This is going to be a most depressing column. I hope I never have to write another one like it.
Some sort of gun control is desirable. Some sort of gun control is necessary. However, any sort of gun control is impossible!
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Oh, sure! There will be some nibbling away at the fringes. Politicians will expect sturdy applause for very minor changes, but meaningful and measurable change is impossible no matter how many politicians favor it and vote for it. I cannot think of a single proposal that could not be outwitted and undone by a 16-year-old boy of average intelligence. The litany of red flags, assault rifle banishment and background checks will likely be no match for those determined to spread firearm havoc.
Our best efforts will merely result in fewer law-abiding citizens possessing firearms. The bad guys will have no difficulty getting what they want. Let's get real. Some things can be effectively banned. Other things cannot.
Let's say, for example, we want to eliminate cherries. That, with some excruciation, is possible. We know who the growers are. We know who the fruit brokers are. Even stand-alone cherry trees could eventually be monitored and chopped down. I can already hear those who oppose any ban on cherries whatsoever saying in debate, after you've cracked down on the organized cherry business and taken a census of the stand-alone cherry trees, "What are you going to do about the 5 billion cherries already spread out across the nation?" They think that is a powerful point and one that will surely force you to admit defeat and slink out of the studio in shame.
Actually, there is a very simple way to account for the many billions of cherries already on the market. Simply wait five days and they will all obligingly rot. Guns, however, have a stubborn longevity profile. My wife inherited a souvenir Civil War handgun from her great-grandfather. It has the same power to destroy (and defend!) life as it did in the 1860s.
How, then, do we deal with the millions and maybe billions of firearms of all types that are filling closets, drawers, basements and attics, just waiting for someone to pull the trigger? How many "red flag" gun owners are all set to launch a public relations propaganda offensive when the air is full of images of the government confiscating the firearms of a mentally deficient citizen who has broken no law and committed no crime? How many people deemed unqualified for firearm possession have an older or a mentally healthier friend who can do the purchasing and pass the weapon along to the "red flag" owner?
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Now here is the part nobody wants to hear. The strongest response is that once you've joined me in acknowledging the hopelessness of real gun control, you will look for ways to make the intended victims less vulnerable. Here is where our old friends – the mainstream media – stab us in the tender spots up and down the back. We've already had an editor angrily declare, "We're not going to run any more stories like that!" What type of story will never again be run as long as that editor is in charge? It's the occasional heartwarming story of the good guy with a gun getting the drop on a bad guy. Maybe that recurring theme fails to warm as many hearts as I had hoped.
President John F. Kennedy wrote a book entitled "Profiles in Courage." If anybody gets around to writing "Profiles in Cowardice," I nominate the anchor-people who are right this moment pretending to give us a walloping Kumbaya moment that sounds something like "Ohhh, how great!" Now everybody on the panel is willing to talk about background checks as though that were a Nixon in China sort of breakthrough.
That reminds us of a man in civilian clothes during World War II trying start up a conversation with an attractive young woman at the bar who bluntly wondered why he wasn't in uniform (at a time when it seemed that every able-bodied man, even on the homefront, was in the military).
"Those of us in jobs that are essential to the war effort get deferments," he said. "And what kind of job do you do," the young woman asked, "that earns you such a deferment?" The man asked her, "Do you know those big aircraft carriers we are producing?" "Of course!" the woman acknowledged. "Well," said the man in civilian clothes, "My firm manufactures the paper clips that hold the blueprints together!"