Read Loaded, an essay by Garret Keizer.
I hope that I shall never have to confront anyone with my gun, but owning a gun has forced me to confront myself. Anyone who owns firearms for reasons other than hunting and sport shooting (neither of which I do) has admitted that he or she. is willing to kill another human being – as opposed to the more civilized course of allowing human beings to be killed by paid functionaries on his or her behalf. Owning a gun does not enhance my sense of power; it enhances my sense of compromise and contingency – a feeling curiously like that of holding down a job. In other words, it is one more glaring proof that I am not Mahatma Gandhi or even Che Guevara, just another soft-bellied schlimazel trying to keep the lawn mowed and the psychopaths off the lawn.
If the authorities attempted to confiscate my gun in a house-to-house search, I believe I would offer resistance. What I would not offer is a justifying argument; the argument is implicit in the ramifications of a house-to-house search. But all of this is so much fantasy, another example of the disingenuousness that tends to color our discussion of guns. The Day When All the Guns Are Gathered Up – what the paranoids regard as the end of the world and the Pollyannas as the Rapture – it’s never going to happen. There are nearly 1.4 million active troops in the US armed forces; there are an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. The war over the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment is effectively over. The most reasonable and decent thing that gun groups could do at this point is to declare victory and negotiate terms with the generosity that is so becoming in a victor. Five-day waiting periods? Agreed, but our sense of honor compels us to insist on ten. (Oh, to have been born in a time of so many guns and so little gallantry! Perhaps we ought not to have shot Sir Galahad after all.) No assault rifles owned by civilians – also agreed, so long as, no assault rifles are used on civilians.
Of course, none of this is going to happen either. It would require a confidence that scarcely exists. One need only peruse the ads and articles in gun magazines to see the evidence of its rarity – to see that poignant, ironic, and insatiable obsession with overwhelming force. That cry of impotence. The American Rifleman I recall from my boyhood was closer to Field & Stream than to Soldier of Fortune, more like Popular Mechanics than National Review. My father and my uncles were do-it-yourself guys; their guns were just something else to lube. When I was a kid, I thought a liberal was a person who couldn’t fix a car. But the cars aren’t so easy to take apart anymore; the “check engine” light comes on and only the dealership has all the codes. As in Detroit, so in Washington: the engineering works the same. I am not the first to point out the sleight of hand that bedevils us: the illusion of power and choice perpetuated to disguise a diminishing sphere of action, A person dry-fires his Ruger in the same reverie of preparedness as another aims her cursor at her favorite blog. What precision, what access, what an array of options! Something’s going to happen one of these days, and when it does, man, I’m going to be ready. In the meantime, just listen to that awesome sterile click.