What I'm Figuring Out - about Guns

in Streets of Minneapolis on the Sursumcorda Radio Hour

What is it with Americans and guns?

This is the only country in the world where gun owners are counted as a distinct voting block, where sizable numbers are convinced that the United Nations wants to conduct home invasions to take away their weapons. In fact the government has never even threatened to confiscate the guns of anyone who has a legitimate reason to own one. Security guards, hunters, farmers protecting their crops from pests, have always been allowed firearms and they always will.

Why is everyone so excited? Why do you hear such dramatic mottoes as: "I Will Give Up My Gun When They Peel My Cold Dead Fingers From Around It"?  (Your warm fingers are nestled around a warm barrel, huh?) Why do you read bumper sticker that say: "MY WIFE, SURE. MY DOG, MAYBE. MY GUN, NEVER!"? Why did Charlton Heston tell President Clinton:  “America doesn’t trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don’t trust you with our guns.”

sometimes I just like sucking on one.

Don't forget that the United States has kept a strain of Puritanism alive and kicking since the 17th Century. This is the country where gay marriage now threatens  heterosexual liaisons and the sight of a woman's breast on television is a threat to the entire nation, where legislators are banned for uttering the somewhat formal term "vagina"  Finally I should cite a mnemonic taught to American soldiers

    This is my rifle, this is my gun.
    This one's for shooting, this one's for fun.

to help them distinguish firearms from penises.  I think you can see what I'm getting at.

Americans insist, it's not about our cocks or our Glocks "They" want to take away our Freedoms, our Constitutional Rights!  Yes,  the 2nd Amendment, an ambiguous and once obscure article of the U.S. Constitution states: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Recently it's has been interpreted to mean that anyone can own any gun they want.

There's that pesky comma in there, so maybe that's what the writers of the Constitution really meant. Howver, I can assert in all confidence that they never envisioned someone walking around with a rifle that fires 60 lethal shots a minute. A weapon like that really has only one purpose: to slaughter large numbers of people in a short time. It has no place in a society at peace except at the rifle range.

And, even if it is in the Constitution, that doesn't mean it's a good idea. The Electoral College is there too, and it's a very bad idea. In 1787 it was a brilliant compromise. The 2nd Amendment may even have been intelligible then. By now their effects have both been disastrous.

Those who have known me for a long time may point out that I was not always been so opposed to guns. True, once I supported the violent overthrow of the the American government. Once I was convinced that violence was the only vehicle for real change. Since 1989 I have come increasingly to the conclusion that violence doesn't guarantee change and that there are a whole range of colors a revolution can take to achieve the same outcome with less bloodshed.

There may come a day when the people are out fighting in the street, when access to arms will be useful, although I can't imagine this happening in the foreseeable future. And my comrades who think that individually owned handguns will turn the tide against the ranks of the American army are seriously deluded. The Army has napalm, they have helicopters, they have weapons of mass destruction, (Hint: It's better to get the army on your side.)

A word to my fiends in Minneapolis who have recently been victims of muggings and street attacks. I have heard people speak of arming themselves, not really with firearms but with tasers and mace. I have thought of that at times myself.  After all, I have walked down some mean streets day and night for over 50 years.  I have also been violently attacked  (twice in New York where it's routine. In Minneapolis, 4 times - twice by civilians and twice by the police - that's not counting times I was in demonstrations).

I decided against armed protection. One reason was that I was afraid it would give me a false sense of security. I was afraid I would take more chances and end up in a situation where I would need to draw a weapon. Really, your best weapon on the street is your mind, your street sense. Avoid dangerous situations, Cross the street, Run if you have to.

The other reason is that, the first time I was being attacked, I realized that I lacked the killer instinct of my opponent, in any violent actions he would still have that edge over me. When you pull out a weapon, consider what you're doing. You're escalating the stakes in a conflict with someone who's probably a lot nastier than you.

You may get the idea that I don't really appreciate guns. True I'm with Stephen King who said "You can have my gun, but you'll take my book when you pry my cold, dead fingers off of the binding.”. Still, to each their own. I have friends who don't like cats, others who don't like the music of Throbbing Gristle. It's their loss. I wouldn't begrudge anyone indulging their own taste.

Actually I've talked to hunters and I could see getting into the sport. Hunters seem to appreciate nature and some are strong environmentalists. The deer over the hood of your car kinda creeps me out but I do like to eat venison and pheasant, so it would be hypocritical to condemn it. Standing at a rifle range for hours, aiming at a target while loud explosions are going off, sounds totally boring, but then I think, it's probably like listening to Throbbing Gristle.

There is something undeniably sexy about guns. More men own guns than women and also, while mass murderers come from all classes, all ages, all races and now, all nations, but they are all 100% male. This is a fact that is so obvious that it's usually overlooked.

Despite my friend Larry' song above,  I don't think the NRA is solely responsible for gun violence.  The U.S. has by far the highest murder-by-firearm rate of any industrialized country in the world. It's not just that people with guns kill people, it's American people with guns who kill people.

What the NRA does, though, is to encourage Americans to be paranoid, to be stupid and to be bullies. Someday technology is going to allow everyone to have their own thermonuclear device. Then, sure enough, some guy is going to get pissed off at his girlfriend and blow up half the city.

The only thing that might save us is that is that nuclear devises don't look much like penises,


  1. You're right about that "mnemonic taught to American soldiers"; it's practically word for word what my drill instructors at Parris Island told me back in '62.

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    1. SEE


      for the rundown.

  3. Yes, my former husband used to recite that rhyme as well (though he said "weapon", rather than "rifle"). If anyone referred to a firearm as a gun, he was seriously irritated.

    I totally agree with your rationale behind not arming yourself. I *know* that any attacker worth his salt could disarm me and use whatever weapon I might have against me. Our house is protected by pit bull - well, maybe. Zoe might lick an intruder to death if she didn't beat him to death with her tail. I don't think she would allow anyone to harm us, though.