I was going to write about homemade, non-toxic cleaning products today, but my housekeeping aversion seems to be seeping like chemical solvent run-off into my virtual blogworld . . . I don’t even feel like WRITING about cleaning!
Lucky for me, then, that Yahoo posted an Associated Press story on ammunition shortages here in the good old U.S.A., and I was saved from waxing poetic about non-toxic tiolet-bowl cleaner. In “America Armed, But Guns Not Necessarily Loaded”, AP reporter Mary Foster writes that supplies of ammunition are running low, manufacturers can’t keep up with demand, and even Wal-Mart has imposed quotas on the amount of ammo a person can buy at one time.
Americans are on an bullet-buying spree. My question is . . . why?
What are we so afraid of that we are laying in a home supply of weaponry and ammuntion that could satisfy the requirements of a military outpost? Are we overreacting to some half-perceived, shadowy threat looming in the near future? Has paranoia overtaken good old common sense? Or are there some legitimate reasons for stocking up on lead . . . and rifles . . . and handguns?
The munitions grab appears to be at least partially politically motivated. According to the AP article, sales of guns and ammunition spike whenever a Democrat is elected to office. Democrats are seen by the pro-gun contingent as a grave threat to our Constitutional right to bear arms.
In general, the more liberal politicians in our society do tend to be in favor of stronger gun-control laws as means of keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of criminals. Allied with and lobbied by citizen organizations like the Brady Campaign’s Million Mom March, these lawmakers believe that stronger regulations, background checks, and banning of certain types of weapons will keep us safer.
The “pro-gun” organizations and lobbiests and conservative politicians counter that gun-control laws only manage to keep guns out of the hands of the law-abiding citizens . . . not the hands of the criminals.
The National Rifle Association has created a slick bit of propaganda entitled “GunBanObama.” The NRA states that “Barack Obama would be the most anti-gun president in American history.” Click HERE to link to the NRA page. At 4 million members, the NRA is a powerful and influential organization whose aim is to protect citizens’ right to bear arms. Though non-partisan, the NRA’s stance on gun control issues tends to appeal to the more conservative members of our society just as the Brady Campaign appeals to the more liberal.
Our country is divided on the issue, and both sides are more than able to provide compelling arguments and statistics to defend their stance. Both sides have valid points. It’s always been my contention that when in doubt, err on the side of the greatest freedom for the individual and the least interference by big government. However, when people fail to act–or act responsibly–then government must step in. Are we at that kind of crossroads in our society today? I’m not sure. Nobody is sure. And that is the problem.
So, what has President Obama actually said regarding gun laws? In an interview in 2008 when he was running for office, Obama said, “I think it’s important for us to recognize that we’ve got a tradition of handgun ownership and gun ownership generally. And a lot of law-abiding citizens use it for hunting, for sportsmanship, and for protecting their families. We also have a violence on the streets that is the result of illegal handgun usage. And so I think there is nothing wrong with a community saying we are going to take those illegal handguns off the streets. And cracking down on the various loopholes that exist in terms of background checks for children, the mentally ill. We can have reasonable, thoughtful gun control measure that I think respect the Second Amendment and people’s traditions.” (http://www.ontheissues.org/Archive/2008_Politico_Gun_Control.htm)
Sounds reasonable to me. However, what politicians say and what politicians do are often very different things altogether. It is not surprising, then, that 2nd Amendment activists, deer hunters, gun collectors and the like are concerned–perhaps rightfully so–about what legislation a liberal-leaning President might sign in the years ahead. They figure they better get their guns and ammo while the getting is good. Hence, more sales.
Four million NRA members is not insignificant, but even those numbers of people worried about anti-gun legislation cannot account for the serious decrease in ammunition supply. According to another AP story, this one found on FoxNews, some police departments are having a difficult time finding ammunition for training. This is a direct result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where the military uses up tons of ammunition in their fight against the insurgent and terrorist forces in those countries. Does a lack of adequate training lead to a less effective police force? Does a less effective police force lead to more criminal activity? Does heightened criminal activity lead to citizen insecurity? Does citizen insecurity lead to an increase in handgun and bullet sales?
Perhaps average citizens are right to be worried. A year ago, our economy imploded, and while “experts” tell us we are now out of recession, unemployment is creeping up toward ten percent–something we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. People are worried about their jobs, worried about being able to pay their mortages, worried about putting food on the table and paying the pharmacist and holding onto their retirement funds.
Fringe groups are sputtering about the crash of civilization. Some of the previously-hidden weak spots in our society, such as our dependence on cheap, easy to procure oil energy, have been exposed. Survivalists and self-sufficiency experts advocate the stockpiling of ammunition and weapons along with water-purification systems, canned foods, and emergency first-aid supplies in preparation for the coming Apolcalypse. In a worst-case scenario, complete societal collapse would happen quickly, leading to chaos and anarchy. I suppose in that case, a bunch of rounds and some weapons in good working order would be helpful. I’m hoping for a slower, gentler return to a lower-energy world. I haven’t bought myself a gun. Yet.
The thing is, in many communities, crime is already on the rise. We had a rash of breaking and entering in our neighborhood over the summer and again last week. Twice the sheriff’s department parked in our driveway and asked us to keep an eye out for suspects. Since I work at home and come and go in an erratic pattern, our home has been spared so far, but I’m feeling less secure about going away on overnight trips. I’m even more worried about someone breaking in while I’m home and vulnerable. I resent having to worry about this and empathize with those who feel safer with a trusty weapon near at hand.
America was born with the smell of gunpowder in her nostrils. In 1776, Patriots (colonists, not linebackers) grabbed their firearms, banded into militias, formed an army, and took on the Redcoats. Later, the image of the mountain man, coonskin cap on his head and rifle cradled securely in his arm, took root in the American cultural consciousness. Decades of American children have played “cowboys and Indians” and “cops and robbers” all the while conjuring the shiny gun (or sharpened arrow) as part of the imaginative play. Gunfights at the Wild West Saloon or the O.K. Corral or the Prohibition Speakeasy made for exciting pulp fiction stories and cinema magic. Later, television brought us detective and police shows like Hawaii Five-O, Magnum PI, Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, and today’s numerous CSI’s. Rap music, too, glorifies the gun. Thus, guns are intricately woven into the cultural tapestry here in America.
It’s no wonder, then, that when the going gets tough, Americans go for the lead. We were suckled on it. But is it the only way? Is it the best way? Might there be better solutions to the issues facing us?
I don’t know. I’d like to think that we could get to know our neighbors and form crime watch groups. I’d like to think that we would watch out for each other, share what we have with those who need it rather than wait for them to become desperate enough to steal from us. I’d like to think we could wean ourselves from dependence on a giant, convoluted, impersonal economy and embrace, instead, a human-scale economy based on local production and consumption of goods and services. I’d like to see local agriculture take root again, so we are not enslaved to a fuel-dependent food system. I’d like to see our community bonds strengthened by the ties of local work and local play, so that criminal elements find themselves in an inhospitable environment–not looking down the barrel of one lone homeowner’s gun but rather at the collective defenses of an entire community.
But that’s just me. What do you think?