Guns have one purpose.
There was a time when I, as a young naval person stood deck watches in port on a small oceanographic ship. The Officer of the Deck normally carried a gun as part of his badge of office. But the rule was never to remove the gun from its very secure holster unless you intend to load it and use it. In my three years of experience it was never removed from the holster by anyone on duty.
Several months back I had an occasion to stay overnight in Riverside, California. The morning paper announced that the previous day two young men had been killed, shot dead , by two different police officers in two different parts of town. Both young men had been driving and each had been stopped for a traffic violation. Each got out of his car carrying a gun. Each police officer, well trained, aware of well defined assumptions about guns and their only purpose, did his duty. Two armed fools died, killed by their own guns.
Carrying guns does not provide safety or security. It opens a large new realm of hazards, insecurity, that few gun owners have given much thought to at all and the gun culture, gun clubs, and gun salesmen all want to deny. Further it invites the more foolish to treat guns as toys and indulge in play that can easily turn accidentally lethal, if not criminally so.
And there are guns that should not be allowed at all. Automatic weapons have no use in hunting. Anti-aircraft weapons have no business in public circulation.
Cars have the same lethal potential. We register them and license their drivers. We also tax both. We regulate the quality and safety of cars and the competence of drivers. There is every reason to do the same with guns and those who own or use them for any purpose. And the ammunition can be labeled as well, each projectile and shell can be marked indelibly so there is no question as to ownership. These innovations are not intrusions on freedom. They are an obviously necessary step in protecting the freedom of all, the health and safety of the public. Such regulations are an essential part of civilization, a reason for establishing and maintaining competence in governments.
The size of the gun lobby and the magnitude of the economic interests in guns only confirm the propriety of putting the entire industry under a clear and fair regulatory regime immediately. We must do that to avoid the obvious dangers we all face from an unregulated industry that is poisoning society as surely as any other unregulated industrial poison that can circulate in the biosphere and corrupt all life.
Woods Hole. Massachusetts
January 10, 2013