As soon as I ran across the title of Darcy Burner’s Daily Kos article on my Facebook page today, "An adult conversation about guns," the following, overused clause, "Let's take back our country," sprang to mind. Talk of taking back our country is usually associated with the conservative Right or the Tea Party, so I felt slightly uncomfortable in voicing it. But then I decided that it either should be discarded as an idea too ambiguous to be meaningful, or it should apply to Americans of all political persuasions.
So, allow me, as a progressive democrat, to apply that term to guns--the topic of Burner’s article, and one that should be the concern of every American. I fully agree with Darcy Burner, who, by the way, is the democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in Washington State’s 1st congressional district: it’s about time for America to have an adult conversation about guns.
And when it comes to guns, what I want to take back is the relative safety of the 1950s, when I grew up. Back then, we were pretty certain that only the police carried guns in public. Nobody owned assault rifles. Nobody had 17+-bullet clips. Nobody walked around in camouflage as if they were (still) in combat. Back then, even the NRA mainly served hunters, target shooters, and gun clubs, and its main focus was gun training and gun safety. More than that, the NRA was on (or near) the same page as governments in regard to local and national firearms regulations.
As a kid growing up in the 1950s, or at least as a white boy in a northern state, I felt free to go anywhere and had no concerns for my safety. I might take stupid risks that boys tend to do, but being accosted by a stranger with a gun never entered my mind.
Indeed, LET’S TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY. Let’s take it back from the NRA, our biggest bully which long ago lost its social conscience. Let’s take it back from conservative organizations such as ALEC, which write insane laws for states that enable trigger-happy fools to shoot their neighbors and then plead self-defense. Let’s take it back from fearful, logic-challenged state legislators who have promoted concealed-carry laws for states and communities that even enable people to bring guns into churches, universities and bars.
I don’t want to take us back to the wild west of the 1860s. I just want to take us back sixty years to the relatively idyllic period of the 1950s. I want my grandkids to be able to go to a movie, even a midnight showing, and know he/she will return safely. I want those kids to go to school every day without ever a threat of bodily harm (and they shouldn’t have to pass through a metal detector in order to enter their school). I want them to be able to go to the mall with friends, or a hamburger joint, or post office, or bookstore after school and not be confronted by someone carrying two Glocks and a duffel bag full of assault rifles and extra ammunition.
Let’s take back our country, a country in which I, who no longer owns or shoots a gun, can live in harmony and agreement with my neighbor who owns three guns (but feels no need to carry them in public). For sure, Darcy Burner, it is far past time for AN ADULT CONVERSATION ABOUT GUNS.
How nice it would be were we to start this conversation at the top, with the NRA and with our presidential candidates. But I won't hold my breath waiting for this. The NRA has refused to join in conversation. President Obama and Candidate Romney are so far unusually silent about our latest gun massacre in Aurora, Colorado. So, the initiative is up to us, and we are, after all, impervious to NRA threats. As Gail Collins wrote today, "everybody, including the gun control advocates, knows that nothing will change unless the people decide to do the leading." So, let us, let the people, take the lead and start an adult conversation about guns now.