In thinking back through my life, I can't think of a time where I didn't like guns. A slew of squirt guns, cap guns and things that simply resembled a gun shape moved in and out of my life. I wasn't obsessed with weapons (sure, as a teenager, I loved the idea of dangerous things), a gun-shaped item is merely the most efficient shape in which to deliver something ELSE a distance from me (water, noise, and yes, bullets).
By the time I got to military school and learned to shoot competitively, I found that I enjoyed shooting as a form of relaxation. It takes skill to put a small projectile through a dot on a piece of paper 25+ yards away. At Olympic-level events, you have to control or account for everything, even air temperature. And I have found that when I'm shooting, if I focus on it properly, everything else melts away.
But I didn't own a gun until I was 30. Now I have several - securely locked away from curious fingers. I own them for personal/family protection in addition to target practice. And while I've given a great amount of thought to the Second Amendment, I don't know whether I really believe that individual gun ownership was intended by the Constitution. For now, however, the US Supreme Court has ruled that it is and does.
Now, this doesn't mean that I believe that just anyone can own a gun. As with other things in a polite society, we have reasonable rules and regulations surrounding ownership. In North Carolina, you can acquire a handgun in one of two ways:
- Purchase a gun permit - which requires subjecting yourself to a background check, including validation against the FBI's fingerprint database that you're not otherwise prohibited from gun ownership (i.e.: a former convicted felon). You can buy a maximum of 5 at a time.
- Complete the "Concealed Carry Handgun" program - which is an 8 hour course on handgun safety, laws and shooting and then allows you to, within the boundaries of the law, have a handgun on your person that is not visible to others (in NC, open carry is permissible without a permit - you just can't carry to the "terror of the public"). With this permit, you can purchase a handgun without an additional gun permit.
I have purchased handguns under both methods. In both cases, the federal and county/state government knows who I am and that I own at least one gun. Unlike others, I am actually ok with them knowing. Why? Because I don't plan on doing anything illegal. (Yes, I understand that this is a slippery slope argument and can be used to support government-run surveillance, etc.)
Overall, this means that I don't want ex-cons, people with psychological disorders, or people with a history of violence (of any kind) to have guns. In addition, I don't think that the average individual needs to have automatic weapons - and, generally speaking, probably doesn't need to own dozens of weapons either (collectors notwithstanding).
Even on a god awful day like yesterday, though, it's not the gun that killed a single individual. It was the person who was using the gun. If he had left the guns in his car, the guns themselves wouldn't have done anything.
The problem in blaming the guns is that they're merely implements of destruction. They no more kill someone than a car kills someone. And as far as killing is concerned, cars are the mode of nearly 3x more death than violence (guns, but not just guns). In 2011, the World Health Organization statistics showed that vehicular death was 2.98% of the total, violence (again including, but not limited to, guns) was just .98% (so guns were responsible for even less).
Yet you don't hear anyone suggesting that we ban cars. Heck, we can't even figure out a way to stop repeat offenders from driving under the influence. So why argue to ban guns and not cars?
Well, I suppose it's because people believe that a gun's only purpose is to kill and does so when operated correctly, whereas a car is meant for transportation and kills when (usually) operated incorrectly. But it's the operator, not the implement. Let's find a way to fix that instead.
[BTW, I welcome healthy debate in the comments below. But I want real debate - not strawman arguments, emotional pleas, etcetera.]