No, this isn’t a post about fruit, although I enjoy fruit, especially nectarines, raspberries and plums.
I just figured that after four straight days and 3,467 words mocking America’s obsession with guns and its Second Amendment rights, maybe the dozen or so people who regularly read this blog might appreciate a topical break. As in, “orange you glad I didn’t say guns?”
I don’t know how your minds work, but my mind is a little like a pit bull. Sometimes it latches onto ideas with its jaws—I’d say “powerful” jaws, but in my case I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate—and won’t let go until somebody offers it a bowl of tasty Kibbles ‘n Bits.
Or shoots it.
Oh, forget it.
You see, even now, despite my better instincts, my brain wants to gravitate back to guns. I think of it as an undiagnosed and untreated form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, except that instead of washing my hands repeatedly, I perseverate on certain concepts, which roll around in my empty skull like marbles until they eventually fall out of my ears and disappear.
These thoughts are often insignificant or trivial, like, “Ooh, I really like that new song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers! I think I’ll listen to it 50 times in a row!” Or, they can be more erudite, as I’d like to believe was the case with guns.
Damn! There it is again.
No, it just isn’t working.
Look, I need to get this off my mind, so here’s the thing: I believe guns are bad for America.
I tried to communicate that idea over the last four days in what I thought was a clever, backhanded way by creating a conservative, letter-writing character named Max Payne. Payne is named for a gun-happy character in a popular series of video games, and except for being passionate, he’s nothing like me. He’s an NRA gun nut of the worst sort. I thought that would be obvious, especially in context of what I normally write. I thought the series of posts was so bombastic—elementary school kids should be allowed to take guns to school?— that everybody would get the joke. I thought they were so riddled with factual errors—the national anthem is America the Beautiful and President George Washington fought the Nazis with Winchester rifles at the Battle of Trentlott?—that everybody would get the joke. I thought they were so over-the-top nutty—Jesus is coming back armed with AK-47s to battle the Devil?—that everybody would get the joke.
But almost nobody got the joke. Maybe nobody at all, which tells me that I failed. Miserably. What I have here is a failure to communicate.
So I apologize for doing a poor job of communicating, and for misleading you.
And now I’m going to say what I intended to say, but I’m going to say it straight: Frankly, I’m sick and tired of picking up the newspaper and reading headlines like “Four Cops Shot, Suspect Dead,” “Army Confirms 12 Dead at Fort Hood,” “13 Killed at Columbine High School,” and “Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead.” And I don’t believe the solution to those shootings—and many others that go unreported—is for Americans to buy more guns. No, I sincerely believe America needs to impose severe restrictions on guns, especially handguns and assault rifles. And by severe restrictions, I mean shit-can the Second Amendment and start confiscating guns and melting them into scrap.
I know that’s an extremely controversial idea because the American identity is so wrapped up in gun ownership. Historically, Americans equate guns with freedom, as people also do in impoverished, war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Nigeria, Serbia, Bosnia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia. That’s one reason why we buy millions of them every year and now own an estimated 270 million guns, enough to arm almost every man, woman and children in the country.
But we’re not war-torn or impoverished. We’re way past the days when we were a loose-knit group of patriotic revolutionaries at war with England. America simply doesn’t need 270 million guns, not anymore than it needs a stockpile of nuclear weapons large enough to blow the world into oblivion a couple of dozen times over. And that’s why I believe it’s time for America to set aside the paranoia and fear that seems to underlie gun ownership, grow up and join the rest of the civilized world, where gun ownership is severely restricted.
I realize that many, if not most, Americans strongly believe that if the government takes away our right to own guns, we’ll lose our other freedoms (whatever those are), too. But it’s simply not the case in England, France, Germany, Canada, Australia and countless other countries where guns are rarely used by anybody who’s not employed by the police or the military. I’ve lived in Europe, and people there don’t seem any less free or less happy than Americans. In fact, they often seem happier and more carefree than us, possibly because they’re always on vacation or getting free medical care. Or perhaps it’s because they rarely have to worry about getting their heads blown off while they’re out in public.
By contrast, here in the U.S., the National Rifle Association says more than 1 million Americans have died in firearm suicides, homicides, and unintentional injuries since 1960. Others believe the number’s actually much higher. Regardless, it’s high enough. It’s about as many battlefield deaths as we suffered in World War I, or in the Civil War and World War II combined. And it’s disturbing to me that we hold solemn ceremonies and erect grand monuments honoring the brave soldiers who defend our country fighting on foreign shores, but practically ignore the wanton slaughter that takes place daily within our own borders.
Did you notice that guns killed more than 30,000 Americans in 2006 alone?
I didn’t, and I think that’s sad. It’s even sadder when you realize that in that same year, less than 1,000 people were killed by guns in England, Wales, Australia, Canada, Austria, Germany and Spain combined.
I understand that many Americans like guns. Mechanically, they’re fascinating tools. Psychologically, they’re fun and empowering. I’m an NRA marksman myself, and I once killed so many squirrels in row with a pistol, my friends dubbed me “Murderous Mike,” not only because I’m an excellent shot, but because as the furry body count rose and I marched on unfazed, I seemed increasingly cold-blooded and callous even to my experienced hunting buddies.
So I get guns.
But I also get that guns do us far more harm than good. And that’s why I can’t get this thought out of my head: We need to work together to rid this country of guns.
It will take time to see the benefits of such drastic action, of course.
If we ban handguns and assault rifles, for example, then for a time—perhaps a decade or two—the only people who will have them will be cops, soldiers and criminals. And that will be frightening because we’ll have to trust the good guys to take care of the bad guys for us, as they almost always do. But after a while, gun violence will begin to fade away and become a problem of the past.
And then we’ll finally all be free to think about other things beside mayhem and violence.
Oranges are good.