Americans LOVE Guns SO Much!

By Kevin

(About the illustration: Do you remember playing “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and Indians” as a kid with toy guns, and yelling “BANG! Yer Dead!” as I do? I often think that grown-up folks with their guns are still acting out those childhood games and fantasies, but when you look into their faces, they no longer look like cute little kids. They look deranged, obsessed and insane. That’s what I tried to capture in my drawing below. -k)

 

Americans LOVE guns SO much… What’s up with THAT?! Well… Why wouldn’t we? They’ve worked awfully well for us so far. As invading Europeans in search of a new home, we managed to kill off most of the Native Americans, push them off their own property and take over their nation because we had guns and they didn’t. We enslaved Africans and forced them to abide by our will and do our work at gunpoint. We “tamed the Wild, Wild West” with our guns, appropriating a huge part of Mexico as our own. Earlier we succeeded in violently securing our independence from England because the Brits insisted on lining up in bright red coats, presenting themselves as targets, while we hid in the bushes with our guns and picked them off. They were sitting ducks. Less than a century later we massacred each other in one of the bloodiest civil wars in human history, but we managed to keep the union together. Lately I’ve been wondering if we might have been better off putting our guns away, saving all those precious lives and allowing the Confederacy and the Union to separate into two nations, roughly defined by today’s red and blue states. But that’s a topic for another day.

Since those early times, we Americans have gunned our way through WWI, WWII (which we won with the big “nuclear gun,”) Korea, The Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we have emerged as the world’s only military superpower. We may not have the most robust or expansive economy any longer, but as God is our witness, we are Number One in guns! But we are not just “Top Gun.” We spend nine or ten times more on defense than our nearest competitors. Considering our crushing national debt I can’t help wondering if it wouldn’t be okay for us to spend just three or five times more than the next most militarized nation. Do we really have to spend ten times more? Is it honestly necessary to have enormous bases all over the world and to police the planet, jumping into wars at the drop of a hat, sometimes on false pretenses as we did in Iraq? I realize that guns, arms and ego have made us the warlords of the world, but aren’t we going just a little bit overboard?

Here at home it seems like everyone has guns now. Certainly that is true in the back woods where Robert and I live. Lots of folks in these parts display Confederate flags on their cars and houses. There are militia groups around, and the KKK is rumored to be pretty strong in this area, nicknamed “Li’l Alabama.” Forget liberals! There aren’t even any moderate Republicans. Tea Party Republicans who believe in government enough to vote are the “liberals” here. Many people want the government to go away. I guess they must assume that law and order would be upheld by our guns when government disappears. The mob with guns will rule. All these anti-government anarchists have always seemed so idealistically naïve to me. They never consider the possibility that without government, society would devolve into medieval feudalism and survival of the fittest – the “fittest” being those with the most and biggest guns. They don’t seem to think they could ever become the victims of a mob with guns. Robert and I have to be extremely cautious in these woods. We would never display a Democratic yard sign or put an Obama bumper sticker on one of our trucks. People would drive by on our dirt road and shoot their guns at such signs. In the city just 30 miles away, friends and acquaintances know that we are a couple. But out here in “Li’l Alabama” I am known as “Old Uncle Kevin” and Robert is my “nephew.” If we lived openly, some people would want to use “Second Amendment Remedies” against us.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” To my mind, this is clearly designed to ensure that military forces can be organized and “well-regulated,” please note, in order to defend the State, which obviously refers to the country. But I will acknowledge that “State” could be construed as one state among the United States as well. Either way, it seems to me that “well-regulated Militia” are very thoroughly covered by The National Guard, The Naval Militia, the state militia forces, and the various branches of the U.S.military.

Everyone I know owns guns, except for a few close friends and my parents and their friends. Until last week I had never heard one of them argue that they own guns in order to help form “a well-regulated Militia,” in case the existing militia might not suffice. Last week Robert met a very nice 70-year-old man and his “lady friend,” as he calls her, who eventually bought two of Robert’s 4 ft x 6 ft abstract expressionist paintings for their large home in an exclusive gated community. The man is an avid gun collector and spends most of his free time shooting guns and making his own ammunition. One of the reasons why he eventually purchased two of Robert’s most stunning canvases is that Robert was able to discuss guns and ammunition with him. They bonded over guns. Lots of people do, and then they practice shooting at targets or innocent animals as recreation.

Some people in our region are so poor that they really do need to hunt to feed their families, and I absolutely do not begrudge them that right. I would do it too, if I had hungry children and no other way to feed them. Still, I’m awfully glad that the local authorities closed and barricaded our dirt road leading into the game land, because hunters used to drive by at 5 mph with rifles pointing out of their truck windows and into our property. The beginning of deer season used to sound like a war, with rifle fire every 30 seconds and men in orange swarming over our private land. Now they have gone elsewhere, leaving us in peace, thank goodness, because they don’t like to hike into the killing fields. But the art collector told Robert that he and his son were deeply involved in collecting and shooting guns and creating their own bullets so that they would be ready in case it became necessary to form a militia – the Constitutional justification for bearing arms.

Robert served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years, all over the world and earned four rifle expert medals for excellent marksmanship. He knows how to handle guns and rifles, and he has three of them. He hardly ever brings them out, but they are here. Although my dear father was raised in a pacifist family, he served with the Merchant Marines in WWII because he felt strongly that even pacifists had to oppose and stop Hitler. Dad’s position seems utterly defensible to me, and I might have made the same decision had I been alive in WWII. But I didn’t serve in the military. Hitler had been vanquished long before I registered as a conscientious objector in the draft, and then drew a very high number in the lottery. I have never fired a gun. I feel uncomfortable just holding one. Robert says at least I need to learn how to hold a gun properly, so that I could bluff my way through a threatening situation if necessary. Maybe so, but it always seemed to me that standing unarmed and naked in front of an aggressor would be a more effective way to ward off an attack. But of course, that’s what Mahatma Gandhi did, and he was eventually shot to death, wearing only a loin cloth and shawl. He was clearly not armed – a scrawny little man with nothing but Peace, Justice and God on his mind. But I guess that seemed threatening to a lot of people. As he fell, the humble spiritual giant died raising his fingers in the sign of peace to all and forgiveness for his executioner.

The beloved Mahatma was gunned down a year before I was born. But in my lifetime, there has been so much gun violence in America that it sometimes looks like anarchy already. President John Kennedy was killed, and then Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. President Reagan was shot and barely survived. John Lennon was gunned down. Gabby Giffords nearly died in a mass murder over a year ago, and now the nation is inflamed over the shooting of Treyvon Martin by “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman. And these are only a few of the most celebrated assassinations and murders. The sheer volume of gun violence that takes place every day across this nation is tragic, senseless, and mind-boggling. In my own neighborhood, a state game warden and father of three was shot to death at point-blank range when he confronted a hunter for using illegal methods. Still the gun lobbies push for legalizing all forms of weaponry and magazine clips and armaments that could only be used to inflict mass human casualties. This is insane. I don’t feel more confident because everyone has guns. I don’t feel safer having them in my own home. I don’t rest easier knowing that so many nations possess nuclear arms and my country has more than anybody else. Why do we believe that the way to solve problems is to overpower and kill people? Isn’t this a very serious flaw in human nature? Wouldn’t a truly mature intelligent race solve conflicts in a nonviolent manner? Wouldn’t a wise and civilized people moderate their drive for power and learn to negotiate, compromise, and live and let live? In the glowing light of The Golden Rule doesn’t violence look ridiculous and unworkable? By the way… The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” NOT “Do unto others as they do unto you.”

But Americans LOVE guns SO much, and we will not give them up. Too many people truly feel that the more guns and nuclear warheads we have the safer we will be. So what can we do? I don’t have the answers, but I am certain that destroying government and turning law and order over to an armed mob is not the way to go. Quite the contrary, it seems to me that those of us who believe that the future must not be defined by guns, murder, weapons of mass destruction and war cannot stop resisting the tendency to arm the world. We must support gun control laws and regulation, nuclear arms treaties, and negotiated settlements instead of wars. We must promote constant reduction in numbers of guns and armaments. If we steadily move toward a wiser, more mature and civilized approach to power and conflict, there will be a brighter future for the human race.

Our Founders had it right with their first impulse in the Declaration of Independence, when they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” No one but God has the right to take a life. We should melt our guns down into plowshares and learn the subtler arts and pleasures of Peace. When humanity fully matures, we will truly know how to afford everyone their unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We will solve our local problems, our national conflicts and even our children’s hunger and our own drive for power without using guns.

10 thoughts on “Americans LOVE Guns SO Much!

  1. Hi Kev….
    I can’t resist…. you know me… labels, generalizations… I’m not a fan. I don’t think “Americans” love guns. I’m an “American” and I don’t love guns… you’re an “American” and you don’t love guns… no… the individuals who make up the group labeled, “Americans” don’t (all) love guns, hate them nor fall in between in some sort of neutral zone as a group. Understanding individual feelings or stances on the topic of “gun ownership” or “gun rights” is (again) a very complex undertaking.
    The most devastating experience of my life involves one of my best friends who … one evening… tucked her 11 year old son (one of my own daughter’s best friends) into bed, went downstairs, wrote a note to her family, fed her beloved dog, left the fireplace burning because he loved to curl up there until the embers died, locked the doors, finished the dishes, got ready for bed and took her husband’s pistol, entered her son’s room, shot him in the head and shot herself. They were found the next day and separate funerals were held a few days later.
    I hate funerals…. but I went to both and 10 years later, I’m still not over it.
    There are a lot of “ifs”…..
    If I had called that night….
    If her husband was not cheating….
    If the gun was not there….
    If …
    If …
    If …
    But, honestly, the “gun” couldn’t have done this alone. If not the gun, maybe a knife… if not a knife… maybe a pill… if not a pill… maybe a river…. if not a river… maybe … what?
    Do you think, for a moment, that she was “in love with” the gun? Not the gun… believe me! Not the gun. So what did the gun mean to her… what did it give her? Release from an intolerable life? Freedom from oppression? Ending of emotional pain? Control over the uncontrollable? Balance of power? Peace (ironically)?
    I wish I knew.
    I think it means an infinite number of things to as many individuals as hold one.
    Do I think it’s OK for people to target shoot small animals for sport? No. Life is precious and that whole idea of target practice on living things is insane. But I know that some people enjoy honing their skill at sharp shooting. Other people like to golf…. or shoot baskets…
    When I was 5 yrs old I was completely taken by Annie Oakley! I had an “Annie Oakley” skirt with fringe and an “Annie Oakley” vest with more fringe…. I had “Annie Oakley” boots and a gun and holster and real caps….. even the cowgirl hat…. WOW!!! One of my favorite pictures is of me sitting on the front porch with that outfit … ready for action. Ridiculous… but not so fast…. Annie could shoot. SHE (she) shot like a man! She spit like a man! She rode a horse like a man! I loved that! She shot beer bottles off a fence 100 yards away… it looked like 4th of July fireworks when they exploded! Back then, I’d never shot a gun but I threw rocks. And I’d practiced enough so that I could pick a smooth rock, eye up the target…. a card pinned to the clothesline… and snap it right off the line from the edge of our porch… I’m guessing about 15 feet away. There was joy in the accuracy of that hit. What can I say?
    But I saw guns used other ways…. for hunting (I hated that)… for putting down a dog with distermper (I cried for a week over that)… for polishing (my dad had a WWII gun with a bayonette that he polished and once in a while would show me and tell stories about carrying it)… once our neighbor, who had had too many beers came to our front door wanting to shoot my brother… not OK.
    But later, my family split up and mom and I had to live in a very low income neighborhood. People argued and screamed next door…. fights broke out all the time…. drunks were out of control and unpredictable. One night, a particularly rough neighbor began threatening other neighbors and became violent. An elderly gentleman who lived upstairs in our apartment building came down with a gun. He showed it, asked the violent man to high-tail it out of there and he did. No problem… no return. He left and never came back. I like that and I am 100% sure it wouldn’t have gone that way without the gentleman showing his gun. We had tried the words alone… not happening. He later told us that gun wasn’t loaded and he had no ammo. So ….. what are we to make of this?
    When I was working in a rehabilitation center back in the ’70s and ’80s I had many clients who were disabled because of gunshot trauma. They were parapleigic or brain injured or amputees… but it was territory that drove the hate…. these guys would have used guns or whatever they could get their hands on to harm each other. I would have seen them in rehab even if all the guns in the city had been melted down in to plow shares.
    Anyway…. there are a million things that can be used for harm or for good. Can we take away all the things that have potential to harm? Can we “childproof” the entire world? Or is the heart of the problem in the heart of the man or woman? And how to fix that?? Those pesky little 10 commandments might be worth a whole lot more than they are getting credit for these days…. just sayin’….

    • Nan, your comments may do a better job than my article and illustration of making my points about the seductive allure of guns and the dangers and tragedies inherent in having guns. I am deeply saddened to read about all the tragedies and suffering you, and people close to you, have experienced in your lives due to guns.

  2. But Kev…. it’s not the object (the gun)… it’s the people who thought up the plan and pointed the gun and agreed with their trigger finger that pulling the trigger was what they wanted and were determined to do. The guns do not do this on their own. Again… how can we “childproof” the world? Before there were guns there were bows and arrows… maces… swords… axes… poison…. empty hands…. things weren’t perfectly peaceful before the invention of the gun… anyone studying world history can see this… the common element is the man or woman with the idea to harm or win or equalize or outwit or surprise….. The solution is a change of heart and a willingness to understand each other instead of attacking each other… with that may come a change in the language we use to define, build up or tear down each other (even language can be a lethal weapon in it’s own way… often it IS the straw the breaks the camel’s back) and a change in the use of guns (etc), their numbers and people’s desire for doing harm to each other.

    • Nan, yes, of course the trouble is in the minds and hearts of the people who use guns, not in those inanimate objects themselves, except inasmuch as they are designed exclusively as killing machines. Just as nobody would ever condone giving a loaded gun to a 5-year-old child, we should also object to giving these weapons to any and all individuals whose minds and hearts are inclined toward violence, revenge and emotional impulsiveness — that is to say, virtually all of us. I strongly suspect that if we were to check the statistics, we would find that the per capita murder rate is lower in countries that do not allow guns than it is in the U.S.

      • I am appalled about the ease with which Americans can purchase guns of all sorts. Yes, a determined individual will find a weapon, other than a firearm to kill or commit suicide. However, someone with a gun can do far greater harm, in a matter of minutes, than someone armed with a knife, dagger, or any other weapon of choice. In countries with actual gun control laws, the murder rates are only a fraction of our dreadful annual rate of massacre-by-gun.

  3. My son is a law student at University of Virginia. Five years ago, at another university in Virginia, Virginia Tech, the worst mass murder in US history took place, when a heavily armed mentally ill student shot and killed 32 people and wounded 25. Almost five years to the date of this horrific event, Virginia’s governor sought to repeal a one-gun-a-month purchase limit. Does anyone else feel that Governor Bob McConnell’s act to be unfathomable? I know that there is no guarantee of safety anywhere, but I would feel a tad less concerned for my son if the Governor of Virginia cared more for its citizens, than it does for the NRA.

    Kevin, I am a native Californian, and as such, I grew up with no exposure to hunting traditions. No one in my large extended family owns a gun. Thus, it is difficult for me to appreciate the culture associated with gun ownership. My strong aversion to firearms may very well reflect my paucity of understanding of the important role that guns play in many areas of our country. As such, Kevin, I am amazed that (although it sounds like a bucolic dream) you can live relatively worry-free amidst gun-mad, racist homophobes. Sounds scary to me, and makes me feel fortunate to live in Long Beach, California!

    Nan, the incident in which your friend shot her son and, then, took her own life is terribly tragic. I am so sorry.

    • Dear Lowliewise,

      I certainly identify with your comments about growing up in a gun-free culture and having trouble comprehending other areas in which guns are a very important part of daily life. I was raised in a pacifist tradition and spent half of my life in Southern California. I have learned a lot from Robert who was raised in the remote back woods where hunting was part of the way his deeply impoverished family survived. I have worked hard to listen and understand his eight years of experience in the U.S. Marine Corps as well. After living with Robert for over 15 years in a part of the country where hunting and rifle sports are very common, my understanding of the culture of guns has grown a little. But I can assure you that we were both extremely relieved and happy when our township closed the dirt road running through our property and into the game land. Deer season and other parts of the hunting season turned our humble lane and adjacent game land into a pick-up truck freeway and war zone with constant gunfire and the roar of trucks carrying out dead deer and other slaughtered wildlife. We always dreaded that time of the year and did not feel safe in our own home. Now hunting season is silent. We seldom see more than one or two vehicles per day on our dead end dirt road. And our beautiful woodland is a peaceful paradise again, as it was when the Native Americans inhabited this valley — not only for us, but for the wild animals that live here as well. The hunters and drunken revelers have driven their pick-up trucks elsewhere to kill innocent creatures, deface nature, and throw their trash everywhere.

  4. Dear Kevin,

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful response. Although I am a proponent of animal rights, and as a young girl, went so far as to “save” snails from my father’s efforts to poison them, I recognize the need (as in Robert’s case) to hunt animals, in order to survive. My only contact with hunting is limited to one instance, a few years back. While traveling through Massachusetts, I noticed a pick-up truck in the lane ahead, a gun rack, and the body of a bloodied and crumpled deer (Bambi?) in the truck bed. I was horrified at the sight! Even so, I realize that for those who grow-up in a culture in which hunting is the norm, my horrified reaction would be considered strange indeed.

    I am so glad that the country lane running near your place is no longer used as a thoroughfare for guys with guns, and that peace has been restored in your little piece of paradise.

    Kevin, I love your cartoons and intelligent and insightful writings! Thank you so much.

    • Nan, I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 18 years (no meat of any kind, but eggs and dairy were okay) and for the last 25 years I have eaten some fish and fowl. Vegetarianism is my preferred way of eating, but that’s just me. Over the decades I have met people who wanted to stop eating meat, but when they tried to do so, their health began to fail. Some people’s bodies really do need meat. Mine does not. I would be fine on a vegan diet. But I have come to understand that dietary needs are as personal and individual as sexual preferences. Having said that, for those who require meat, there are some approaches to carnivorous diets that are more environmentally responsible and kinder to the animals as well.

      A favorite story about a famous vegetarian: A disciple of Mahatma Gandhi complained to him about another individual and openly criticized that person for eating meat. Gandhi replied that it is more violent to criticize another human being for eating meat than it is to actually kill and eat an animal. I agree. I also very much like Mary Tyler Moore’s statement that she does not eat anything with a face. I aspire to live that way again in the future, because whenever I look into the eyes of any animal I see a soul like my own. And when I actually get to know that animal, their psychological and behavioral individuality and complexity is on par with many people I know. Someone might ask, “Well, what about fish?” Robert and I have about 90 koi with names in our half-acre pond, and occasionally some of them leap out of the water and make a splashy show for us. But our koi Homey is special. He is not decorated with flashy colors or patterns like so many of the others, so he has clearly decided to call attention to himself with his athletic skill. When he sees us sitting beside the pond, he invariably puts on a show, including many spectacular leaps and porpoise-like moves that allow him to move several feet through the water with half of his body above the surface. He is quite a character. But then we all are, and so are all the animals around us. When we get to know as many of them as we can, we always come to know them as highly individualized “personalities.” It’s hard to eat someone you have come to know as a uniquely differentiated being.

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