an AK 47 to go deer hunting, then you need to find another hobby".

This is a scary attempt to disarm any efforts at gun control by putting the idea out that gun fetishists are just everyday normal people. And that "if everyone else has a gun shouldn’t you have one too?" It’s a sad thing.

A special thanks to both of the special Rons in my life without whom today’s post could not have been produced. As always, I welcome your comments.