My dad didn’t know much about guns, but he kept a few shotguns plus a Remington locked in a steel box up in the attic. He was a “social hunter,” a guy who liked spending a few days getting stinky in the woods, sharing lies with pals and eating what barely passed for food. For dad, guns were a ticket to ride.
Most homes in my working class town kept what we today term “long guns.” Deer rifles, bird guns, varmint guns, skeet guns, target guns, turkey shoot muzzle-loaders. Inventories swelled with a slew of inherited or antique nuisances either squirreled away or decoratively displayed on knotty pine walls.
Guns — long guns — were as common as brooms. They were tools. You needed them to get something done. But there wasn’t a single rifle I knew about that was kept to “get self-defense done.” None featured “assault” as a primary use.
A pal’s dad had a post-WWII issue M-2 that he plinked with, always pointing out the this was the gun that “could have shortened the war” repeating horror stories about “ … that piece of crap M-1” he was forced to drag over Europe’s killing fields.
The M-2 was the first US Army issued rifle that had “selective firing,” a choice between automatic (continuous shooting) or semi-automatic (single shot) attack modes.
The 1945 introduction of the M-2 was a tipping point in gun design. Its innovations inspired weapons designers to cross breed and spawn existing designs into today’s enormous (and incestuous) world family of long gun “assault weapons”.
These are the killing machines we ritualistically rail against when mass slaughter once again catches the national attention. With the exception of those paid not to represent us, polls show that most of Americans would like to see assault weapons banned entirely … a good beginning.
However, the unfortunate truth is that long guns — including assault weapons — don’t kill that many people.
If in 2010 we had vaporized every long gun in the USA — no matter what its design or intended purpose — we would have saved 358 lives — 3 percent of the 11,078 firearm homicides that year.
Consider 2014 when 8,124 Americans were slaughtered with firearms: 5,562 — 68 percent — were delivered a hand-held death.
In 2005, the score was: handguns, 75 percent; long guns, 9 percent.
Plainly, citizens pulling handgun triggers is the core problem. Why can’t we debunk the myth that sidearms “ … built this great land of ours”? What prevents us from taking a lesson from the nations that have entirely banned handguns?
Parkland, Fla., has produced unsurprising reviews for yet another reality horror show. And there’s not an American alive who doesn’t expect a sequel.
Isn’t it time to cleanse ourselves of the testosterone fueled, “Showdown at the OK Corral” quick-draw posturing that insults the very core of our American values?
Greg Madsen is a Sequim resident.