Jon Meacham is a smart, sensible guy who makes the case for an assault weapons ban in terms no one of good faith could disagree with. If I were a public figure, I’d plant myself exactly where he is. Heck, I’d carry his piece around so I could wave it at any constituent who gave me lip.
Still, there’s something about the obligatory bow toward gun-rights one makes in these columns (Meacham is far from the only one) that drives me completely batty. Meacham writes this, for example:
I own guns — shotguns and rifles — and I hunt quail. I don’t want to give up my guns. But I know this: there isn’t the remotest chance under the sun that I will have to. And I know this too: the kind of assault rifle used in the Aurora massacre — an AR-15, which is essentially a civilian version of the military’s M-16 — has no sporting purpose save playacting, in which the shooter is in some kind of combat situation.
I’m not talking about a ban on guns — not even handguns.
Forgive the asinine question, but why? Set aside the demoralizing politics of gun control, which I fully acknowledge. Why should it be an article of faith among eminently sensible people that owning a gun is something to be revered, even celebrated? The point of guns is to kill and maim. Often they kill and maim furry creatures who don’t write op-eds, or who we have an overabundance of, or who we consider pests, so we don’t get worked up about it. But sometimes people screw up and guns kill neighbors or little kids or unannounced visitors. When you consider that we accept these things as a kind of cost-of-business for widespread gun ownership, to say nothing of the occasional mass killing, it seems positively ludicrous. A bit like a chorus of pundits assuring us they routinely use cocaine and wouldn’t dream of depriving Americans of its many pleasures. But, let’s be honest, no one ever needed crack to have a good time. Obviously you'd never hear such a thing. And yet, when it comes to guns, we observe a kind of political correctness that’s damn-near oppressive.
If it were up to me, gun licensing would be so strict that only people who use guns professionally—cops, soldiers, firearms instructors, farmer and rancher types—could own them and store them at home. Everyone else could rent them if they wanted to go hunting or to a shooting range.
Again, I’m not suggesting that any politician actually adopt this agenda—I realize how far outside the mainstream it is. I’m suggesting that the people who define the mainstream take a step back and think about what we’re talking about here.
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