“Responsible Gun Owners” Are Responsible Until They’re Not; THAT’S The Problem

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are plenty of “responsible gun owners” who genuinely want to be responsible with their guns because they comprehend that guns kill people. And, up to this point, they can claim to have behaved responsibly (as far as we know) because their weapons haven’t hurt anyone. So, yeah — no argument. Those gun owners can claim to have been “responsible gun owners” so far. But that’s as far as their claim of “being responsible” goes. They can’t predict the future. They can’t predict a momentary lapse in judgment or circumstance beyond their control or an unforeseen accident that suddenly converts them from “responsible” to “irresponsible” without them even realizing it’s happening. Yeah, yeah – the same can be said of car ownership. But cars are designed for transportation. Whenever someone kills someone else with their vehicle? That’s the user mis-using the product. Guns are designed from the ground up to send a piece of metal flying through the air into a live target, killing it dead. A person who’s used a gun to kill another person? They’ve used their gun exactly per its design specs.

Even a “responsible gun owner” who’s failed has only failed to be responsible. Their gun did the very thing they bought it to do – whether they admit it or not.

Guns are death machines. I bet if we stopped benignly calling guns “guns” and referred to them only as “death machines” – our national conversation would take on a whole different nature. For starters, it’d be honest for once. WHY does any individual NEED to have a DEATH MACHINE in their possession? What specific threat to their well being and safety do they perceive? WHY do Americans – unlike anyone other nation – regard their fellow citizens with such terror that they feel compelled to walk around not just armed but VISIBLY armed? Are these people really trying to broadcast “fear” to the rest of us – that they’re “afraid of us”? Or – if we’re honest – are they actually broadcasting a whole different message: “BE AFRAID OF ME!”

Be afraid of my ability to kill you dead if I suddenly “fear for my life” because of unarmed people like you. That’s the message open carry gun lovers want the rest of us to register as they walk by.

Our gun laws have less to do with guns and more to do with who gets to have the guns: scared white people who don’t so much fear their female, Black, brown or LGBTQ neighbors as fear having to share political power with them. The Second Amendment deserves to be placed in the Witness Protection Program it’s been so badly abused by the right. The entire amendment is framed from the point of view of the militia “necessary to the security of a free state”. Those citizens (not some abstraction) are the arbiters of who gets to “keep and bear” – it does not say “own” (and “own” was a perfectly good word clearly differentiated from “keep” or “bear” even then) said “arms”. The 2nd Amendment is a gun CONTROL amendment. It is absolutely not a gun free-for-all. Otherwise, it would have said that’s what it was.

I have fired guns in my life. I enjoyed riflery at sleepaway camp when I was a kid. I have held prop guns in my hand and felt their lethality. During the LA riots, my production manager insisted I drive home with a hand gun he provided. Heading for home (our “Tales From The Crypt” studio space was way in the valley that season and I lived in the Echo Park section of LA), I had the distinct sensation that I was driving through the old west. Civilized people should never ever live that way, expecting the very worst of each other, planning to do the very worst if necessary. Guns do that to us like nothing else.

Want proof? Go to any other industrialized nation including China.

It’d be damned hard to pull off a Columbine or an Aurora or a Las Vegas or a Sandy Hook or a Parkland or a Marjory Stoneman Douglass or an Oxford High with one’s bare hands. Even a knife – though it could kill plenty of people if competently wielded – can’t kill with anything like a gun’s efficiency or scope. A killer with a knife has to be standing next to you. A killer with a high powered rifle can be standing a football field away. And if that high powered rifle is semi-automatic and can empty an ammo clip in a heartbeat? Say, while we’re thinking about it, what do you suppose the gunmen in every one of those murder scenes was “afraid of” as they went hunting for humans?

We got a hint this morning – after Ethan Crumbley’s parents were arraigned – that their defense will argue “responsibility” – that the “birthday present” murder weapon was “locked in drawer” and not “readily available” to their son (who they knew was an angry young man). How can they be responsible for manslaughter or murder when – they’ll argue – they DID behave “responsibly” toward the death machine they bought for their angry child. And, in a sense, until Ethan pulled out his Sig Sauer 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and fired 30 rounds at his fellow students and teachers, he had behaved “responsibly” – as far as we knew.

Understand – even if Ethan gets his mom’s text – “Don’t do it” – before opening fire and listens to her, and keeps the gun in his backpack, his whole family are irresponsible gun owners. The only difference is, the rest of us DON’T KNOW IT. Gun non-owners – the majority of Americans (69% of us) – are always at the mercy of gun owners (31% of us). We can’t kill or harm them the way they can kill or harm us. In fact, we aren’t even thinking that way. Meanwhile, we have to assume that from the moment James Crumbley bought that weapon for his child and put it in that “locked drawer”, that he was behaving like a “responsible gun owner” even when he wasn’t. All the advantage goes to the gun owner and none goes to the gun owner’s targets.

Remember Nancy Lanza – the “poster girl” for “responsible gun owners who were responsible until they weren’t? As Ruth Marcus put it in the Washington Post in 2013, on the tragedy’s one-year anniversary, Nancy Lanza was dealt a deeply problematic hand with her youngest son Adam. No one chose for Adam to be that deep on the Asperger’s spectrum. He didn’t. His mom certainly didn’t. But, Nancy Lanza also owned guns. She was a gun enthusiast. No harm in that (under normal circumstances). CNN, in fact, said: “she was responsible with them. She knew how to handle the weapons she collected.” See? Responsible gun owner!

Except not.

Nancy was a dedicated mother to her problematic son because, as she believed, “you never turn your back on your children”. Perhaps, if one is super kind, one sees the method in Nancy’s taking gun safety classes with Adam. But, the fact that she took those classes with Adam and went shooting with him while knowing he felt zero emotions toward her or anybody and played violent video games including one called “School Shooting” – that makes it clear: this was nothing but madness. The first person Adam Lanza murdered that day – the first person Adam Lanza ever murdered – was his mom. He shot her four times in her bed with her own legally purchased, “responsibly owned” (up until then) .22-caliber Savage Mark II rifle. Just like that, Nancy Lanza went from being a “responsible gun owner” to an irresponsible one. Hell, she probably died still believing she was a “responsible gun owner”.

From the public’s point of view, Nancy wasn’t wrong. Why would the public think otherwise? We had no way of knowing that her version of “responsible gun ownership” and actual responsible gun ownership had nothing to do with each other. At least, we didn’t know until it was too late.

See the problem here? “Responsible gun ownership” is just words that gun owners say when they think they’re being responsible even – as with Nancy Lanza – they aren’t being responsible. “Responsible gun owners” are asking everyone else to make a leap of faith that THEY are “real” responsible gun owners, not at all like all those pretenders to responsible gun ownership.

Sorry, “responsible gun owners”, but the numbers keep arguing against you. In 2019, according to UCDavis Health, there were 39,707 deaths from firearms in the US. Sixty percent of those deaths – 23,941 were suicides. Just wondering, gun owners, where do suicides fit in the “responsible gun owner” club? On top of the death toll, per UCDavis, there are approximately 115,000 non-fatal firearm injuries in America every year.

Also per that UCDavis report? “Research has found that individuals with risk factors for firearm injury and death are less likely to safely store their firearms when compared to firearm owners without these risk factors.” Who are those individuals? Perhaps if they’d make themselves known at the time they purchased their death machines, we’d be better able to anticipate their irresponsibility. Short of banning guns entirely (never gonna happen), the quickest route to forcing “responsible gun ownership” upon gun owners is to make liability insurance mandatory for all guns. Want to own a death machine? Pay for the possibility that, indeed it will cause death up front. Can’t afford the ticket to Suffragette City? Then stay away.

Even the responsible gun owners who truly aspire to be responsible can’t ever really be one hundred percent responsible. Still, they’ll insist. Like Nancy Lanza, they’ve lulled themselves into a false sense of responsible gun ownership that could bite them in the ass – while biting countless others in the ass too. Did I say “biting”? I meant “shooting” of course. and I don’t mean their asses.

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