Gun Control

As a disclaimer, I must admit that I actively try to steer clear of public political discourse; however, the recent fervor over gun control is something that transcends your typical political cockfight.  It is an issue that, ideally, should rise above political partisanship and be examined with dispassionate logic, with objectiveness, and with a particular focus on the issue’s evolution in light of vast technological advancements in consumer weaponry.  Sadly, the use of those technological advancements in recent years has mostly been in service to crimes of greater and greater destructiveness.

Another reason I’m compelled to write about this is because our President asked me to.  This week, he asked all of us to.  He asked all of us to weigh in.  And we should all take that request seriously.

I’m not a gun-owner, but I grew up around guns and have spent the past ten years researching and writing a screenplay about the gun industry.  I’ve interviewed gun-owners and anti-gun advocates.  I’ve explored both sides of this high fence and I’ve explored those sides with a level of objectivity that is required of anyone doing investigative research on a project involving a subject that pushes people’s buttons.  The title of the film is RECOIL, and it’s called that because the theme of the film hinges on the consequences of the characters’ actions in the story.  The metaphor of a gun’s “recoil” – the backward thrust of the weapon that follows the discharge of a bullet – is an image that resonates with everyone.  It is an archetypical image, a downright Jungian image, and an image that is perfectly American.  As Mr. Leonard Hunter, a character in the script, says while holding Colt .45: “The Colt .45 stands alone – the true icon of the independent spirit of the American pioneer.  You think about the development of the country – none of it would have happened without this gun.  This simple weapon defines our nation.”

I deal in words for a living, and while the term “recoil” works as a dramatic metaphor in a work of fiction, words have really failed to address our current national problem.  I was disheartened the other night when I watched two pundits on CNN debate the validity of the term “assault rifle” for nearly fifteen minutes.  Is an argument about what these weapons are called going to get us any closer to a solution?  Semantics didn’t kill those kids in Newtown.  Bullets killed those kids.  Let’s address those words, because those words are concrete facts.

The spokesman for the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, responded to the President’s call this week to strengthen gun control by saying, “This isn’t about protecting children, it’s about banning your guns.”  Let’s be realistic here for a moment: this is America, a country whose freedom is inextricably linked to the gun.  As Mr. Hunter says of the Colt .45, “This simple weapon defines our nation.”  No other country in the world is so synonymous with guns than America.  Reuters has reported that not only is the United States the most armed country in the world – for every 100 people, 90 of them have a gun – but U.S. citizens own 270 million of the world’s 875 million known firearms, according to the Small Arms Survey 2007 by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.  That was 2007.  Gun sales, and particularly the sales of assault weapons, have risen exponentially in America over the past 5 years.  There is no possible way that anyone, including President Obama or the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan himself, is going to ban guns in this country.  Mr. LaPierre knows this and knows this very well, but that won’t stop him from ginning up fear and anger within the base of the country who believes him – or who wants to believe him, because after all, with all those expensive weapons gathering dust in your garage, you need something to defend, right?  Or else what’s the point of owning something that can fire a nearly endless amount of bullets in rapid-fire succession?  Do you want to hunt with that?  There wouldn’t be any meat left on your game.  Would you really use that to defend your home?  If you own something that potentially dangerous, you don’t leave it next to your bed at night, do you, in anticipation of an intruder entering your home?  If you’re legally able to own a weapon like an AR-15, I assume you have the sense to make sure it’s stored properly in your residence.  I keep a baseball bat next to my bed – it’s a lot more convenient to grab in the middle of the night.  If you need a gun to protect yourself, why do you need anything more than what a handgun can provide?  It’s certainly more convenient to grab, and easier to store safely, than a semi-automatic assault rifle.  What do you, the owner of such a weapon, use this instrument for?

The response to that specific question by the current President of the NRA, David Keene, is: “target practice,” both competitive and non-competitive.  The AR-15 is used for target practice.  The zombie apocalypse notwithstanding, that is what this weapon in the hands of a civilian is used for – or supposed to be used for, according to the NRA, since lately it’s mostly been used for mass shootings.  While it’s important to stand up for principles, there’s a fine line between doggedness and stubbornness.

The question that I am posing is: Are we willing to compromise our children’s safety to protect the right of target practice?

What are your thoughts?