In my Career Link class, we toured Leupold Optics, a high tech manufacturer of rifle scopes. Our tour guide, a fat, red faced middle aged manager with a Hitler-esque mustache, sported a bright yellow button that said “Guns save lives!” The button was comical, not only because its message is complete bullshit, but also because the man wearing it was standing under an orgy of death. Guns certainly didn’t save the life of that stuffed antelope hammered to the wall, or the shiny crocodile smiling sharply with his serrated teeth nailed next to it, or the huge taxidermy mountain lion prowling over the entrance to the cafeteria.
When I split open my knee on a run along the Salmon River Trail, I certainly didn’t expect my hospital doctor to pull out a GLOCK to fix it. Guns don’t save lives, they take them–well bullets take them, the gun just starts the process. How can anyone wear a button with such an inane slogan? How can anyone with enough sense to operate a silkscreen be dumb enough to print it?
Lax gun regulations are a problem in our country. In Oregon, it’s legal to carry a concealed gun on your person. The only requirement is a carry and conceal permit. How do you get the permit? Pay $29.99 and take an online course. How much guidance can a person get from a one-shot, online course?
It’s easier to legally buy an AR-15 assault rifle than it is to legally drive a car. To get a license to drive, you have to take hours of specialized training, pass a rigorous written exam and demonstrate your skills behind the wheel during a supervised driving test. The state makes you prove that you know the rules. And there are lots of rules for the road, you have to know when to yield, what speed to drive, and how to use your blinker when you turn. And if you get caught breaking the rules, you get a ticket, and if you get caught driving drunk, you pay a hefty fine and get your license taken away. And you can’t just drive any old car you want down the street: your vehicle must be “street legal.”
There are practically no regulations for gun ownership in America. You don’t need any safety training to own rifle or a handgun; there are no penalties for unsafe gun handling, and you can buy high powered weapons like assault rifles and kits to modify them from anyone willing to sell them. The only thing you have prove when purchasing a firearm is that you weren’t committed to an insane asylum or sentenced to prison. Imagine what would happen if we applied gun laws to driving: Mad Max.
I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve gone barefoot hiking or running in the majestic forests of Oregon and come across fields of shotgun shells and 22 caliber bullet casings scattered along the forest floor, just steps away from crushed beer cans and shattered bottles of vodka.
Our gun laws are shameful. If you need to undergo hours of training and practical exams to drive a car, you sure as hell should have to do the same to buy an instrument of death like a gun.
Guns are dangerous. That’s not a platitude. They are dangerous and they’re designed to kill anything in their path: deer, moose, and even innocent little girls playing jump-rope on their Mamma’s front porch. Here’s one of many alarming statistics:
… we found that states with higher levels of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.
I am not against gun ownership. But we must ensure that gun owners are solid, responsible citizens who have been trained and tested in the safe and proper use of firearms.
Until then, what do I say to the man wearing the “Guns save lives!” badge? “Save a life: shoot yourself!”