The fascination with guns, to my aged mind, has to do with their potential. Potentially they are fun when you shoot at targets to check out your physical skills -- eyesight, muscle control, steadiness, breath control, trigger finger control -- and show the world you've got this dangerous instrument under personal command.
Then there are some people who cherish its ability to kill or to wound someone they don't like or who doesn't like them. Guns can make people afraid so that they give you their valuables or anything else you want. Guns can bag you wild meat.
Guns can be a way to protect yourself from someone bigger or stronger who wants to do you harm. Guns can make the difference in winning or losing a war, of making you personally a winner or loser. The ultimate German plan was to make whole nations their slaves to do the heavy work while they lived in luxury. The German and Japanese plan was to wipe out all the people who did not fit their requirements. We beat the Germans and Japanese because our fighters and our production of weapons became better than theirs.
We have been at war for so many years now that we will undoubtedly draw a breath of relief when all our troops finally return from Afghanistan. But it is difficult to draw breaths of relief when we realize that there are so many millions of guns loose in our country and we know in our hearts that lurking somewhere are disturbed people who are capable of using one of those guns to wipe out a group of innocent bystanders at any moment.
The controversy has been enhanced by the Second Amendment to our Constitution and its references to a "well-regulated militia" and "right to bear arms." In 2010, the Supreme Court nailed down the right to own and use guns and the battle was joined.
But then that strange teenager in Connecticut used his mother's legally purchased assault rifle to kill his mother, invade an elementary school and butcher 20 first-graders and six adults. The entire nation was so shocked that for a couple of days the anti-gun people held the floor. But since then the National Rifle Association has so stirred up gun owners with fright stories that the battle of words has come into full bore.
Any war veteran who has seen what bullets and shrapnel can do to the human body could visualize what that shot-up room smelled and looked like. Even those who were never exposed to such horrors were probably shocked into feelings they had never experienced before.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York knows how short public memory is so he almost immediately rammed through his legislature a law to control automatic assault weapons. It didn't take long for gun owners to regain their voice and now we are getting letters to the editor of this paper that mostly denigrate those who would cut back on gun mania, especially President Barack Obama who would follow in Gov. Cuomo's footsteps.
The president went to Connecticut and met with the parents of the dead children and the relatives of the dead adults. Unlike George W. Bush, he also met the caskets of our dead military when they were flown back to this country. He knows personally what irretrievable losses have occurred and he wants to stop our wars both abroad and in this country.
If nothing changes from all this, then you can be sure that another tragedy is waiting just down the road. Something is terribly wrong and it must be fixed.
But gun owners should not try to keep the status quo by writing insulting letters about those with whom they disagree. You are only displaying your ignorance and lack of manners. You forced Mitt Romney into claiming that he has shot down small critters. And look what that got him.
I personally am for tighter control of automatic weapons and gun sales for civilians. If not now, when? If not by us, who?
Milton Bass is a regular Eaqle