When I was about the same age as Ralphie Parker’s character in A Christmas Story, I also lusted for a Red Ryder BB gun. In the 1940s you couldn’t escape their tantalizing comic book ads. Christmas morning, I opened the long package to find–a Mossburg .22 rifle. I was disappointed. I had pictured running about plinking things with BBs, while my father, I realized later, must also have pictured that scenario. (“You’ll shoot your eye out!” warn Ralphie’s adults.) Dad taught me not only how to shoot, but to treat any gun (even a Red Ryder) as a weapon, not a toy.
Guns: Who should own them, what kinds can be owned, and what–if any–controls there should be on them is a hot-button topic. And after the recent, unimaginable massacre in Newtown, Connecticut (I grew up in Hartford), the debate over firearms control will grow only more heated and more polarized, if not addressed.
When it was reported the shooter’s mom, Nancy Lanza, collected guns, one Facebook pundit psychologized, “Maybe she liked her guns better than him…” a thoughtless remark, accusing and inflaming without offering any substantive suggestion. Then a former babysitter reported that Lanza warned him never to turn his back on her son, ever. The boy was nine at the time. So no one knows what Lanza went through raising that child. No one knows how her son obtained the guns. And no knowledge or speculation will bring back the twenty-six lives savagely ended that Friday morning.
Guns, mental health services; those issues remain. And will proliferate if every attempt to initiate change goes directly to meltdown. Should every quirky, moody, distanced child be stigmatized? Should every privately owned gun be confiscated? More effective gun control needn’t pathologize every firearms owner.
No civilian needs an assault rifle. There. I said it. But neither does every gunowner need to relinquish his weapon(s). Yes, I used the word “weapon.” Guns are weapons by nature, even when used for sport and recreation. Another Facebook summed it up: “Wanting sensible gun laws doesn’t make me anti-gun.”
Each of these opinions will be unpopular, but some change needs to be considered and implemented before the next Newtown. The painful odds are there will be one.