Sunday February 10, 2013

RICHMOND

According to government statistics, there are approximately 315,249,075 people in the United States and according to various surveys, there are approximately 300 million guns of various types scattered around. That comes to almost one apiece.

Since we Americans usually claim to be No. 1 in everything we do, guns are no exception. We have the best-armed civilians in the world, clocking in at 88.8 guns per 100 residents. Millions of people in the United States, many of them babies, don't own a gun. Millions more own several guns. So you have to figure that maybe half the country is armed and half is not. When it comes to the ultimate showdown, which side do you want to be with?

It seems that more and more people are buying guns now than before the Newtown tragedy. You can buy a Bushmaster on the Internet for $1,208.73. The problem is that all the gun dealers have "currently out of stock" in the top line. However, you can be sure that the Bushmaster manufacturer is turning them out faster than you can say "Please don't shoot."

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Throughout our country right now various legislative bodies and boards ranging from schools and political leaders are debating whether miniature weapons of mass destruction should be available to private citizens. Great Barrington's Board of Selectmen is now pondering rules and possible limitations. In other parts of the nation, places like Arizona and Nevada and the deep South, rallies are being held by citizens who don't want anybody to limit their firepower.


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The local TV stations cover these rallies and what is coming out of these people's mouths is on a par with the radical Islamic nations.

Some of the citizens go so far as to link their gunnishness to Jesus and to the federal government coming to take more than their guns during the Rapture. These people have all sorts of scenarios involving Washington officials trying to pry the guns from their cold, dead hands. All kinds of sheriffs in Texas and other intellectual home sites are vowing to protect people's rights to own anything up to the size of a howitzer. Leader of the pack has to be Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, whom you will be proud to know was born in Springfield, Mass., and went west as a young man. This sheriff's record is a frightful read but the good part is that you know he's never coming back to Springfield. He recently announced that he was buying his 400 deputies military-assault weapons.

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Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head when a young man named Jared Lee Loughner turned loose a fusillade that killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl, and injured 13. Giffords is making a slow and unsure recovery, and she and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, are conducting a campaign to restrict military weapons to the military. Giffords made a heartbreaking speech at a Senate gun-control hearing and everybody was very polite and caring, but you already know what's going to happen when the issue gets down to a vote.

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President Barack Obama is supposedly leading the fight for stricter gun control, but he also would like to convince the good old boys that he is a man's man and an experienced shooter. To prove this the White House produced a picture of the president skeet shooting at Camp David last August. I have shot skeet and admit that it gives you a good feeling when the pellets break that clay pigeon into a seemingly million pieces.

But it takes more than clay to convince the gun people that they have gone too far down the road. The more extreme wing of them can't stand it that their president is half black and they are convinced that someday he or someone just like him will send the tanks rolling up to their houses and take away all their guns. In their minds the military and police forces might someday just do that for whatever reasons, so they want the right to protect their rights with military-style weapons. There is no rhyme or reason for them to clog their state of mind in this way, but the Second Amendment has become their credo, both politically and even religiously.

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When the father of one of the children slaughtered in Newtown asked at a forum why anybody needed assault weapons, the audience was silent. So he asked it again and some man finally called out, "Second Amendment."

The interpretations of what the Second Amendment stands for have become so varied and disjointed despite the Supreme Court's imprimatur that it now stands for all things to all men. So don't be disappointed if your order for an assault rifle and expanded cartridge holder is back-ordered. The arms industry is in full cry for both public and private mayhem. Just be patient until the next massacre occurs.

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle
contributor.