Over two months have passed, and I have contributed zip, nada, zero to Democracyinactionblog.com. No raves, no rants, no rhetoric . . . simply nothing. Why? Political exhaustion took its toll.
Mae West famously stated, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” Well, Mae, sometimes it ain’t so. My love and my passion for politics were satiated. I OD’d on MSNBC, Nate Silver, and Move On. My inbox overflows with unread emails from Barack Obama. I have had enough, more than enough.
Then, on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, CT, 20 little kids were slaughtered. I couldn’t write a goddamn word. What could I say? Besides, everyone was talking, most with compassion and some with stupidity. What could Matt add?
Not a day goes by that that indelible scene of little children holding each other’s hands being led out of their elementary school does not bubble to the surface of my mind, causing my heart to ache. This may be pompous, but now I believe this old guy might be able to add a little personal insight into the unending gun-rights debate. So, I will add my insignificant but heartfelt thoughts in two parts. In a few days l, as a veteran teacher, will comment on the myriad of suggestions for school safety, but first I need to speak, ashamedly, as an assault weapon owner.
I am a dad and I am a grandpa who loves his grandchildren beyond description. A dear friend of mine along with his brother, nephew and three employees were shot to death in a workplace attack nine years ago. As a deer hunter, I own three high-powered hunting rifles. I possess a 12-gauge shotgun to dispatch insatiable squirrels intent on destroying our Wisconsin cabin. I have several handguns which were purchased for protection when I needed to respond to alarms at my workplace late at night and when I truly feel threatened and 911 is not an option. AND I OWN AN ASSAULT WEAPON.
Mine is a Soviet-designed, Chinese-made military weapon. The SKS is the predecessor of the infamous AK47 assault rifle. My SKS chambers the same ammunition as an AK47 and is likewise a semi-automatic, rapid-fire weapon. It is quickly loaded and reloaded using stripper clips holding ten 7.62X39-mm cartridges, but it can easily be retrofitted with a high-capacity magazine. This weapon is designed for assault.
n.1. A violent physical or verbal attack.
2. a. A military attack, such as one launched against a fortified area or place.
b. The concluding stage of an attack in which close combat occurs with the enemy.
3. Law a. An unlawful threat or attempt to do bodily injury to another.
b. The act or an instance of unlawfully threatening or attempting to injure another.
This is an attack weapon, not a hunting weapon, not a weapon for defense. It is designed to attack. It was purchased at the Lake County Gun Show 20 or so years ago. Its price was 60 bucks. I was asked no questions nor required to fill out any forms. I do possess a Fire Arms Identification Card, but if I didn’t have one, I could have had a friend buy the gun. It was an impulse buy, stupid and easy.
So why the hell do I have this thing? Why the hell do thousands of people possess this type of weapon? And most of all, why are people raving and screaming that it is their constitutional and God-given right to keep weapons that by definition are designed to cause bodily injury to another?
My answer is: Blame Ralphie. If you don’t recall, Ralphie was the little kid who, even though it might shoot his eye out, yearned for a Red Ryder BB rifle in Christmas Story. Ralphie needed a BB rifle no more than I needed an SKS. Virtually no civilian needs an assault weapon. An SKS may be more deadly, but like Ralphie’s BB rifle, it is a toy, an empowering, addictive toy. Like alcohol or cocaine, weaponry provides the possessor with real or imagined power. To pull the trigger on a high-powered weapon, and have it launch a metal-jacketed projectile hundreds of yards away where it tears objects to shreds, is for many otherwise normal men and sometimes women magical and almost mystical. Having a 9mm Glock handgun under one’s coat is intoxicating. Its purpose: more likely to puff up than protect. It’s gotta be fun to imagine yourself a potential super-hero. It’s a trip. A trip you don’t want to cancel.
I have had dozens of visitors to my farm shoot that SKS–professional people, liberal people, non-violent people–and the vast majority of them smile and can’t wait to reload. It’s literally a blast. We all laugh at the command, “Let’s go blow some shit up.”
A neighbor once came over and brought with him a single-shot, 50-cal sniper rifle. This thing is about five feet long and fires a bullet 1/2 inch in diameter. Its almost 6-inch-long cartridges cost about 10 bucks apiece. The rifle itself costs in excess of $2,500. It can kill a man over a mile away, and unless one is in a war, it has no sensible use whatsoever. Yet my unwarlike buddies and I yearned for the chance to put on the ear-protectors and fire this thing at a concrete wall 400 yards away. Crazy, ridiculous, nuts and euphoric. (This is embarrassing.)
People simply don’t want to give up stuff that makes them feel good. Those of you who have dieted, quit smoking or left a casino because you were out of chips know that feeling. Most people stop using drugs or abusing alcohol neither from preaching nor from prohibitive laws, but rather when their lives or the lives of others fall apart.
Lives fell apart in Newtown.
For me, the slaughter of 20 little children by a madman has forever taken any possible joy out of firing that SKS of mine. I will be turning it over to the Wilmette police this week.
Some toys are just not worth the cost. I can only hope that others feel the same way.