David Hoppe

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:: Good times for gun owners

They're marching on Washington 

By David Hoppe

In less than two weeks, on April 19, there will be not one, but two marches on Washington, D.C. intended to support and celebrate the right to bear arms. You've got to hand it to the nation's gun lovers, nobody's better at turning an inch into miles of advantage.

Times are actually pretty good for gun owners. In Indiana, for example, they can now bring their guns to work. This bit of legislation was based on the premise that commutes to and from work in Indiana have become so dangerous that gainfully employed Hoosiers need to be able to carry guns in their cars in order to defend themselves. This gives new meaning to the word, "workforce."

If going to work in this state is more difficult today, it's not because of marauding bands of highwaymen. It's because we don't make things the way we used to anymore. Be that as it may, disgruntled employees and those susceptible to road rage are now permitted to keep an amplified form of self-expression in the glove compartment.

This was a law for which there was no need. But the gun lobby has been great at identifying aspects of life that are not immediately associated with guns and turning that into an accusation that the right to gun ownership is being curtailed.

Parks and college campuses seem like places where guns don't belong. This is why crimes committed with guns in these supposedly safe havens strike most of us as being so horrendous. Gun advocates, on the other hand, see easy targets. For them, the victims of these crimes couldn't defend themselves. Therefore, guns should be carried to picnic tables and dorm rooms as deterrents. Gun ownership means taking responsibility for your own safety.

There's a saying that's been around for ages - something to the effect that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Another old chestnut has it that when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

At first blush, both observations are undeniable. Just look at a city like Chicago, where the gun laws are stricter than most places, but where gun-related crime, especially among kids, is appalling. Homicidal people have trumped Chicago's gun laws over and over again.

But would Chicago really be safer if every person walking its streets was carrying a pistol? Given their recent successes in the courts, gun rights advocates may help us find out.

Those pressing for expanded gun rights have a point: People are a problem. In fact, we're such a big problem, they claim, it takes a weapon, a gun, that is, to keep us honest.

As Thomas Hobbes wrote in 1651, the life of man in his natural state is "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short." It seems gun advocates still see us this way. We're a cunning species, just smart enough to be dangerous. It's every one of us for him or herself, with the strong surviving, and so on. It's little wonder the gun seems the single most compelling symbol for what America stands for as far as these folks are concerned.

Hence those marches coming on April 19. Given their bleak assessment of the human project, it's no wonder the organizers of these events see just about everything the government does as being about trying, in one way or another, to take their guns away. For them, the idea that government can solve problems is a delusion at best and, at worst, the beginning of a totalitarian state, in which overbearing authority dictates what is and is not permitted.

We need guns, they say, to keep that from happening.

Just look at Europe before the Second World War. Those people, especially the Jews, had no guns to speak of. Along came Hitler, the Nazis, the Holocaust. No one fought back because no one was armed. In this case, the guns were outlawed and only the government had them.

It's not clear how these folks feel about our currently engorged military. I suspect that for those who identify with the nation as an extension of themselves, a massive national arsenal is the equivalent of a well-stocked gun cabinet. For them, Robert Frost had it wrong. It's not fences but firepower that makes good neighbors. Others, though, probably see the military as part of the problem, a potential instrument of state-sponsored oppression. Yet another reason to keep your powder dry.

What would we do without these folks seeing danger where the rest of us find only the ups and downs of everyday existence? What would become of us without those who feel threatened? They are not mistaken, there is darkness in this world. But that's alright. There are guns enough for everybody.