Gun lovers, haters fail to understand each other


When the subject is guns, we definitely have a failure to communicate.

Those who hate guns seem to believe that those who don't are a lot of lowbrow, beady-eyed, beer-guzzling neo-fascists who are constantly leaving pistols around the house so children can find them and shoot their siblings.

Those who defend gun ownership seem to think that gun-control advocates are a bunch of left-wing, government-loving, wine-sipping sissies who believe that the best way to handle a criminal is to kneel at his feet and blubber: "Don't hurt me. Take my money. I know you had a disadvantaged childhood, and I share your pain."

That's why I seldom write about the endless struggle between gun owners and gun haters, even though I think I understand them better than they understand each other.

For example, many gun lovers seem to believe that any gun-control law that imposes any restriction on gun ownership is a bad law.

If you carry that to its illogical conclusion, we would have no gun laws and no restrictions. It would be legal for anyone -- responsible citizen or nut -- to buy a gun as easily as a bottle of root beer. And for anyone to carry it everywhere and anywhere, openly or concealed.

We might even have a situation that I once jokingly proposed -- and the Archie Bunker show shamelessly stole -- in which all passengers on airplanes would be issued loaner pistols so they could blow away skyjackers.

We need gun laws. How restrictive they should be, I don't know. But reasonable people should be able to agree on terms that would help keep guns away from dangerous hands while letting decent people protect themselves.

"Protect themselves?" someone is scornfully saying. "They don't protect themselves or anyone else. They just let their guns fall into the hands of children or criminals."

That's the response of many of those who dislike guns and want a European approach: Nobody has them but the cops or rigidly controlled sportsmen.

And I think they truly believe that hardly anyone ever uses a gun to shoot or fend off a criminal.

Maybe that's the fault of the media. We seldom overlook a story about a child using his dad's gun to shoot his older sister.

But we aren't as alert to stories about people who ping a crook.

There are sources for both kinds of stories.

The gun-control advocates keep large files on every case of careless gun use they can find.

But they don't have any records of people successfully defending themselves against criminals.

At the same time, the National Rifle Association has thick files of honest citizens using guns to kill, wound or capture criminals.

But under F in its file cabinets, there is nothing about family gun tragedies.

Chances are you didn't read about the great jewelry store shootout in Richmond, Va., a couple of months ago. I know about it only because a friend in Virginia called me.

This is what happened:

Two gunmen barged into the Beverly Jewelry Store. Both were career criminals with long records for stickups, burglaries, drug running and other crimes across the South and Southeast. One was being sought on a murder rap. He was later described by an acquaintance this way: "He won't kill you unless he has to. But if he has to, he will."

They had picked the wrong jewelry store. The owner is a gutsy guy and an expert marksman. His employees had all been trained in using guns and had so many guns hidden in the store that he and his salespeople were never more than an outstretched arm away from one.

So when one of the gunmen jumped on a display case and let loose with a warning blast from his shotgun, the owner and his five employees all reached down and came up shooting. Six guns going at the same time.

The robbers got off a few shots that didn't hit anyone, but within seconds, both were dead.

The owner of the store said he doesn't believe in being passive when someone threatens his life with a sawed-off shotgun.

There are those who would disagree. Don't fight back and you won't get hurt is their approach. But that's no longer a safe bet, if it ever was. Today, punks with guns take the money, then kill their victims just to see how it feels.

So if the police can't protect people from murderers -- and they admit that is beyond them -- who will? That jewelry store owner knew. He and his employees were on their own, as most of us are.

It's not a simple subject.

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