The re-energized cry for gun-control legislation was inevitable. It would have come to the forefront with or without the shocking school massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Conn. Weeks before Sandy Hook, the re-election of President Obama, who once smugly derided those of us who “cling to our guns and our Bibles,” preordained that the flickering flames of this national debate about the Second Amendment would be fanned anew. It has just come sooner, rather than later.
As law-abiding sportsmen and recreational shooters, or simply as non-sporting citizens who cherish the Constitutional right to bear arms for self-protection, what should our role be in this complex national conversation that has understandably taken on a new urgency?
As a sportsman and a seasoned journalist who has come to harbor contempt and distrust of most mainstream American media, my first response to the New Town horror was to deliberately turn my back to the bewildering news din, to pray some, to try to put out of mind the seemingly sick state of our troubled culture and battered national soul.
But playing Ostrich does not come easily to me. In time I had to face it, to look and to listen. What I see and hear in the New Town aftermath is a frightening void of cool heads from among our national leadership at all levels.
One of the pundits I used to trust, Bill O’Reilly, has performed pathetically on this issue. Perhaps bereft of meaningful solutions — like the rest of us — he has stooped to an accommodating, pandering, lapdog assertion that goes, “Gee, maybe we can stop this national nightmare by banning assault weapons, period.” You would think that Bill, a self-avowed intellect, would know that the only difference between an “assault weapon” and my Remington 1100 semi-auto shotgun is the way it looks. Sadly, O’Reilly, who boasts about his sacrosanct mission to pursue truth, is only furthering public and media ignorance about firearms.
When Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, suggested that it may be time to place an armed police officer in our public schools, FOX News commentators Charles Krauthammer and A.B. Stoddard agreed that this suggestion was “laughable.” Although the NRA spokesman was predictably booed and hissed by the mainstream media for his observations, his rhetorical question hit home: “Why is a gun good when it protects the life of a President or a police officer in the line of duty, but bad everywhere else?”
Why is LaPierre’s suggestion laughable? Armed police officers do regular duty in Utah schools. In Israel, public school teachers are also armed. During a newspaper assignment in Israel in the 1980s, I interviewed a number of Israeli housewives who kept Uzi’s in their broom closets and were trained in their use. In societies like Israel, where imminent personal danger is a way of life, the level of threat dictates the level of response.
Face it, America is changing, and with it the level of threat to all of us wherever we live. Haven’t we seen enough armed attacks on “soft targets” in benign settings like schools and theatres by sociopaths to realize this? Evil has a foothold in our mores and our way of life. The suicide-prone sociopaths go after kids in schools. Murdering young innocents in a place of learning: it is the ultimate outrage. A way to go down in “a blaze of glory.”
Perhaps the President is right. A national conversation might be needed. It might help us to identify the causes of our spiraling social decline, whether it be Hollywood violence, video games, parental abdication, inferior mental health care, inadequate laws, spiritual emptiness or, yes, even guns.
Meantime, though, beneath the thoughtful deliberations about our social decay, the threat level remains unabated in a freedom loving society that finds itself daunted by uncertainty and its darker side. Ironically, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook killings, the clamor for gun control will surely spawn more and more gun-buying Americans.
Can anyone really argue convincingly that responsible gun ownership has no place in the America that must live in the shadow of neighborhood nightmares like Sandy Hook or Columbine?
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”