Old enough to buy a gun

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Sometimes I feel like I’m living in what we used to call in the 60s and 70s a Third World Country. For those unfamiliar with the term, it was created by those who called themselves First World, to characterize poor countries, often with autocratic governments, where citizens had few rights and life was often short, brutal, and nasty. There was in many of these countries, some of them only recently emerged from colonial status where the majority of their population labored for the benefit of a minority of colonial rulers and upon independence took to violence as the various groups who had been pulled together by a distant colonial power into a ‘nation’.

Now, that’s a long explanation to introduce what I really want to talk about. You see, I live in the United States. The nation with the world’s biggest economy—for now at least—and the largest army—probably for the foreseeable future. We used to be the world’s model for democracy, respect for human rights, and adherence to rule of law; the country that had the temerity to teach other countries about peaceful settlement of disputes and political inclusiveness.

Not so much anymore. We’ve been gripped in the deadlock of partisan bickering for a couple of decades now as those in power try every trick in the book not only to stay in power, but increase it, while a vocal minority tries to force its beliefs on the rest of us. We’ve suffered many of the shenanigans that we used to decry in others.

But this thing with guns is what really sticks in my craw. We have an insane love affair with firearms that sometimes seem to border on the manic and psychotic. We have more guns than people. In this country, an 18-year-old can buy a semi-automatic weapon, high capacity magazines, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, but not a can of beer. And, when that 18-year-old goes to a school and slaughters 19 fourth-grade children and two teachers, we have a slew of politicians who quickly grab microphones and blame everything but easy access to firearms. They cite the Second Amendment which, in my opinion, did not envision teens having easy access to weapons that can shred their victims to the point that it’s difficult to identify the remains. They point out that during our battle for independence in the 1700s, there were fighters as young as 14, ignoring the fact that the average life expectancy for a man in 1776 was 54, compared to 79 today. They also ignore the words in the Second Amendment about ‘a well-regulated militia,’ and the right to ‘bear’ arms. In the OED, the term as ‘to serve as a soldier, to fight. In some dictionaries, it is defined as the right to own and use guns as a means of defense. Going into a school and killing children is not defense, and it’s no longer 1776.

But let’s talk about the other. Most of our states require a person to be 21 before they can buy alcohol or tobacco because these substances are considered harmful and people under 21 are not considered adult enough to have access to them. Likewise, certain medications require all kinds of proof and paperwork before you can buy them.

Alcohol and tobacco are harmful if misused. So is a gun. A gun that shoots 45 rounds per minute is harmful when used. What that many 7.62 rounds per minute can do to a human body, especially the small body of a child, is horrendous.

We should make buying a gun at least as difficult as buying a bottle of whiskey or a package of Sudafed™. But you know something, we won’t. We will make excuses. We’ll express sympathy. And we’ll turn our attention back to the football game on TV. – NWI