Bear With Me: One Nation, Under Gun

John Bear
6 min read
One Nation, Under Gun
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When the next senseless mass shooting takes place, you are not allowed to come up to me and say, “You know, guns don’t kill people … .” Keep it to yourself, Mr. Heston.

Likewise please refrain from telling me, “Well, if there had only been more heavily armed people in that–” … shhh.

That’s the most idiotic thing I’ve heard all week. A person carrying a concealed weapon might take down a maniac before the maniac maims and kills a few dozen innocent people. It could happen. But I’ll be conservative and wager that 95 times out of a hundred, you’d just have two unstable people in a crowded place shooting guns. It’s called a crossfire. Bad stuff.

Twelve more people dead in a movie theater in Colorado. I am reminded of a guy who stood outside the University of New Mexico during much of the latest war with a sign that kept a running tally of the dead and read “How many is enough?”

This whole gun thing has really gotten out of hand. The very fact that whether to bring a gat into a theater for self defense is even up for debate is so scary, I think I’ll never sleep again.

This column was originally a response to the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin. Every subsequent gun tragedy eclipses the one that preceded it, I suppose.

Anyway, even if the names and places have changed, my views on firearms have been fixed and immutable for quite some time: If you melt guns down, they make excellent paperclips.

All this media coverage has made me realize just how much guns have played a role in my own life.

It started in the late ’80s. Neon shirts were in fashion. New Kids on the Block was No. 1. And I was a Cub Scout. The pack leader’s sons went to a neighbor’s house to feed the cats. The neighbor left a gun out (genius). The two boys began to play with it. One of them was shot and killed. The troop made sympathy cards at its next weekly meeting.

I’ve had a gun pulled on me twice, once by an irate tagger, another time by an irate police officer because I was tagging.

An insurgent in Iraq retrofitted an old Russian surface-to-air missile with a crude fuse and shot my brother in the face, earning him the nickname “Duck Dodgers” for the remainder of his tour of duty. He ducked. He dodged. He narrowly avoided losing his head. OK, I made the nickname up. But it’s apt.

My father fostered a strange, macho fascination with guns, then killed himself with one. So did my favorite rock star and the writer who made me want to be a journalist.

I guess this is just part of being an American. We like guns. I covered a Republican Party event in early June. An AR-15 was the door prize. Second prize was a fishing pole.

A segment of the population wants to own guns and is afraid the government will outlaw it. News flash: They aren’t going to take your guns away. It’s called the Second Amendment. Stop being so paranoid.

Lots of these people seem to think they have a right to shoot people. Stand your ground laws are bad news. I am an adherent to the Richard Pryor school of thought on this: Why be a badass when you can RUUUUNNNNN? I’d never shoot somebody over my stuff.

I have a strict no-gun policy in my life. People who own guns get shot more than people who don’t. According to a 2009 University of Pennsylvania
study, packers are four times more likely to get shot than nonpackers. Really, it’s a safety thing.

Out here in the countryside where I reside, there’s a lot of gunfire, mostly from bored people with 18-packs of Natural Light. I have lived in cities, too, where neighborhoods are judged by the amount and nature of gunfire. Hearing gunshots is fine. Hearing gunshots being exchanged is another matter entirely. Automatic gunfire is an automatic move out. Unless you’re downwind from an artillery range.

In fact, I’ve dwelled next to such ranges—air defense and field artillery. Cannons are also guns. They are loud. The walls in your house crack from their booms. The Army post I lived near served as the testing site for a cannon that could be fired around a mountain. You can’t let a mountain ruin a perfectly good day of firing rockets at people (see above paragraph re: “Duck Dodgers”).

Police need to carry guns, but they’ve gotten a tad paramilitary in the U.S. for my taste. I don’t like to see my cops dressed in Army helmets and carrying automatic weapons. It doesn’t make me feel any safer. On a trip to Juárez a few years back I gazed in awe at the city’s paramilitaristic police force armed with machine guns. It’s unsettling, knowing that you just walked in on the end of
The Wild Bunch , the real version.

Some Americans have the nerve to complain about drugs and cheap labor flowing north when our legally purchased guns flow south.
A mayor and police chief in Southern New Mexico are accused of running guns to the cartels. There is a special place in hell reserved for such people.

I am loathe to say I don’t want other people to own guns, even with the border violence, school shootings, domestic disputes, drive-by shootings, assault weapon raffles and now, sadly, theater massacres. I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America (except for the overtly racist stuff). As a huge fan of the First Amendment, I have to take the good with the bad. So go ahead, buy that Bushmaster .223. All the heartbreak that results is on you.

No, I’m sorry. I thought about it. Throw your guns away. If you must carry a weapon, might I suggest an acerbic sense of humor? That’s gotten me out of many a jam.

John Bear is a backpack journalist, which means he writes, takes photos and edits. He blogs at He lives with his cat, Scoop.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

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