I remember the first time I held a gun. On my first round, I was told to keep my chin centimeters above the hard-packed dirt. I dug the butt of the M16 into the small cavity between my right breast and my armpit, grinding my bra strap into my skin. I kept my right forearm on the ground for support. Looking at the stick figure ahead of me, I imagined that it was a person, just to see what that would feel like. To me the bullets were real, and not just rubber-for-practice. I remember already feeling comfortable with the smooth click of pulling the safety off. I remember the slam of the gun butt with my first bullet. Even through the army-grade earmuffs the sound of the shot rattled me.
I loved it.
I pulled and pulled and pulled. Shells bounced up into my face and left shiny marks on my cheeks that didn’t fade for weeks afterwards. I could feel the butt beginning to bruise my chest. The first round ended all too quickly, as did the second and the third.
I write this to say that I understand the seduction of a powerful gun.
I also understand the great import of the second amendment. Yes, we as the people have the RIGHT to keep and bear arms under the constitution.
I used to say that gun control was one of the few issues that I couldn’t bring myself to come down as liberal on. “It’s our constitutional right!” I would often insist in heated arguments with my left-leaning teachers/parents. It’s our right and it feels so, so good. When I turned away from politics and moved towards less hot-button areas of study (namely ancient Buddhism and narrative styles, separately), I stopped thinking about the issue altogether. My rote answer remained what it had been when I was younger: yes, I was liberal on everything… except gun control.
This past week I watched Bowling For Columbine , a documentary by Michael Moore. I recognize that most people saw when it came out in 2002. Excuse me for being a little late to jump on the bandwagon, but just because it’s been a decade since the movie’s production doesn’t mean I don’t have some #evolved thoughts on the issue.
The way Moore paints him, Charlton Heston, the president of the NRA in 2003, seems ideologically like a rebellious teenager. He makes exactly the same arguments that I used to make for why guns shouldn’t be more highly regulated. In a personal interview with Moore, Heston repeats again and again “but… but we have the RIGHT.”
Yes, we have the right to keep in our home and even bear arms. But what kind of arms? And which ones of “we”? How do we obtain those arms exactly – what regulations should we have on their use? Moreover, while we may have the right to do many things, we also have obligations to ourselves, our children, and our fellow citizens that are not written specifically into the Constitution. In 2000, Donna Dees-Thomases, the leader of the Million Mom March, which called for better gun control argued that: “All Americans have the right to be safe from gun violence.”
Moore goes in a lot of directions in Bowling for Columbine. He compares the US with Canada on several occasions and notes that despite the lenient gun regulations there, they have significantly (like
Today, 10 years after Bowling for Columbine won an Academy Award for Best Documentary, our national conscious is left still bloodied with incidents like the Trayvon Martin shooting. The Brady Campaign, an anti-gun spin-off of the Million Mom March calls George Zimmerman “an NRA poster child.” The Martin-Zimmerman case is deeply entrenched in questions about race, power, and gun control. Zimmerman finds himself exactly in line with Heston’s uncomfortable suggestion documented for posterity by Moore.
And as for the pleasure?
I’m just not sure the pleasure I felt, despite how intoxicating it was, provides any basis for what I can and cannot do within the confines of society. When I weigh the high of a perfect shot against the death of a 17-year-old boy… I find myself re-examining my views on gun regulation.