"Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom." -- John F. Kennedy
A few years ago I was living in New Hampshire (State motto: "Live Free or Die"). It was a rural setting where neighbors knew each other and were bound by a common appreciation of nature and the enjoyment of the outdoors. It felt comfortable and friendly.
But two things happened that changed this way of life. The first was when a mentally ill man entered a army surplus store and open fired on a half dozen customers with an assault rifle, killing and maiming several innocent people. Shortly after this horrific event there was a home invasion a few houses down my street. An elderly couple were held captive for three days while a group of deranged young men ransacked the house and tortured their hosts.
I was not a gun owner at the time -- in fact I was perhaps anti-guns, although I hadn't really thought about it.
One day, on my way home from work, I passed by a gun store and convinced myself to at least check out the possibility of owning a handgun. The salesman was very knowledgeable and I ended up buying a Sig 9mm and a box of ammo. For weeks I kept it in a safe and was nervous to handle it.
A friend suggested that I take a course offered through the National Rifle Association (NRA) which was taught by the local police department. I learned how to dismantle the gun, clean it and, most importantly, how to handle it safely. I joined a local gun club and took advantage of their shooting range where I discovered I was a "natural" -- able to shoot a paper pie plate at 40 feet, 15 out of 15 times in a tight cluster.
One thing that surprised me was the loud noise. Even wearing ear protection my head would ring for hours after spending time on the range. The few times when I forgot to wear ear plugs I almost went deaf. Suddenly, all those movies with cops shooting at the bad guys seemed unreal. I thought, "How can they fire their weapons without ear protection?" This was especially true if the gun was fired inside a closed space where the percussion alone was enough to make anyone disoriented.
As my skill improved I began to think of my handgun the way someone might appreciate a good set of golf clubs. Target practice became a sport. Shooting for an hour or so on a weekend reminded me of the times when I rode a motorcycle. Being forced to focus and remain calm was an essential ingredient and it somehow felt therapeutic. I no longer thought of the gun as a "weapon" and the idea of hurting another person was the furthest from my mind.
But not everyone has the same ideas about guns.
Once on the shooting range a stranger came with an assault rifle. Instead of targets or paper pie plates, this guy had photocopied life-size images of Obama's head an shoulders and he shot at them while talking to himself. There were several club members waiting to use the range and we were all shocked and disgusted. I left the range and never returned.
The recent mass murders in Connecticut and elsewhere are disturbing. I can understand the knee-jerk impulse to eliminate guns in the face of such a tragedy. Clearly there are mentally ill people who should never own guns, but should the prohibition on gun ownership be universal? Who is really to blame for these killing sprees?
Shortly after the disaster in Connecticut, I logged on to Netflix to watch a movie. I selected a category called "Action and Adventure" and the selection of movies appeared (see above). Wow. I saw this "entertainment" with fresh eyes. I realized that the problem is much greater than a few psychotics -- it is endemic to our culture. We have become so overstimulated with the media that we need more and more violence to support what is supposed to be "entertainment".
But how did this come about?
In the past few decades -- but especially following 9-11 -- America has been a country at war. The cultural conveyor belt has picked up the youth and carried them through military training, exposed them to killing on a grand scale, and spit them out with perplexed views of the world. Hate and fear has replaced love and compassion, guns and violence have replaced reason and compromise. Whoever has the guns is right. Morality is defined by those with the most weapons.
Just look around your town. Look at the youth with military buzz-cut hair and the stylish camouflage clothes. Watch the video games ("entertainment" again) that your kids play. Listen to all the patriotic banter about veterans of Bush's wars and the billions of dollars that we gladly pay for new and better methods of killing people.
OK. I'm old enough to remember the hippy days of love and peace. Men were not afraid to be "gentle" and being "liberal" only meant that you cared for those less fortunate than yourself. Young men would flee to Canada rather than join the military and kill someone in a foreign land that they had no grudge with... Today, killing is glorified and considered patriotic. Who can blame a sick mind for being influenced by this?
What's your take on this?
Gary Vey / editor / (reply to: myristicin-at-hotmail-dot-com).
Good points, Gary. It reminds me of something I experienced when I took a job at a mental health facility that housed mentally challenged kids. I was shocked to see that they had to sleep in steel beds with rubber mattresses -- worse than prison accommodations. Everything was hard and uncomfortable. I asked why and was told that once a resident had started a fire with his cotton sheets and his mattress had ignited, causing several injuries. It was a rare case, an accident, but the method of dealing with it was to impose non-flammable material on EVERYONE. I thought this was sad because hundreds of unfortunate kids were made to suffer because of one bad act.
It's like this is happening with the gun control too.
I say ban the assault weapons but leave the hunting rifles and handguns alone!
Great choice of words Gary. My guns have so much dust on them I doubt they would fire. In fact I forget which side of the closet they are on.
Signs of the times. The adolescent children of America spend hours in front of the silver screen battling, Killing.
I remember when I was that age and wondered what it would be like to be loved by a woman, be married,sex and all. Now I can't help but wonder if these kids growing up wondering "what would it be like to kill for real?" Do I have a psychosis in this implication? I made this same comment in 1992 talking with a neighbor.
Seems we all long on questions and short on answers. Making decisions based on fear and emotion are unsound. We learned this in school a few decades ago. "Practice what you Preach" was taught in the school of hard knocks.
Now it is being investigated that Pedophilia is the "Norm". Just as the movement of homosexuality has evolved. Sick world, NO? How long has that phrase been said?
Long on questions and Short on Answers!!!
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