My grandfather open carried a 357. Magnum. When he returned from work, he would place it on his desk in the den and take out the receipts and money from the day’s earnings. He ran a convenient store.
One night while walking to the dumpster just before closing, two men stepped out of the shadows with guns planning to rob my grandfather. At the tender age of 77, he ducked behind the dumpster, drew his gun and came up shooting. The robbers ran.
One night, before I was born, the Klan came to my grandparent’s neighborhood, burned a cross in our neighbor’s yard and fired shots into our home. They were very much surprised when my grandfather returned fire. They quickly got back in their cars and drove away.
I’ve never been enamored with guns, but I know through my family history that guns are sometimes necessary. I also know the damage guns can do. I know people who have been killed with guns. I know people who have injured themselves in gun accidents.
My grandfather didn’t have a gun safe. He simply said, “Don’t touch my guns.” His word was law and you didn’t want to be caught on the wrong side of it. Besides, I was more interested in light sabers and samurai swords; had my grandfather had something as sexy as an AR-15, fear of a spanking might not have been enough to keep me from touching it, or taking it out of the house to show my friends.
I’m not anti- gun; I’m a common-sense gun-control person. Count me among the 90 percent of Americans who think we need universal background checks and among the over 60 percent who believe private citizens don’t need AR-15s.
I also think arming teachers is insane.
Law enforcement and military experts have chimed in on how awful that idea is. Yet, legislators in Florida as a result of the Parkland school shooting have found $67 million to pay 10 teachers per school to receive 132 hours of firearms training. Evidently that’s all that’s needed to turn your social studies teacher into John J. Rambo. And trust me when I tell you, Rambo loses with a handgun in a skirmish against a deranged shooter with an AR-15.
This debate is not about the Second Amendment, though some would like to make it that. This debate is about making sure our friends, families, and children don’t die in a hail of bullets verses fears, fantasies and the gun industry’s desire to make as much money selling guns as humanely possible.
It’s not hyperbolic to say more than a few in this country have lost their minds with regards to the browning of America. Gun sales went through the roof when Barack Obama became president. The outcry from the NRA and others being, Obama is going to take your guns away, you better stockpile as many weapons as possible. After eight years in the White House not one American had their guns taken by Barack Obama. But the fear this fantasy generated among some allowed and allows the gun industry to sell a hell of a lot of firearms and put an obscene amount of money into campaign coffers of elected officials, millions, in the case of our state senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr.
Without an AR-15 the shooter in Parkland, our latest tragedy, would not have been able to kill 17 people in a matter of minutes. The AR-15was invented for the battlefield, to kill enemy combatants as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Unless one is expecting ISIS to show up at their door, why does one honestly need an AR-15? Whatever the reason, does it trump our right, our children’s rights to be safe in schools, movies, concerts, churches and the workplace?
With respect to the rights of responsible gun owners I say this: Every gun owner is a responsible gun owner until they aren’t, until they lose their job, become estranged from their family, radicalized by a hate group, or simply decide they want to die but they don’t want to go alone. To be able to put a limit on the amount of carnage an individual citizen can do with a firearm is not anti-Second Amendment; to do nothing however, with regard to banning assault weapons is anti-common sense.
Nikita Khrushchev once said during the height of the Cold War that Americans will sell you the rope to hang them with. No we won’t, but we will sell you the AR-15 with an extended magazine clip and a bump stock. That is something that we have the ability to change, whether we have the will to do it remains to be seen, and while we wait, sadly,the bodies continue to pile up.
Howard Craft is a playwright in Durham.