By David Norlin
It could have happened to anyone. I was in an excellent local business, where I always feel comfortable, warm, and welcomed, checking on my auto satellite radio receiver. Another customer walked in.
He didn’t look dangerous at all. Quite normal, in fact. Until I saw what he held in his hand: A pistol. Thankfully, in a holster. He was there for a Velcro-stick device for the holster, just under the dash, mere inches from his hand. I had a dash in mind–my dash out of there. Instead, I listened.
“This holster backstrap unsnaps easily; it’s in your hand like a flash,” said the salesperson. “Sold,” said the customer. I was out of there.
As I drove away, visions of road-rage gun violence plagued me. He seemed level-headed. But a level-headed guy leveling that gun left me shaking. And very careful not to cut anyone off in traffic.
I thought about our local City/County Building Authority’s recent discussion on gun carry in that most public space. Even though three Commissioners had been close to deadly shootings before, each assumed that carrying a gun also carries some measure of safety.
My head spun faster than a revolver. In an era when peace, understanding, and compassionate conversation have never been more important, how did we come to this pass?
True understanding can only happen person to person. But all talk ends at the end of a gun barrel. Reason is out the window. Along with me and the other nearly 80% of non-gun-owning Americans.
Guns are, after all, instruments of death. Gun power is the power of (illusory) authority. When you are the one with your finger on the trigger, no one argues with you—except someone with a bigger gun. Without it, who are you?
When we put aside guns and fears, coming together around common values, we open to real opportunities for understanding, and a richer life. When our riches are each other, not just material wealth, gun protection is not only unnecessary, it’s tremendously destructive.
Mass shootings are riveting, and horrible. But they are far less destructive than the “gun protection” mass psychosis inflamed by mass media. Although they create spectacle, the less obvious, but greater danger, is smaller and closer to home.
Evan Osnos, in New Yorker’s July 27 issue, “Making a Killing,” points out that, while “high-profile massacres…galvanize demands for change, 2015’s fatalities from mass shootings amounted to just 2% of gun deaths. More American civilians have died by smaller-arms gunfire in the past decade than all Americans killed in combat in WWII. Most of the time, [American shootings are] impulsive, up close, and apolitical.”
Manufacturers now sell many more hand-helds than hunting rifles. There are fewer hunters as more people move from country to city. In 1977, one-third of adults lived in a house with at least one hunter; by 2014, those numbers were cut in half. The scabbard-rifle, Lone Ranger, Old West is gone.
But the small-gun business is flourishing. In 2014, manufacturers produced nearly 900,000 smaller hand-held .380-calibre guns, more than in any previous year, and a twenty-fold increase since 2001. The overwhelming reason is “self-defense.” In 1999, a mere twenty-six per cent of gun owners cited gun ownership for personal protection; by 2013, self-defense was cited more than any other reason.
Ironically, “self-defense” can lead to self-harm. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that homes with guns increase homicide risk by 40 to 170%, suicide risk by 90 to 460%. Mere logic tells you that for someone having a bad day, suicidal thoughts with NO gun handy is much safer than suicidal thoughts with a gun ready-to-hand—or even “safely” locked up.
Given this insanity, can we talk? Yes. It’s time to stop pointing loaded fingers at each other. Less hysteria and fewer polarizing statements will help create a level playing field where we can all, well, play.
As journalist Hank Kalet points out, extremist gun-rights folk often equate all regulatory action with confiscation, while extremist gun controllers often stereotype gun owners as “an army of Ted Nugents.” The issue is not whether, but where, to draw the line.
When we reach out with compassion, not Colt 45’s, no Velcro holster is needed. Let’s draw together, not apart.
Today would be a good day to start. Make my day.
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