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The Peacemaker Society

The Colt PeacemakerThe shootings on this 16th of April, 2007, should give pause to us all. Yet another in a long line of senseless violence. But today was notable in a number of ways. First, there is the sheer number of victims — 33 dead, over 30 wounded. Then there is the fact that this was probably perpetrated by one disturbed individual. Finally, there is the types of weapons involved, two pistols; a twenty-two caliber and a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol.

I am not unfamiliar with guns. I lived for 5 years on a farm and owned several guns, a 22 semiautomatic rifle, a Ruger Mini14 semiautomatic rifle, and two pistols, a Ruger 357 magnum and a Colt 45 semiautomatic that I used for target practice. None of my weapons were ever fired in anger, but I had an intimate knowledge of firearms. So I was surprised when I learned that 33 lives were claimed by a single individual with two pistols. When I first learned about the shootings, I envisioned at least a couple of people roaming the campus with military style high powered rifles. Not so, just a single nut with two pistols.

We can expect to shortly hear from the gun nuts that we shouldn’t make it about guns and that guns don’t kill people; people kill people.

 Which is almost true: you do have the occasional fatality where some nimrod drops his piece and it discharges, killing him. But for the most part, guns are not “smart” weapons: they must be wielded by a human in order to kill something. And we will most certainly hear about our “right” to bear arms, completely ignoring that phrase concerning “a well regulated militia”.

Americans have had a long and passionate love affair with the gun. The revolutionary war was won by the musket; in the hands of farmers with sharpshooter skills honed by years of hunting to put food on the table, it put fear into the English redcoats and turned the tide in the rebels’ favor. But in time, the “long-rifle” receded in importance, to be replaced by “The Peacemaker”, the Colt 45: the gun that “won the west”. Immortalized in countless western movies, the Colt was also known as “the equalizer” because it made a man just as capable of killing an opponent as the next guy. A gun in the hand gave a man the power of life and death over other.

This is a potent power. As our society became more and more alienated and impersonal, the individual’s need to feel personal power over his (mostly his because women are not as hung up over power as men) life became more important. But power is difficult to attain in our society: one either has to have a lot of money or must be physically intimidating. Most of us have neither, nor will we ever have either. But the gun gives us instant power over others. And so long as we refuse to meaningfully regulate access to and the use of handguns, they will continue to be used in ways that are destructive to our society and to us personally.

As an illustration of what I am talking about, all you need to purchase a pistol in Clarksville is the right amount of money and a clean record. You can walk into a gun store and 30 minutes later walk out the proud owner of a weapon of personal destruction. No questions (aside from your name and home address) asked and no training required. Consider what is required to obtain a driver’s license and ask yourself: should anything less be required to own a gun?

The “rights” argument here just does not hold water. If you go back to the original intent of the founding fathers, it becomes evident that they were concerned with being able to mount a common defense against a foreign invader or an uprising. And the “arms” they referred to were muskets, not handguns. Cases have been argued in court over the “right” to bear arms. Those cases have been lost. Owning a handgun or a rifle is not a “right”, it is, like driving an automobile, a privilege that is to be regulated by the state.

I am not here to say that guns and rifles should be banned in our society. But I do think it is high time that we demand that they be properly regulated. Ownership of a lethal weapon ought to require a psychological evaluation of the candidate, along with training on the care and use of firearms and an exam on the laws pertaining to firearms. Along with that, the state needs to exercise greater control over firearms dealers. Until we can stem the flood of guns that pass through the hands of licensed firearms dealers and into the hands of criminals, we cannot hope to stem the criminal use of guns.

And until we get past the myth of the “Peacemaker” the allure of the firearm will continue to warp our good sense when it comes to their use.

Tom Paine
Systems Administrator for ASP for hospitals/med surg facilities. Politics mostly socialist/populist. Anti-corporate, pro working class. Student of history who fervently believes that "those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it".

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