March 6, 2013

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I confess, I don't get the whole gun thing. (I don't get football, boxing, NASCAR, or golf, either.) Some gun owners are kind of creepy, and there's a psycho-sexual dynamic to some scary segments of the gun culture that just plain skeeves me.

But I do understand how some otherwise normal people can own a veritable shitload of guns without being a Doomsday prepper. I own seven guitars (a candy apple red 30th anniversary model Strat, a Squier Tele painted to look like Jimmy Page's, an FG-150 Yamaha acoustic, an old Silvertone archtop I use for playing slide, a black Takamine acoustic-electric that's my workhorse guitar, an RF8 Alvarez, and a lovely little Luna cutout acoustic-electric), which is not completely rational for someone who lives in a one-bedroom apartment and is no longer a working musician.

I assume for most people, the love affair with guns is something like that: I like to play each and every one of those guitars. Each instrument has its own sound and personality, and I enjoy the variety. (And when I see the T-shirts that say, "My wife says if I buy one more guitar, she's going to leave me. Sure gonna miss her", I do relate.)

The difference, I think, is that I only know of one person killed by a guitar. It was considered unusual.

El Kabong!

As opposed to guns, which are all too frequently used to kill people.

Now, I won't get into in-depth arguments about criminals and guns right now, because that's not the only part of the gun carnage that so disturbs me. It's when ordinary people, under some kind of stress, have access to guns. That concerns me.

I know it would never pass, but I'd be happy with a law that says if you have a bitter divorce and custody fight, you automatically have to put your guns in escrow and you don't get them back until the kids are grown. At the very least, family court judges or anyone who hears domestic abuse cases should be able to grant petitions to remove guns for a period of time, and put their owners on whatever the equivalent of a no-buy gun list would be. Some people would be much better co-parents if it was the only way they would ever get their guns back. (Imagine: Every year, a judge would ask your ex if you'd been non-threatening and cooperative!)

And I'd like to see more discussion of the fact that not all mental illness is obvious, or even chronic. Some craziness only presents itself only when someone's life situation is turned upside down, and guns are far too often handy when that happens. Look at how many families are slaughtered at Christmas by an estranged spouse. Look at how many abused women are stalked and shot to death. And we have more gun deaths from suicide than anything else.

As to the rest of the gun control debate: Here's what I do want. I want limits on ammo capacity for high-powered weapons. I don't want weapons that can be turned into machine guns with a paper clip or a rubber band. (Call me a fascist, but I just don't ever want to hear of another pile of small dead children on a classroom floor, or a bunch of movegoers gunned down.) So I've been accused of wanting to use things like tort liability to drive gun manufacturers out of business. Really? It's that controversial to want the exact same laws that cover, oh, I don't know, toy gun manufacturers, to apply to real gun makers? You can make a reasonable argument that shooting a high-powered weapon is fun (my only experience with guns was skeet shooting when I was a kid, and it was fun), but when it comes to handguns, we're talking about something that is much more likely to be used to kill or maim human beings. After all, that's what it's designed to do.

It was only due to intensive lobbying that gun manufacturers even got that exemption. I think it's time we repealed it, and restored the normal balance of corporate responsibility.

And why do I want mandatory gun insurance? Not because I want to make your guns too expensive to own. If you use your guns safely and responsibly, I have no quarrel at all with you. But when gun owners are careless, and that carelessness results in the maiming or death of other human beings, or the destruction of someone else's property, why should you be any less liable to pay for damages than someone who slams into my car -- or makes dangerous toys that hurt kids? Being a safe gun owner will keep your premiums down. Why is that even controversial? So it's an additional cost. So what? Now the Second Amendment entitles you to cheap gun ownership?

No, I don't want to take away your guns. Unless you do stupid, careless things with guns that put other people at risk -- things that kill and maim other human beings, or you make threats with them. Then I want the book thrown at you.

Because damn it, you have to be careful. A gun isn't a guitar.

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