Letter from America
By Cara Sheridan O’Donnell.
When our dog, Jack, was put down after he was hit by a car, this act of mercy was performed with a pistol owned by a neighbor. Had we no access to that gun, I do not know how long and how horribly the poor animal would have suffered. The trauma to his brain was massive; perhaps he would have lived for an hour, perhaps ten hours, but would no doubt have had died with or without veterinary attention. I remember being grateful on the day that a gun was made available so quickly to us. Was the gun registered? I have no idea. Was the weapon owned by a law-abiding, respectable member of my community? Yes. While I do not know the history of the gun itself, I do know the history of its owner: It is most probable that, if the gun was bought in brand-new condition, its use that day was the first and only time it was ever fired to end the life of a living creature.
It was only after I moved to the South as an adult that I met many people who grew up with a healthy respect for and knowledge of all types of guns. Some surprised me with that knowledge. While on a business trip to New Orleans, I was accompanied by my favorite, gentlemanly young computer programmer. After a long day manning the booth at a trade show, we chose to walk from the restaurant in which we had dinner to our hotel. Taking one wrong turn, we found ourselves in a sketchy neighborhood, an area just unsettling enough to cause my co-worker to mutter, “I wish I had one of my guns with me.” I was dumbfounded.
“You have a gun?” I asked, trying (without as much success as I had wished for) not to put too much emphasis on the word “you.”
My coworker regarded me curiously. “I have about a dozen, maybe more,” he responded. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have at least one gun, except—well, I’m guessing—maybe you!”
Back in the office a few days later, he told our colleagues how astonished I had looked when he told me he was a gun owner. Yes, I was teased unmercifully by the rest of them because, as it turned out, I was the only person in the company who had never so much as held a gun. Indeed, one member of the customer support staff had recently purchased a new pistol to replace a gun she had given to her mother! Mind you, our office staff comprised only upstanding citizens – nary a one had a criminal record. Some used their guns fairly often at shooting ranges or on weekend hunting trips. A few were ex-military or grew up on military bases. Some no longer hunted but kept at the ready the guns they had acquired over the years for the protection of their families in the event of a home invasion. One treasured his collection of antique firearms, certain that they would one day be worth a fortune.
The consensus among conservative, law-abiding gun owners is that mandating the registration of all weapons would result in the registration of only those weapons owned by conservative, law-abiding gun owners, and that criminal types will be the only individuals in the United States who possess unregistered weapons. This is, in my opinion, a logical assumption. It is also their fear that registration of all guns merely makes it easier for subsequent confiscation of weapons by authorities. For this fear, they are scoffed at by gun-control advocates: “Nobody wants to take all your toys away!” I, however, find that fear to be well placed. I do not like to think that registration requirements are necessarily a prelude to confiscation—not here; oh, no, not here in the land of the free and the brave!—but I have to think it could be. Where does that leave all those unregistered weapons? In the hands of criminals! (Read my exhaled “DUH” right here!)
Registration of guns and ultra-strict requirements for obtaining guns are not the answer to the problem of violence in the United States. They are not, as is asserted by some, even the beginning of a solution to the problem of violence in general; but what is the solution? Can a solution be achieved in a year, a decade, or ever? What are your thoughts? Does a solution come readily to your mind?
Why don’t you let Cara know your views on this matter? In Ireland for example, you can’t buy a handgun, and to be found in the possession of one is considered a very, very serious offense. Yes you can purchase a rifle or shotgun, but the rules are very stringent.
The criminals have the guns, our uniform policemen do not (yes we have armed detectives and Swat teams etc) but our murder rate is still way below the US.
So does having easy access to a gun make your life safer when the bad guy has one?
‘Fire breathes fire in some people’s book’.
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