December 27, 2012 11:15:09 AM
Fifteen years ago, when I moved to northern California, people there often commented on my speech.
I would usually just laugh and say, "You know, I never had an accent until I left Mississippi." The brighter folks usually figured out what I meant by that.
Similarly, I find that I was never much of a liberal until I moved back to Mississippi.
My views on such things as same-sex marriage (which is, at its core, a legal contract) and what to do about illegal immigration (the majority of "illegals" are essentially economic refugees and should be treated with compassion) fall far to the left of the rigid conservatism of most Mississippians.
So it might surprise you to know that at one time, I was very much pro-gun and protested any effort that prevented me from carrying my guns at all times.
Of course, I was 8-years-old at the time and I lost the dispute with Mama over whether I should be allowed to wear my Roy Rogers pistols and gun belt to church.
Then, of course, I grew up.
Some people keep on believing that they are Roy Rogers their whole lives.
In the days since the Newtown, Conn., slaughter, the national discussion has again turned to what can be done to prevent mass-killings on such a scale. Predictably, the focus has turned yet again to the sensitive issue of gun control.
The NRA (National Assault Weapon Association) was silent on the Newtown massacre for a week before announcing its "solution."
Essentially, the NRA is calling for an arms race in every neighborhood. The NRA's view is that even though there are as many guns in the U.S. as there are people, the problem isn't that we have too many guns, but too few. If the NRA's reasoning is carried to its logical conclusion, I expect that sometime soon, the NRA will advocate even more lethal firearms. Just think how safe we would be if everyone had rocket-propelled grenade launchers. I feel safer already.
I cannot say that I am surprised by the NRA's attitude. It is a body of the gun industry, for the gun industry and by the gun industry.
What I do find disturbing is that many gun owners who are not card-carrying members of the NRA still resist any reasonable limitations on military-style weapons and high-capacity ammo clips.
These people seem to fall into one of two camps. The first group is populated by those who simply like their guns and aim to keep them. These are the people who will tell you that even the mildest efforts to establish reasonable restraints on guns are a direct assault on the Second Amendment. In embracing this view, they rely on the weakest rhetorical argument of them all -- the dreaded "slippery slope'' premise that says if "A'' happens, "B'' is sure to follow. In this case, if you ban military-style weapons, the next thing you know you'll lose you handgun. They fail to see that it is not a matter of whether the Second Amendment should be protected, but rather, how the Second Amendment is interpreted.
I support the Second Amendment, too. I just don't think it gives people the right to equip themselves like Rambo.
This group will argue that they need their guns for personal protection, although I suspect having a gun creates more of a illusion of safety than actual safety. Most law-abiding people have never shot at a human being and would be extremely reluctant -- and ill-prepared -- to do so in almost any circumstance.
They envision scenarios -- not unlike a kid playing good-guy, bad-guy -- in which the circumstances surrounding their act of self defense would play out in an orderly, manageable fashion. But acts of violence are generally not orderly. They are chaotic and disorienting. The intruder does not break into a home and wait patiently for the home-owner to gather his wits and his weapon. The intruder does not linger in the bedroom doorway, conveniently silhouetted by a light in the background, thus allowing the home-owner to take careful and deliberate aim.
You can't count on criminal choreography. This is not a movie. And you are not Dirty Harry.
Chances are, your home is safer with a yappy dog than a handgun. The down-side of that is that you don't get to pretend to be Roy Rogers anymore, although the dog gets to pretend he is Rin-Tin-Tin, I suppose.
The second camp is populated by the paranoid. These are people who are convinced that any effort to ban assault rifles and mega-clips is the first "slippery slope'' step in disarming the population altogether, which would then allow "the government'' to wipe out all dissenters.
They are convinced that the United States government is plotting the same atrocities as those committed by Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia. After all, Germany and Russia suppressed private gun ownership and just look what happened?
When you have arrived at the point where you blame gun control for the Holocaust, you have departed the path of rational thought. It speaks for itself.
If you hate something bad enough for long enough, paranoia is sure to follow.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Voice of the people: Marjorie (Margie) Canon LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
3. America's liberal tradition NATIONAL COLUMNS
4. Voice of the people: Kelsey Van Every LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
5. Our View: And the winner is ... Poindexter Hall DISPATCH EDITORIALS