There's an old joke about a man alone and hopelessly lost in the woods. With darkness falling and desperation setting in, he sits down and mixes a Martini. Immediately, ten people show up to tell him he's doing it wrong.
I was reminded of that after writing a recent essay about my experience over the years being in the middle of several gunfights and how usually they are over before anyone has time to react. My point was, in the middle of the American gun debate, that armed amateurs would be little defense against a killer who shoots first. A lot of gun lovers suddenly appeared to show me the path.
It is hard to write or say anything about guns without being subjected to withering fire from the gun people. They produce a barrage of specious statistics about the number of times in a day, or a year, people use a gun to defend themselves. One reader authoritatively said that guns are used for self-defense 85,000 times a year in America. Another said with equal authority, citing FBI reports, that defensive use of guns happens 2.5 million times a year.
The FBI does not track any such statistic.
The gun defenders say a semi-automatic rifle is not an assault rifle unless it has a pistol grip, flash suppressor or a bayonet mount, as if the killing of Osama bin Laden was a bayonet charge. They say the more guns there are in the hands of "good" people, the safer we all are. Keep in mind, those would be some of the same people cutting us off on the highways and flipping the bird.
After reading how hapless I was reacting to gunfire, one reader who goes by the handle "bloodytongue" suggested my experiences should be used to learn tactics. Another, detecting a bit of anti-gun sentiment, called me a "journalist," as if that was the worst possible insult.
Yet another message said, "Words have caused more deaths in human history than guns." That hurt, but I'm alive.
The NRA and diehard gun people like to say that gun bans and gun control don't work. Their solution has been prayer for the dead and more guns. But we have never tried true, strict and Draconian gun control in this country. We've done it the way of the gun lovers, with hair-splitting definitions, exempted weapons, and grandfather clauses. The massacre continues.
We are paying a high price so that a few million Americans can live the fantasy that one day they can resist an oppressive government with that Bushmaster in the closet. Meanwhile, we have more gun deaths in this country than any other because we have more guns.
The White House is preparing to send Congress new gun control legislation. I'm still feeling a little lost in the woods so I sat down to mix a Martini of gun solutions.
1. Immediately ban the sale of all semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns to private owners. Forget about pistol grips, bayonet mounts and definitions of what is an assault rifle. Ban the sale of all semi-automatic guns. No grandfathering of weapons made but not sold before the ban goes into effect. Melt them for scrap.
2. Freeze ownership of all semi-automatics. Owners may keep what they have but not sell them, rent them, give them, leave them or loan them to anyone else. On the death of the owner, or when he's just done with the guns, they must be turned over to the local police without compensation.
3. Ban the sale and ownership of a clip that holds more than five rounds. All other higher capacity clips must be turned in. Keep it, get caught with it, go to jail.
4. Sell no handgun for less than $1,000. It doesn't matter if it is a cheap Saturday-night special, the minimum price for a revolver is $1,000. Let dealers and sellers keep the profit, because they're going to lose a bundle on other guns they can no longer sell.
5. And last, forget the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America. Don't talk to them, mention them, or bargain with them. Don't take their phone calls. They represent very few people and they don't even represent all of their own members in their refusal to compromise.
It could be done. The federal government already regulates ownership of machine guns, sawed off rifles and shotguns, hand grenades and more. It's been established that there are weapons unsuitable for the general public to own.
At the same time, gun ownership should not be universally illegal nor should it necessarily be licensed. Americans do have a right to own guns. It's just a question of what kind. If you want to defend your home you can do it with a six-gun and a lever action John Wayne cowboy rifle. Intruders hate the sound of the slide jacking on a shotgun.
I'm certain after reading this some people will appear to tell me I'm lost and offer to show me the way. If you do, please bring good bourbon. I don't drink Martinis.