US Gun Culture

As a progressive liberal guy, I’m dismayed by the mass shootings that have become so commonplace.  But I also believe that civilization is on an utterly unsustainable trajectory and that it WILL begin to crumble at which point we may have more of a need to defend ourselves against criminals and protect what’s left of our “democracy”.  As such, I support the 2nd Amendment – at least in principal – but much of the “gun culture” in the US just can’t accept that the most reasonable efforts to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and crazy people isn’t an intolerable assault on our “freedom”.

The woman who shot Eugene, Oregon Police Officer Chris Kilcullen had a known history of mental illness and yet was able to purchase a gun.  In this day and age when the NSA knows what color underwear you have on, shouldn’t the history of a person hospitalized in a mental institution in another state ten years ago immediately appear on a background check if they were to try to buy a gun in Oregon today? Would it have impinged on anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights if Officer Kilcullen’s deranged killer had been denied a gun?  Does the 2nd Amendment state that men convicted of domestic violence be allowed to buy guns?  What about alcoholics or people convicted of DUI’s?

Every day, burglars enter people’s homes and make off with firearms that have not been secured.  It would hardly effect the 2nd Amendment to require that anyone wishing to buy a gun provide proof that they have the means to keep the gun secure in their home.  Various gun safes are available – some of them with push button combinations to allow for quick access.  Encouraging the secure storage of guns would also keep them away from toddlers.

In many states, you must be 16 years old before you can drive, 18 before you can vote, 21 before you can drink alcohol.  How about requiring that a person be 25 before he can buy high magazine capacity, semi-automatic weapons?  The insurance industry knows what a risk young male drivers are.  The gun industry should bring similar scrutiny to young male shooters.  For most of last century, police departments relied almost entirely on six shot revolvers and pump shotguns.  Countless hunters favor bolt action rifles.  Young shooters will manage just fine with these simpler, more traditional weapons until they are older.

Similarly, there could be a tiered structure to the firearms purchasing and licensing process.  If you want to buy a bolt or lever action rifle or pump shotgun for hunting or a six-shot revolver for personal defense, it could be a relatively simple process.  However, if you feel the need to own an AR-15 with 30 round magazines or a semi-automatic handgun with 15 rounds magazines, the licensing process should be as difficult and complicated as getting a pilot’s license.  And the rigor of that licensing process SHOULD include some kind of psychological evaluation.  More on that in the following paragraph.

The biggest issue to address regarding the “gun culture” in the US is also the most abstract and difficult to pin down.  As we evolved as hunter-gatherers, male rage evolved in our species for good reason.  The caveman who could summon the greatest rage could fight off adversaries and predators so that his offspring would survive.  Stephen Hawking said that the elimination of male rage is the best argument for genetic engineering in humans. Countless men, myself included, have a seething cauldron of anger, judgement, fear and countless other neuroses churning away deep in our hearts.  Having been meditating daily for 45 years, I’ve come to see it for what it is, but there are countless men who struggle with such issues and yet have no clue as to what’s going on. They’re in the bars, sporting events and gun ranges.  Many make domestic violence a scourge on our society.  Especially with younger men, the high number of them being “treated” with psychoactive prescription drugs should be scrutinized as a possible contributor to psychological imbalance.  Not surprisingly, every now and then a man helplessly wracked with psychological issues will snap.  Having unfettered access to sophisticated, military weaponry, we end up with the body counts we see in today’s mass shootings.

One failed attempt by the “shoe bomber” resulted in us all having to take our shoes off when we fly.  But an ongoing stream of mass shooting tragedies fails to result in any enhanced gun legislation.  The NRA’s money-drenched stranglehold on Congress clearly has a role in this, but my own direct, personal experience convinces me that US gun culture’s towering obsession with guns and unshakable, zero-tolerance objection to even modest gun control legislation is influenced by the complicated collection of psychological issues that is part & parcel of being a man in today’s dysfunctional society.  I invite all gun owners to honestly examine their own psychology with humility, bring the discussion of what it means to be a man to new levels in our society and to embrace balanced, reasonable efforts to keep guns strictly in the hands of responsible AND emotionally healthy gun owners.