By Paul Bendix
Guns, a Year after Sandy HookUploaded: Jan 21, 2014
Guns...one of the nation's most deeply entrenched, emotional and perennial issues. And kudos to Stanford Continuing Studies for presenting last week's public debate, 'Guns in America: a Year after Sandy Hook.' Hundreds of people turned up. And what was accomplished?
A civil discussion. Which on this volatile topic amounts to a major achievement.
The two attorneys, variously arguing for and against a tightening of national gun regulations, made predictable points. And they responded well to unpredictable questions. The latter came from a moderator who knew the territory well enough to avoid clichés and not throw softball questions either way.
As a shooting victim, I tend to turn up at such events. My basic attitude towards guns and their regulation partly derives from years in the UK.
In the early 1970s, about a year after my own shooting, I wandered into a West End pub. A man at the bar observed that I was 'a bit banged up, but you can still handle your pint.' He asked what had happened, and I told him about my mugging. Looking incredulous, he slowly turned and asked 'where did the bloke get the gun?'
To me at age 22, his question sounded ridiculous. But this man was old, probably more than 45, so this was to be expected. What did it matter where the gun came from?
A few more years in Britain changed my mind. Guns and their origins matter greatly.
As for the recent Stanford gun debate, I came away with two impressions. First, I am glad that organizations like the National Institutes of Health are, once again, able to study the epidemiology of gun violence. It's been more than 20 years since researchers like Arthur Kellermann examined firearms ownership and the relationship to violence in the home. The gun lobby has long opposed such research.
And there was a telling moment. The attorney advocating for laissez-faire gun laws lightly observed that automatic weapons were 'fun to fire.'
And doubtless they are. Although not so much fun if you're a combat vet. Or in law enforcement. The fun is reserved for amateurs, people who dabble in gun use. The problem is that firearm violence is a deeply serious and adult matter. The sense of power, the boyish fantasies...all this seems natural. Our national statistics on gun homicide, suicide and accidents...there's nothing natural about that.