To The Editor:
When I was a kid, I grew up with images of Hopalong Cassidy shooting umpteen bullets at bad guys from his six-shooter while riding on his white horse, Topper, at a full run. Paladin was called to town to wipe out bad guys because he was the guy with the gun in the ad, Have Gun Will Travel. Wyatt Earp shot all the bad guys when they deserved it and so did Steve McQueen and several others. Television was filled with westerns and good guys always triumphed over the bad guys. Law was dictated by the barrel of a gun. But as a kid, those were my heroes. I had strap-on pistols and hid behind trees and couches in my living room. I shot my parents and friends who I pretended to be the bad guys who needed killing until mom called me for dinner. You can’t tell me that a kid watching violent movies and video games is not desensitized by all the killing and gore they see. They imagine themselves as the good guys wiping out the enemy like I did. As I grew older, my cowboy heroes were replaced by Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, and Bob Cousy. I got rid of my toy guns and picked up a baseball glove instead. The guns were for kids. The baseball glove was for the new man I was going to be as my body grew bigger and stronger.
But my reality of the Old West was a myth and I didn’t know it. Wyatt Earp made people check their guns outside of town and so did Deadwood. Shoot outs were rare, and nothing like the shows depicted. But, sadly, we are all victims of the American western shoot-em-up myths that filled the television and movie screens and still do. Shoot outs are exciting and sell tickets. Talking down the bad buys is boring.
In colonial times, most people didn’t own guns. Those who did were required to register their names with the local constables so they could be recruited for a militia if necessary. Eventually, the Revolutionary War made call-up necessary. Those that had guns used them primarily for hunting for food, and to run off marauding Indians occasionally. They didn’t use them against each other.
Nothing in the Constitution says the government cannot require all weapons to be registered. No rights are taken away by registration. Even the NRA said all registration was a good idea and testified to such after the Columbine incident. Now, they distance themselves from those statements. Far-right Supreme Court justice and hunter, Antonin Scalia, has even said that certain restrictions can be put on gun owners, registration being one of them. The Heller v Washington DC decision allowed homeowners to have guns, even pistols, to protect themselves in the home. It was not a complete freedom to do whatever you want with guns under the Second Amendment as many tout today.
The case for registering all guns is strong, based on history and legal precedent. When the Second Amendment was written there were no rapid-fire weapons, there weren’t even any pre-made bullets. It took a good 30-seconds to reload between shots. The word militia meant a local militia, not the way it has come to be interpreted by the right-leaning Court to mean an individual as well as militia. Guns are made to kill. It makes sense to register them and to be able to track them for our own safety sake. It makes sense to limit gun styles, bullet magazine capacity, and the ability to convert them to rapid fire weapons. Military weapons should be limited to the military. It makes sense to limit gun ownership to mentally stable individuals. Police officers should be able to pull up gun registration on their car computer just the way they can pull up your driver’s license when you get stopped. Hopefully, the recent Connecticut massacre of children and teachers will finally bring that day closer at hand.