John Colson: Hit and Run | AspenTimes.com
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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen times Weekly

Let’s talk about guns.

The debate about gun control is back on the front burner, mostly because President Barack Obama is viewed by gun enthusiasts as a guy who is poised to “take away our guns,” and the gun lovers are ready to do battle.

Colorado is a pro-gun state, one where it still is legal to walk down the street with a loaded pistol strapped to your hip, as long as it is in plain sight. It also is a state where you can obtain a permit to carry a concealed pistol with minimum effort ” essentially, if you apply for it and aren’t a certified lunatic with a record to prove it, you get the permit.

I’m not sure how many people around the state are packing heat as they go about their business, but I’d be willing to bet it’s a big number. Think about that the next time your anger flares on Highway 82 when some jerk cuts you off and you start to raise the single-digit salute in response. The chances are good that the jerk in the other car has a gun, and, if his anger flares in response to yours, you could end up staring down the barrel and waiting for the muzzle flash. Crazier things have happened.

I see in the news that the U.S. Senate recently passed, with little debate, legislation making it legal for passengers on Amtrak trains to carry guns in their checked luggage. I guess the rationale is that, since the gun is in a checked bag, the passenger is less likely to pull it out and start blasting away when some drunken fellow traveler gets in his face.

Still, the situation brings to mind images of the Old West, when stagecoaches moving across the dusty roads were targets for holdup men, and armed passengers were part of the stage lines’ defensive posture. Robberies of stage coaches and trains are a thing of the past ” there are many more inviting targets for the ruthless and the deranged ” but the suppressed potential for gunfire and mayhem persists.

I should disclose right here that I own guns, including a vintage .22 cal., pump-action Winchester rifle given to me by my granddad when I was seven years old, and my dad’s old Army revolver, which he surrendered when he moved into a retirement home.

Why I keep these relics of a bygone era is something of a mystery, even to me. I rarely take them out for target practice, but I do so often enough to keep my eye and hand coordination up to snuff. I suppose one reason for keeping them on hand, beyond sheer nostalgia, is the vague idea that I might one day need to defend my home against marauding invaders of one type or another, and I am comforted by our national right to do just that.

I am not a member of the National Rifle Association, and in general believe that the nut cases in charge of that organization do more harm than good with their knee-jerk outrage at each and every move by the government to ban, say, assault rifles that have no possible purpose beyond making it easy to kill humans. I wince at the sputtering protestations of NRA evangelists like U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, a blue dog Democrat from Oklahoma, who recently declared that efforts to restrict access to assault weapons is “just an excuse to take away a sportsman’s shotguns.”

On the other hand, I sympathize with those NRA members, such as my brother, whose opposition to gun control is wrapped in a deep distrust of the police state that has been building up in the U.S. for more than a century.

Then again, I can’t help but shake my head in dismay when I visit a gun shop, as I did with my brother a while ago, and learn that for the right price the proprietor will consider a “back-door deal” to sell weapons without the required records check and waiting period.

There has to be some middle ground, where normal citizens can own a gun for self-defense, hunting or other sporting uses, but where bad guys with evil intent can’t get their hands on lethal tools of death that rival the cops’ own arsenals. And don’t kid yourself, they can do so now as easily as buying a pack of gum.

It seems that Obama, who promised in his campaign to restore the ban on assault weapons that expired under the Bush regime, has backed away from that pledge. Politics is the reason ” Democrats worry that the gun lobby will turn the government back over to the Republicans as soon as Obama makes a move.

And so we cower in our living rooms whenever a whacko like Richard Poplawski of Pittsburgh goes on a killing spree after fighting with his mom over a dog stain on the carpet. And we know it will happen again.

Is this any way to run a country?

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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