Bang, Bang--You're Free!

Yet Another Rant In Defense Of The Gun.
By Jeff Smith

THE ARIZONA DAILY Star is not, contrary to what many of you may suppose, anti-gun nor anti-Second Amendment.

Smith This is not to say the Star does not appear to be anti, nor that influential individuals and entire departments of the Star are not foaming at the mouth for broader and deeper limits on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It is only to note that in no institutional sense is the morning paper and its entire staff sworn upon penalty of dismissal to oppose firearms and their use in any and all circumstances.

I say this having just spoken to a Star employee who is the most recent author of what many gun-owners will inevitably interpret as yet another bleat from the anti-gun hand-wringers of the bleeding-heart Arizona Daily Star. I myself was inclined toward that point-of-view until I called Bonnie Henry. I thought I owed Bonnie the courtesy, if not the pleasure, of a call from me, because I think she's a bright person and a fine reporter and writer.

I will admit that my impression of the three-part series she wrote, with copious assistance from Star photographers, and other writers, reporters, mechanics and worker-bees, was that The Word had come down from The Mount that enough was enough with this gun business and that the Star was pulling all the stops--whatever that means--to disarm first Tucson, then the nation and ultimately the world. Then everything would be nice and we'd all be eating ice cream and watching Channel 6.

Accompanying Henry's text were artful portraits of victims, their faces stained with tears and tragic sadness, plus sidebars outlining the dollars and cents costs to victims, their families, hospitals, society, us taxpayers--nobody was left out of feeling bad about the whole deal.

Call me paranoid, but as a gun owner, a sport shooter and a civil libertarian who believes deeply in the Second Amendment and all them others, I was made to feel like an aider and abetter to the crime of the century. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I read the series carefully and saw just one slight murmur of balance in what otherwise was an unrelenting assault on the very existence of firearms. That was a reference to firearms safety courses for kids, offered by law enforcement. All else was a litany of damage, destruction, incidental violence, fiscal costs, social costs, personal tragedy, and loss of human potential--all of it caused by gunshots.

Admittedly, the stories of the three principal figures in the series are sad ones. A family of illegal aliens is peppered with shotgun pellets in a drive-by shooting. Their house has been the reported scene of other shooting incidents. A young ex-Marine points a gun at his head and pulls the trigger. He thought it was empty. Whoops. A bartender goes to a pay-phone to make a call and is hit in an apparent crossfire between two groups of teenage gang-members. His is the prototypical "shit-happens" story.

Each of these stories is sad, but passing laws to try to control guns or take them out of the hands of private citizens is not going to stop, nor even diminish the occurrence of such sad stories.

Because we live on a frontier between cultures, between languages, where arbitrary laws make crimes of status and where this in turn creates a black market of tremendous profit and terrible price. Violence simmers beneath the surface of this shadowy frontier, and its weapons are whatever lies closest at hand.

Because thoughtless youth is something not every thoughtless youth survives. Call me callous, but I see it as Darwinism. In the long run, the species naturally selects those who do not play Russian roulette. Or mumbly-peg with a headman's ax.

And no matter how many implements with lethal potential we give up or have taken away from us, we, as a thinking species possessed of a brain with all the potential--wonderful and frightening--this implies, will devise other means, other toys, other weapons both to help and to hurt us.

And the scariest thing of all--scarier even than standing in a phone booth minding your own business, and having a bullet from a stranger, never intended for you, rip out your throat and rip up your life--is for all the good guys in America to tell a tiny handful of men in blue:

Here: Take away our guns so we can't hurt ourselves. We'll call you when the boogy-man comes crashing through our doors--and wait by the phone and hope you get here before he gets tired of having his way with us and leaves.

I've said it before and I'm going to keep on saying it until as many of you as can, get it:

I'd rather be free than safe.

And Bonnie Henry agrees with me on that point. There are guns in her house, she told me. Her husband used to be a hunter. And the gunshot victim series was not some Front Office Special: it was suggested by the photographers who got tired of shoot-and-run coverage of the scene of the latest drive-by, and thought they'd like to see what becomes of the human wreckage after the lights are doused and the TV cameras are gone.

I'll buy that. And I'd like to see Bonnie and her buddies do a similar series on potential crime victims who have spared themselves pain, and perhaps saved their own lives, by going lawfully armed, and saving police the trouble of interrupting their coffee and donut breaks. TW

Image Map - Alternate Text is at bottom of Page

Tucson Weekly's Currents Forum

 Page Back  Last Week  Current Week  Next Week  Page Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Cinema | Back Page | Forums | Search

Weekly Wire    © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth