Guns ’n’ posesWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
For my birthday in late November, my friend Tim Matheney sent me an envelope full of nostalgia. I have known Tim since first grade and unfairly burdened him as my role model and moral compass. His journey has taken him to the East Coast, but I still count him as my most trusted consigliere.
The package he sent me contained a number of papers from our days as classmates at Lake Junior High in Walbridge, including a football roster and an essay he wrote about our friendship.
The key document in the stack was a stapled copy of the April 10, 1981, Co-Pilot, the student-produced newsletter we worked on at Lake. It was typed, with handwritten headlines and my first published work; a story on Right to Read Week, a fictional short story, a feature on the Winter Sports Assembly and what was almost certainly my first published opinion piece, which ran without a headline:
“December 1980 — John Lennon is shot and killed by a man who bought his gun at a local gun shop with no trouble whatsoever.
“The issue of how to control handguns is a touchy one, but one which should be discussed. Many people (including myself), feel all handguns should be registered, and their owners prove they are worthy of owning a piece of metal capable of taking a human life. Many people feel they need to protect themselves, but this is not the way to do it.
“The Constitution gives us the right to bear arms, which is all right. If a person wants a gun bad enough, he should be willing to use it, and have it registered.
“When the time comes when a few sick people can turn people against each other and stop trusting each other, I can not help but think the great Western civilization needs help.
“It is a shame it takes the death and injuries of great famous men to make us stop and think about such issues.”
I would have been 14 years old when I wrote that; yes, I know, my writing skills have not greatly progressed during the ensuing 32 years.
It is a greater shame that the conversation around guns hasn’t progressed much, either. It still takes carnage and tragedy to push the conversation to the forefront, although my 14-year-old self might have written much more strongly had he had crystal ball foresight into Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech and Newtown.
Guns are embedded in the U.S. Constitution as firmly as freedoms of speech, religion and the press. The Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown will undoubtedly inspire strong talk about “doing something,” but it is a safe bet that the “something” will be a further stripping away of freedoms in the name of security. There will be armed guards and metal detectors at every school in the country before any restrictions will be placed on any type of gun.
Intellectually, I accept the thesis that guns in and of themselves are just a means to an end, like a knife, a pipe bomb, a baseball bat, a bathtub, a closed garage with a car running inside or any other tool that can be used for murder.
Intellectually, I know banning guns is not the answer. Gun massacres take place in gun-free zones, right? Schools, colleges, movie theaters, malls. There haven’t been any mass shootings at gun ranges or gun conventions.
But emotionally, the power and efficiency of guns scare me beyond words. I saw a post on Facebook that said blaming a gun for murder is like blaming a spoon for obesity. But I wonder what we would think of a spoon that could automatically feed its owner 400 mouthfuls a minute.
I may recognize the futility of debating gun control, but my emotional reaction to what happened in Newtown makes me want to take every gun in America to the mouth of an active volcano and toss them into the lava.
As the father of a first-grader, my emotional response is with a that room full of 6- and 7-year-old children, who spent the last minutes of their lives panicked, screaming in terror and confusion, watching blood splatter and the little bodies of friends convulse and shake as bullets chewed through them, cries for moms and dads and teachers unanswered. My emotional attachment is with the parents, who had closets of presents ready and plans to make the dreams of their little kids come true, not just for Christmas but for the lifetime of love and commitment children require.
My emotional pull is for the first responders, who have seen images of exploded flesh and destroyed children that the most hardened soldiers would never recover from.
In the three decades between 14 and 46, my respect and fear for guns haven’t evolved much. But my revulsion at the employment of guns in mass killings has made my emotional reactions stronger then my intellectual understanding.
When the time comes when a few sick people can turn people against each other and stop trusting each other, I cannot help but think the great Western civilization needs help. O
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.