Five things liberal groups want. Funny, you know what’s not on that list? Taking everyone’s guns!
Some other ideas:
• Mandatory liability insurance for gun owners. This would provide gun owners with a financial incentive for gun safety — offering lower premiums for those who take advantage of safety measures. This is a no-brainer to me.
• I’ve never taken one of those “firearms safety” courses required to obtain a concealed-carry permit, but everything I’ve read does not give me confidence that one learns anything about safety. Nope, everything I’ve read presents these “classes” as right-wing, anti-Obama, NRA propaganda fests. And with instructors like this loon, no wonder.
The classes I took taught me almost nothing about how to defend myself with a gun. One, taught by a man who said he refuses to get a carry permit because “I don’t think I have to get the government’s permission to exercise my right to bear arms,” packed about twenty minutes of useful instruction into four long evenings of platitudes, Obama jokes, and belligerent posturing. “The way crime is simply out of control, you can’t afford not to wear a gun all the time,” he told us on several occasions. We shot fifty rounds apiece at man-shaped targets fifteen feet away. The legal-implications segment was taught by a cop who, after warming us up with fart jokes, encouraged us to lie to policemen if stopped while wearing our guns and suggested that nobody in his right mind would let a burglar run off with a big-screen TV. It’s illegal to shoot a fleeing criminal, he said, “but if your aim is good enough, you have time to get your story straight before I [the police] get there.” Thank you for coming; here’s your certificate of instruction. The other class, a three-hour quickie at the Tanner Gun Show in Denver, was built around a fifteen-minute recruiting pitch for the NRA and a long-winded, paranoid fantasy about “home invasion.” “They’re watching what time you come home, what time do you get up to go to the bathroom, when you’re there, when you’re not,” said the instructor, Rob Shewmake, of the Florida company Equip 2 Conceal. “They know who lives in the house. They know where your bedroom is, and they’re there to kill you.” (Eighty-seven Americans were murdered during burglaries in 2008; statistically, you had a better chance of being killed by bees.)
Both classes were less about self-defense than about recruiting us into a culture animated by fear of violent crime. In the Boulder class, we watched lurid films of men in ski masks breaking into homes occupied by terrified women. We studied color police photos of a man slashed open with a knife. Teachers in both classes directed us to websites dedicated to concealed carry, among them usacarry.org, an online gathering place where the gun-carrying community warns, over and over, that crime is “out of control.”
In fact, violent crime has fallen by a third since 1989—one piece of unambiguous good news out of the past two decades. Murder, rape, robbery, assault: all of them are much less common now than they were then. At class, it was hard to discern the line between preparing for something awful to happen and praying for something awful to happen. A desire to carry a gun seemed to precede the fear of crime, the fear serving to justify the carrying. I asked one of the instructors whether carrying a gun didn’t bespeak a needlessly dark view of mankind. “I’m an optimist,” he said, “but we live in a world of assholes.”
At the conclusion of both classes, we students were welcomed into the gun-carrying fraternity as though dripping from the baptismal font. “Thank you for being a part of this, man. You’re doing the right thing,” one of the Boulder teachers said, taking my hand in both of his and looking into my eyes. “You should all be proud of yourselves just for being here,” said the police officer who helped with the class. “All of us thank you.” As we stood shaking hands, with our guns in our gym bags and holding our certificates, we felt proud, included, even loved. We had been admitted to a league of especially useful gentlemen and ladies.
How about some national standards and oversight for these programs? Let’s actually teach people something useful about safety, instead of assuming that they already know everything they need to know except that Obama wants to steal your guns and it’s your patriotic duty to stop him?
• Better education. I still don’t know what Nancy Lanza was thinking, knowing her kid was mentally ill and still letting him have access to her guns. What the hell? This whole tragedy could have been avoided if the first gun loon in the chain — the shooter’s mother — had some damn common sense.
• Obviously, the mental health equation needs to be part of this. We need better mental health care across the board. That’s a healthcare issue, and we all know how much Congress loves to talk healthcare these days, right? But seriously, let’s get to work on that, too.