Gun Control, A Different View

Every time some deranged youth sprays bullets around a classroom or two, the country gets convulsed with remorse, recriminations follow, and our leaders vow to do something. Attempts to pass new laws, or amend old ones, follow and get bogged down in Congress, while the national attention gets refocused on other matters.

I don’t want to go over all the familiar arguments. I do have a point or two, and while I suppose others have thought of them, they haven’t had much play, so it may help to repeat them here.

I have several descendants: children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. Regrettably, I am all too familiar with mental illness as it can afflict the youth. I know the heartbreak of the parent who sees an adolescent son slide gradually off the path of rationality into delusion, paranoia, and even schizophrenia. When do you blow the whistle, decide the beloved child you knew has wandered onto territory so dangerous that you need to invoke external authority? If you are human, you wait until the last possible moment. And then it may be too late.

I was lucky, my schizophrenic son was never the least bit homicidal. But if he had shown any such tendencies would I have called the authorities? Probably not until very late.

But I can tell you one thing, once he had shown any such tendencies I’d have made sure that any guns in my possession, any lethal weapons anywhere in my house, were permanently banished. Being very securely locked up wouldn’t cut it, for if you can get at them your kid, who is probably as bright as you and knows you well, probably can get at them too.

We need a first line of defense against repetitions of Columbine, Newton, and such massacres that depends on the parents, and especially the mother, being sensitive to any signs of possible homicidal tendencies in a beloved child, especially sons. Any such signs should automatically trigger actions to get rid of whatever firearms may be stored in the house. This is not something Congress can legislate. It has to be something we all talk about and develop into a social consensus, as binding as the social consensus that keeps us from stealing from our neighbor.

In principle, anybody bringing up adolescent male children in our urbanized society shouldn’t have weapons in the house to begin with, but there are exceptions. When someone in the family, usually the father, is a legal hunter, a hunting rifle or two in the home is going to be more or less inevitable. I’ve been a hunter myself in the past. The hunting instinct doesn’t abide with everyone, but for people that have it, it’s a link with our ancestral human nature, something important, not something you can just excise like your appendix. And a hunting rifle can be a positive thing if the father uses it to educate the son in a proper respect for lethal weapons. But having one or two rifles in the house ¬†imposes special obligations on the owners and parents, both in how they sequester the weapon, and how closely they supervise their kids.

There is absolutely no justification I can see to keep assault weapons in the home. Laws governing this type of weaponry must be tightened. I also would support tougher laws about hand guns and semi-automatic rifles, if anyone were to ask me. But I’m just part of the general chorus here. If there is any justification for my entering this debate at all, it is my thoughts about responsibilities every parent needs to absorb as part of our shared ethical structures concerning firearms and child rearing. It isn’t enough for outraged mothers to be mad at someone else’s mother, for we’re all in it together. ¬†The need for alertness and preventive action can and must begin at home.

Carl Coon








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