Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gun Control

[posted by Callimachus]

America's gun-control problem, as is often forgotten in New England and always overlooked overseas, is a practical consequence of the nature of this country.

I grew up in a suburban-urban Mid-Atlantic milieu where I never picked up a gun, never had the need or inclination to, and didn't know anyone local who was a shooter till I was in my 20s. Later I made friends from the South, where shooting was a cultural institution and rite of passage, along with gun safety. I have seen those folks and their firearms and I feel implicitly safe with them, even when they're shooting at dynamite sticks from off the back deck. They are the ones who will argue that an armed citizenry deters crimes, and they can count off examples of people who have thwarted mass killings by a judicious application of firepower in the direction of the would-be killer.

It's true the media underplays these cases since they don't at all fit the prevailing paradigm in newsrooms -- which, after all, are overwhelmingly staffed by people like me, but without the Southern friends. The statistics, however, are against them: The number of accidental shootings or stolen firearms outweighs the good of an armed citizenry in this imperfect world.

And then you go out west. Where you can drive for hundreds of miles without seeing anything like civilization. Where wild animals with six-inch fangs still come sniffing up to the door at night. Where silence and open space still draw edgy characters who don't really like other people -- as a wilderness always does.

And if you do more than just drive through it at 90 mph, if you stay there for more than a week, if you have women and children who depend on you ... you start to think about owning some sort of protection.

Try to make one national law on guns that is appropriate to downtown Atlanta, suburban New York, and high country Wyoming. Try to make 50 appropriate state laws whose consequences won't bleed over the lines from one place into another. Come back when you've got some real-world answers. Just spare me the simplistic bullshit, please.