Quick draw artists

Yes, I’m back after a six-week hiatus. Sometimes life gets in the way.

My town has gotten a lot of attention lately because of a fatal shooting involving a 73-year-old reserve sheriff’s deputy and a sketchy ex-con. My newspaper has had a lot to do with that attention, having ferreted out the incident’s most startling details. I’ve had nothing to do with that and am not inclined to involve myself in the discussion except to say the people working on this story for our paper know what they are doing.

More generally, the story fits into what seems to me a larger pattern of guns becoming an early option for settling disputes. Whether its two drunk guys in a bar or members of Congress seeking a solution in the Middle East, it seems Americans are increasingly trigger happy. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s always been this way and the thing that’s really changed is the ubiquity of digital media. Either way, it seems like a lot of people are being shot unnecessarily.

Some of this is political. In many cases, politics is the science and art of scaring people witless. Scared people do things they wouldn’t do otherwise, like overestimate the threat posed by others, or underestimate their own reactions under stress. Some of this is fed by people and organizations with a financial stake in keeping the public on edge. The worst thing that can happen to an advocacy group is for its particular crisis to be solved. So they have to keep the donors and the volunteers stirred up. My rule, and it doesn’t apply only to this subject, is to always take into account who is selling a book or a CD or has an election coming up.

Our fairly recent obsession with the Second Amendment is revealing. No right, including the only to keep and bear arms, is completely inviolate. Freedom of religion does not extend to human sacrifice or polygamy. Freedom of the press does not include libel. And the Second Amendment did not prevent Congress and even local governments from regulating firearms. For many years, Tulsa police confiscated guns from people they simply did not like the looks of. We accept and even advocate for infringement of the right to vote, of equal protection, from search and seizure and fair speech, but draw the line at any restriction on our right to own and use guns.

I am not against guns. I don’t understand why some people own the kinds of guns they do, or as many, but that’s their business. I just don’t want them to use one on me.

And that’s the problem. It’s not the number of guns we Americans own, it’s our attitude about them. Maybe we don’t see guns — and bombs — as a first resort, but we tend to keep them very high on the list.

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