Wednesday, April 13, 2005


I used to own weapons when I was a child. I made a dart blower out of the hollow stem of some plant and then used dried peas as darts. I also made one of those elastic band weapons which could be used to shoot chewed up paper balls at the teacher's back when he was writing on the board. But neither of these did much physical damage.

Real guns are different. They work on the principle of trying to kill what they hit, and they are only limited by the user's skills and the technical characteristics of the weapon. We even have a rifle that can be used to shoot at aircraft:

The .50 Caliber Sniper Rifle puts us all at risk whenever we fly an airplane.

These powerful sniper rifles which were designed for the battlefield to puncture armor and destroy targets from long range are easier to get than a handgun.

Why should we be spending billions of dollars on homeland security when a terrorist can buy a sniper rifle that can shoot armor piercing bullets up to 2000 yards with great accuracy?

Why do we permit the sale of a weapon that is powerful enough to threaten civilian airplanes taxiing on the runway or during landing and takeoff?

Why? The answer to these questions is an easy one: politics, medears. The National Rifle Association and all the Americans who want to sleep with a pistol under their pillows because a deer might come ambling in and they love hunting.

The Democrats are considering going along with the NRA, too. The idea is that the Democratic party must give up something that differentiates it from the wingnuts and they think that giving up gun control is more popular amongst its hippy-haired base than giving up reproductive choice or the general reliance on reality as opposed to rapturizing:

A Minnesota teenager shoots and kills nine people with a gun stolen from his grandfather. A Wisconsin man kills seven members of his church with 22 rounds from 9mm handgun. In another era, the violence might have given rise to a new round of ripped-from-the-headlines legislation on gun control. But not now, and not just because the Republicans control Congress.

In an effort to begin to win back the middle, Democrats are beginning to step away from gun control as a central party issue. The theory: Something's got to give, and it's politically more palatable to go soft on guns than to retreat on other hot-button issues like abortion or gay rights. While a group of House Democrats requested new hearings on gun control in the wake of last month's shootings on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, the Democratic response has generally been more muted -- when there has been a response at all. In a brief interview the other day with an Arkansas writer, Howard Dean predicted that guns won't be much of a factor as Democrats plot their national strategy. "Guns aren't an issue," Dean said. "If Philadelphia wants gun control, fine. If Alabama doesn't, also fine."

The problem with Dean's answer is that guns are mobile and there are no customs checks at state borders. The Alabama guns can easily enter Philadelphia in a very short amount of time. The deeper problem is that once there is no real control of gun ownership the best answer will be for all of us to be armed to the teeth. Imagine Echidne sweeping down the street with a few sniper rifles sticking out of her hairdo!