I bought my first, real gun in 1956 from some swamp rat at a tag show in the Florida Glades. From then until 2008, when my friend Tony Scalia told me I had a Constitutional ‘right’ to own a gun, as long as it was a handgun and I kept it in my home, I probably bought and sold at least 500 guns. At an average of 10 guns a year, for a gun nut that’s no big deal.
One of those guns was a Colt Single Action Army manufactured in 1886. Another was a beautiful, pristine Colt 1911 built in 1919. There was also a Walther P5 that I bought from a Lufthansa crew member one night when we were all sitting around drinking in some Hofbrau Haus on East 86th Street in New York. At some point, I think I traded those guns and some others for a Harley Low Ryder. I then rebuilt my gun stash when I sold the Harley the following year.
Not one of those transactions had any Constitutional protection at all. In not one instance when I either bought or sold a gun was I exercising any kind of Constitutional ‘right.’ Know what? As far as the Feds were concerned, there wasn’t a single one of those transfers that was against the law. Well, maybe I wasn’t old enough to buy that beautiful Smith & Wesson K-38 when I was twelve years old, but you get my point. Americans bought and sold millions of personally-owned guns, probably hundreds of millions before the 2008 Heller decision, and nobody cared.
I have been writing about guns and gun violence since 2012, there are now nearly 1,400 columns on my blog, 10 books in print, profiles in The New Yorker and The (failing) New York Times. I have been consistent in my argument from first to last, namely, that guns should be owned for hunting and sport. Anyone who thinks they should be walking around defending the neighborhood with a gun in his pocket is concocting an argument that has no basis in reality at all. Unless, of course, he also happens to be wearing a shield, because that’s what he’s being paid to do.
Every time I say the above in print I receive emails and Facebook posts from my friends in Gun-nut Nation accusing me of being a Bloomberg stooge, a liberal jerk pretending to be a ‘gun guy,’ or worse. When I first started writing I received some threats, but those seem to have stopped appearing since the internet has become somewhat patrolled. I never took the threats seriously, by the way, although our friend Shannon Watts is still obliged to hire protective services when she appears.
The truth is that all this talk about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ ramping up again as even Trump says something about supporting background checks, is nothing more than sturm und drang nonsense that has nothing to do with guns or gun ownership at all. The government is never (read: never) going to ‘take away’ everyone’s guns; the slide into Fascism that was accompanied by a restrictive gun law passed by Hitler isn’t going to happen here.
Notwithstanding last week’s mass shootings and Trump’s encouragement of racist (‘send ’em back’) screeds, we happen to live in a remarkably law-abiding country, something which is often forgotten on both sides of the debate about guns. Most of the folks fervently supporting more gun laws happen to live in neighborhoods where gun violence rarely, if ever occurs. For that matter, all those armed vigilantes who fantasize going around and protecting their neighborhoods also happen to live in peaceful, quiet zones.
So why is there such a big deal about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ Because that’s how the narrative has been framed over the last ten years, and most folks find it easy and convenient to repeat what they hear from someone else without taking the trouble to think it through on their own.
Remember ‘make love not war?’ Now we can say ‘make noise not war.’