Yesterday I drove up to Vermont, met a guy in a parking lot and bought a Remington 1100 shotgun from him for four hundred bucks. It’s a beautiful gun, 20-gauge, left-handed ejection since I’m right-handed but left-eye dominant, just what I’ve been looking to add to my personal collection of guns. Vermont has no state gun law so we didn’t have to bother with a background check but now that I’m back in my home state of Massachusetts I’m supposed to go on a state website and register the gun. Am I going to bother? Like I’m going on a diet, that’s how I’m going to bother.
If Vermont had passed the gun bill they debated this year and had that bill included a background-check requirement for all gun sales, I can guarantee you that I would still have the Remington 1100 in the trunk of my car and Ted (I think that was his name) would still have my four hundred bucks. The truth is that I need that Remington 1100 like I need a hole in my head, but yesterday was a beautiful Fall day, the leaves are beginning to turn, take a ride, fool around, buy a gun.
For all the nonsense about we need guns to defend ourselves from crime, from ISIS, from Obama, from whatever, the truth is that 99% of all the guns that go across the gun shop counter for the first time go into the hands of people who not only don’t need that gun for any earthly reason, but really don’t have the faintest idea why they just bought another gun. And the reason I say ‘another’ gun is that the number of guns that are sold keeps going up and the number of gun owners keeps going down. Which means that fewer and fewer people own more and more guns. Right now roughly 40 million households contain some 300 million guns. If current trends continue another ten years, roughly 30 million households will hold 350 million guns. In other words, the average gun-owning family will own more than 10 guns. And if someone wants to explain how owning so many guns is anything other than an impulsive form of behavior, I’m all ears. Right now my personal gun collection numbers 41 or 42, and believe me when I tell you that I’m at the low end of the totem pole when it comes to owning lots of guns.
The problem is that when you have 350 million guns out there, it’s simply not possible to keep a bunch of them out of the ‘wrong hands.’ I don’t care how many background checks are run, how many mental-health databases are sent to NICS, how many times every gun owner tries to remember to lock up all his guns. If 300,000 guns are stolen each year, that number isn’t going down if the number of personally-owned guns goes up. Particularly when breaking into a gun owner’s home increasingly means there will be a pile of guns, not just one or two.
Regulating any product means making it more difficult for people to get their hands on the regulated item, which is why states with more gun regulations also tend to be states with fewer guns. The problem, of course, is that the ownership-regulation equation can also be reversed; states with fewer gun owners have more regulations because there aren’t enough gun owners to stop gun laws from being passed.
If you’re concerned about reducing gun violence, then of course you’ll support common-sense, workable laws that keep guns out of the wrong hands. But as long as most guns are purchased impulsively, you’re not going to stop most hard-core gunnies from buying more guns just because they have to jump through another legal hoop. As long as someone buys the damn things, some of them will be used either on purpose or accidentally in ways that create harm. Like I keep saying, it’s the gun stupid. It’s the gun.