I grew up with guns. My Dad kept a loaded .32 revolver in the nightstand next to his bed. I had my own .22 rifle by the time I was twelve. In the books I write, both my detectives carry guns. People frequently shoot at them and they very effectively return fire.
But out here in the non-fictional world, in a world which is no longer the world of my youth, I am a strong advocate of gun control.
Let me be clear about two opinions right up front: One, no one within shouting range of sanity is proposing that the government confiscate all privately owned guns; not now, not ever. Two, anything the National Rifle Association says can be dismissed as crass bullshit. The NRA exists solely as the marketing organization for weapons manufacturers and dealers. They have no interest at all in the rights or the safety of our citizens except insofar as paying lip service to those ideas promotes weapons sales.
A couple of quick stories about where my feelings and ideas on this subject might come from.
Story Number One: I don’t remember exactly how young I was, probably six or seven, but I think it was the very first time my parents left me alone at home while they took a quick trip to the grocery. I remember vividly that the first thing I wanted to do, as soon as the car was out of the driveway, was go investigate that gun in the nightstand. My Dad had shown it to me before, even showed me how the safety and the cylinder worked; I suppose that was his idea of gun safety. (This was sixty years ago in southern Indiana, mind you.) So it was easy enough to flip open the cylinder and twirl it a few times like I’d seen cowboys in the movies do. Then I decided to do something I’d seen in a gangster movie. Russian Roulette. Sounded fun. I emptied the cylinder except for one bullet, twirled it, clicked it home, made sure the safety was off, pointed the gun at my head, and pulled the trigger.
I hardly need to note that it clicked rather than fired. Even at that young age, stupid enough to think it was a game, a very, very cold shudder went down my back when I heard that click. I remember that, too. I opened the cylinder again, inserted the rest of the bullets, clicked it shut, put the safety back on, replaced the gun in the nightstand drawer and never told my parents what I had done. It was only years later that I really knew what I had done.
Story Number Two: My friend Skip got an air rifle before I got my .22. We were probably eleven years old. He was showing it to me out in his front yard and I wanted to try it. No problem. He handed it to me and just about then I noticed that right at my feet there was a little frog sitting very quietly. Probably hoping not to be noticed. Talk about bad karma. Without even thinking about it, I pointed the rifle down, centered on the frog’s back, and pulled the trigger. I can still see the impact, the way it flattened the little guy without actually moving him at all.
I’ve never shot another living thing and I almost certainly never will. I leave that to my fictional detectives. Side note: As an adult, I had been collecting frog figurines and other froggy items for many years before it occurred to me finally that that was probably a sort of penance for the murder. And, yes, that’s how I think of it.
So. Here’s my position on the gun issues currently facing us:
I would require that all gun sales, public or private, be registered. All gun purchasers, public or private, be licensed. That there be a more stringent background check and longer waiting period and that it be universal. That clip sizes be limited. That all semi-automatic weapons easily convertible to full automatic be banned. That Kevlar-penetrating ammunition be outlawed and other ammunition made traceable. That there be a limit on the numbers of guns purchased without a resale license (which would require an even more stringent background check).
A few of these recommendations may become law soon; at least one of them, I think, was addressed by the recent Executive Orders. There’s nothing in them that would prevent a responsible gun owner from owning any gun that he or she needed for hunting or self-protection or recreation. There’s nothing in them that would violate the Second Amendment, even under its current interpretation (which I believe to be a mistake, though that’s a debate for another time).
And of course—as the gun lobby is always quick to point out—criminals would still be able to get guns, especially at first since we’ve already made them so damned available and numerous. But guns would at least become more difficult to acquire over time and the penalties for illegal possession could be much tougher than they are now.
We don’t allow all drugs to be legal simply because criminals can still get illegal drugs; we need the same kind of thinking when it comes to guns.