By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
When did it become cool to own a bunch of guns?
This is the thing that has always escaped me in the never-ending gun debate: Just when in the hell did owning a gun make you the macho, cool guy?
For most of my early life, growing up in the South, where pretty much everyone owned a shotgun and rifle for hunting, I didn’t know a soul who owned a bunch of handguns or assault rifles. Oh, our dads and granddads had revolvers that were kept in underwear drawers, with bullets that were stored somewhere in the house.
My dad’s gun was kept on top of a tall hutch in the living room. It was wrapped in an oily rag. In my entire life, I have never seen my dad hold it.
Late one night, when I was a pre-teen, I thought some guy was breaking into our back shed, so I did what any pre-teen would do — I yelled for dad. He hopped out of bed, went right by the hutch in the living room, didn’t glance at it, and headed out the door.
I’m not trying to tell you that Dad is the bravest guy in the world or that he was going to take some thieves down with his bare hands. Maybe both are true. But it’s also true that grabbing a gun never crossed his mind.
That’s not how we lived — with a fear that required constant, or even semi-rare, firearm protection. And that was in the 1980s, when the violent crime rates were much, much higher than today.
Don’t get me wrong, some people would keep a shotgun in a closet or a pistol in a nightstand to grab just in case, but they weren’t crazy about it.
They sure didn’t have guns all over the house, carry around pics of them, or even strap the gun on and walk around a Target store.
Because everyone would have thought that they were nuts.
And if you bought bulletproof vests, a bunch of black clothing and face paint, they would’ve warned their kids to stay away from you.
Because that’s not normal behavior.
And it’s not OK.
This is the sort of nonsense that pro-gun control people want to stop — this romanticizing of the gun. This weird, dangerous affection that so many people now have for an instrument of death.
And let’s make no mistake, it is weird. And it is very dangerous.
It’s not OK that average citizens are walking around with semi-automatic rifles that can kill 30 people without changing the magazine. The average person should not be allowed to own weaponry that makes it possible to kill 26 people in a small-town church in seconds or kill 58 and wound 500-plus at a concert, firing more than 1,000 rounds, in less than 11 minutes.
There is no argument that makes this OK, including the one that starts with a partial quote of a constitutional amendment. Because there’s an amendment just before that one that ensures both free speech and freedom of the press, yet I can rattle off a number of reasonable limitations on both.
That’s how laws and legal review work — they strike a necessary balance between rights and safety.
We could use some balance on guns. And deep down, even most gun owners know this is true.
Because most gun owners are normal, sane people who just want to hunt or feel more comfortable with a pistol — that they’re trained to use — for home protection. They’re not strapping on an AR-15 and walking around the mall.
And they don’t need 30 bullets. They don’t need to fire 15 rounds in under 10 seconds. They don’t need a rifle that soldiers use in war zones.
Because simply having a big gun doesn’t make you safe. It doesn’t make you macho. It doesn’t make anyone respect you.
All it does it make it easier for someone to snap and kill people in a church or kill kindergartners in a classroom.
It’s long past time that we stopped treating guns as magical instruments that will instantly provide safety and respect. They won’t, particularly without proper training, practice and care.
It’s also time to implement some common-sense laws: expanded background checks, a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines, a training requirement for all gun owners, a gun and ammunition registry and stiffer penalties for gun owners whose weapons are used in accidental shootings and crimes.
I have no faith that any of these will occur, not in our current climate of NRA-dominated lawmakers. Until they are — until the proper respect and responsibility are placed on gun ownership in this country, and until the irrational reverence and childlike adoration of guns are checked — you can continue to expect more scenes like Sunday’s.