The gun owner's approach to gun control

Anheuser-Busch – the enormous beer company that gives us Budweiser – participates in all manner of social responsibility programs.

From fighting underage drinking to pushing for designated drivers and responsible drinking to helping alcoholics, the company sets aside some of its money to urge potential consumers to not buy its product yet, to consume less of its product now or, sometimes, to not give them any money at all.

The company might do this out of the goodness of their corporate heart, but I don’t think so. Anheuser-Busch, which survived Prohibition, knows full well it is in their best long-term financial interest to have fewer drunk teenagers, fewer drunk drivers and fewer full-on drunks.

When M.A.D.D. raises hell about the wide-mouth quart bottle (to use a mid-1990s example), Anheuser-Busch doesn’t remind us what a bunch of hard drinkers the founding fathers were and cry out “ … from our cold, dead fingers!” The wide-mouth quart bottle goes away quietly, but the beer keeps flowing.

You can see where I’m going with this, I hope: The NRA and gun rights supporters need to abandon the tired old clichés, the uselessly horseshit arguments and stop pretending that the world is not changing.

The NRA needs to lead the way on gun control. About the time of Columbine or Virginia Tech or Aurora or – for God’s sake, right fucking now – the NRA needs to say “Hell, yes, there is a problem and if you liberals would stop dragging your feet, we’re going to find a way to fix it.”

Let’s pause a moment here for some background, of course. I am politically independent, from a deeply conservative background, a gun owner and when I first heard someone had shot a bunch of children in an elementary school, my very first thought was “I hope they kill that motherfucker.”

Trust me, I am not writing from an imaginary wonderland of peace and flowers and rainbow butterflies.

But I also know damn well that ours is no longer a rural society at heart, lilly-white and peopled by hard-working, patriarchal types who ceaselessly instill safety and responsibility in their sons while using their guns as tools for honest tasks.

The world is changing. Kids today know much more of guns (through video games) and much less about guns – that is until their violent pixel-fueled fantasies meet up with the gun tucked back in grandpa’s closet.

It’s not that way with me, of course. Theoretically, I think I should have all the guns I want. I was raised right. My children will be educated firmly, thoroughly and I hope to hell beyond the reach of peer pressure. But you can’t legislate sense and there’s more than one fellow I know who has more guns than brains. The serious question: What the hell do you do about that?

I don’t have the answers.* But I do know the NRA is being plenty damn foolish to circle the wagons ever tighter, again, and say that more guns is the answer. That restrictions should never be imposed.

If the NRA wants to protect Americans’ rights to own guns, they should be at the forefront of the gun control discussion. And — just to let everyone know that they are serious — the first thing they should do is demand an end to civilian use of assault rifles.

Yes. The NRA should call for it. Jesus, talk about disarming (so to speak) your critics.

It’s a symbolic act, of course. Assault rifles won’t go away. They’ll still emerge in the hands of criminals and nutcases. But it has to be done. The line has been crossed – everybody pause here to imagine 20 kids gunned down in their elementary school – and America ain’t going back. This is reality. Don’t pretend the world isn’t changing.

Give up the assault rifles to keep your Glocks and your semi-automatic shotguns (which, shhhhh, are nearly as deadly). And if you really, really want to shoot an assault rifle, join the Army. If you are as bad-ass as you think you are, you’ll get to shoot things even bigger and badder.

(Yes, I have fired an assault rifle. It was fun. But I’m a far piece from having the kind of land or money where I could argue for owning one of my own, even without the, you know, dead-kid baggage. Also: let's dismiss the ridiculous stand that this is a political issue. If my father, who describes himself as somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, can call for an end to assault rifle ownership, then, maybe just this once, we can rise above the right vs. left argument and work together on this.)

And don’t worry, NRA, about having already made your statement. A truly strong leader can admit he’s made a mistake, and drive on with confidence. Sure, the less-secure people who rely on volume and bombast might look at someone who re-thinks their position and call it flip-flopping. But I prefer to call it by its real name: Education.

Am I pissing in the wind? Almost certainly. I’ll bet you know somebody who works for a company that is cannibalizing itself from within, sacrificing its credibility, even its economic future to bring in a few extra nickels today. With that kind of attitude prevalent in the U.S., who would expect the NRA to embrace a short-term defeat in order to gain a longer-term win?

But there’s one thing I’m pretty sure of: There will come a time when the NRA wishes to hell they were driving the gun control bus, instead of getting run over by it.

-- Dave Thomas

* No, I don’t have answers, but I have opinions. Who wants to hear ‘em?