I did not grow up hunting, even though hunting was commonplace in the Ozarks: rabbit, deer, turkey, quail, waterfowl. Some people hunted squirrel and possum as well. My brother and I would occasionally go along with our dad and our uncle, but our dad used us to carry gear and help flush out game. I was never given a .22 at age 12 or a shogun at age 16 and encouraged to roam the woods. My father always had a pistol in his nightstand. We knew not to touch it. Ever! I don’t recall having seen dad shoot the snub-nose .38 even for practice.
So, while I grew up around guns, guns did not figure greatly in my life. Later, I chose non-violence and shunned the military, never hunted game, and only learned to shoot when I found myself the owner of a liquor store in Kansas City. The clerks insisted on having a gun beneath the counter. I thought it was more dangerous for everyone if I did not know how to use the gun than if I did, so I spent one weekend at a school learning to shoot and clean a variety of weapons.
In spite of my personal choice I have no opposition to people hunting game for food. I also understand that sometimes even animals that are not a food source must be hunted in order to thin the herd if they are to survive. Too many animals, too little water or food, and they all die. This is especially true in Africa. Trophy hunting and sport hunting on the other hand disgust me. I have seen the beauty of giraffes in the wild and the play of elephants at a water hole and a pride of lions on the prowl. Trophy hunting is a sickness. Oddly, the first novel I published was titled Claws and features giant lion-tiger hybrid cats that everyone wants to kill, either for fame, monetary gain, or to survive being eaten. Go figure!
But it is not the rate at which we use guns to kill animals that makes the US the most violent country in the world, it is the use of guns to kill people that makes us the deadliest country. Pick up a newspaper, turn on the TV, or open your browser to a news source and you commonly see these headlines:
About 1,800 children were killed by gunfire in the United States in ….
At least 20 shootings at school events in 5 months ….
These headlines appear so frequently that they now seem inevitable. Also inevitable is the argument surrounding guns.
The argument is about gun control versus the Second Amendment. Forget for a moment that the United States is the only NATO member that does not have rigid gun laws. Forget for a moment that in Missouri and Georgia and an increasing number of midwestern, southern, and western states, state legislatures have made open carry the law. Anybody can carry a gun, anywhere. Their right to bear arms is guaranteed, they argue, by the Constitution of the United States of America. Others disagree.
The Second Amendment, often referred to as the right to bear arms, is one of 10 amendments that form the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791 by the U.S. Congress. The text of the Second Amendment reads in full: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
When the Revolutionary War began, in April 1775, the colonists had no army and no formal fighting force. Instead, each colony sponsored local militia. They were lightly armed, had little training, and usually did not have uniforms. Seeking to coordinate military efforts, the Continental Congress established a regular army on June 14, 1775, and appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief.
But many people in the former British colonies believed governments use soldiers to oppress its citizens and thought the federal government should only be allowed to raise armies (with full-time, paid soldiers) when facing foreign adversaries. For all other purposes, they believed, it should turn to part-time militias, or ordinary civilians using their own weapons. Shortly after the U.S. Constitution was officially ratified, James Madison proposed the Second Amendment as a way to empower state militias.
The crux of the debate is whether the amendment protects the right of private individuals to keep and bear arms, or whether it instead protects a collective right that should be exercised only through formal militia units like the National Guard.
One thing beyond argument is this one fact: no country in the world has a higher rate of gun ownership than the United States and only a few areas around the world have a higher rate of gun death, and most all of these areas are either war zones or drug gang zones, which are a form of war zone. How deadly are we?
According to an article in The Guardian in 2013, the number of Americans killed in ALL the wars since 1775, in 245 years, is 1.17 million. The number of Americans killed by guns since 1968, in 62 years, is 1.38 million.
I suggest our real National Anthem was written by the Beatles and begins like this: “Happiness is a warm gun. Bang! Bang!”