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Chris Honoré: Romancing the gun, Part 1

I acknowledge that I don’t understand the place guns have in the life of our nation. It puzzles me beyond comprehension.

Why should America be awash in weaponry (long guns, short guns and assault weapons designed specifically for war), totaling some 300 million? This can’t simply be about the Constitution and the Second Amendment. There has got to be more in play here.

But let me share with you some thoughts about why people buy guns.

The fantasy fear factor: Ask an individual, standing at gun shop counters, why he or she is buying a, say, Glock 9 mm pistol and the response will likely be, “for protection of self and family.” Of course, this is a rationale promoted by the gun manufacturers. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

But wait. Consider how things would likely work out if, say, you wake in the dead of night and in the kitchen you hear a noise. You listen, fully alert. You have that loaded Glock on the nightstand? You slide out of bed, grab the gun and tell your significant other to dial 911. Meanwhile, gun now in hand, you walk slowly across the bedroom toward the open door.

Now Hollywood would have us believe that in that moment of crisis — and this is a crisis — you are thinking clearly: You’re cool, poised, the Glock held in that familiar two-handed grip, pointed at eye level. Of course you feel a rush of adrenaline, your heart kicking up a notch or two. But panic? No way. You have in your possession the ultimate equalizer.

Now say you reach the kitchen where you thought the noise came from. The room is dark; however, you see the silhouette of a person. In that moment, that critical moment, what do you do? Many people freeze, no matter that your brain is sending signals to your hand holding the Glock. Nothing is working. Or, if you do manage to pull the trigger, the likelihood of actually hitting the intruder is remote at best. Odds are you’ll take out a window or refrigerator. And that’s if the target is standing stone still. If the intruder is moving, your odds of hitting said bad guy are close to nonexistent. And it’s very possible that the gun you had in your hand will end up in the hands of the bad guy. Now what? So much for the fantasy of home protection. Hollywood it’s not.

But there is a reality that is not nurtured by gun manufacturers or protection fantasists and that is that the gun on the nightstand, or hidden away on a closet shelf (some 50 percent of all households with guns do not lock them up or separate their guns from the ammunition) will end up in the hands of a curious youngster with unintended consequences that are horrific.

Nearly 10,000 children (under the age of 20) are injured or killed by guns every year. The U.S. child mortality rate from gun violence is 10 times higher than rates in other wealthy nations and this number has been steadily rising over the past decade. Guns kill twice as many children as cancer and 15 times more than infection.

The second fantasy: If the nation was armed (open or concealed) it would act as a deterrent and we would all be safer. Again, this assumes that in a moment of crisis an armed theatergoer can act (and not freeze) and if he or she does have the presence of mind to pull the trigger, it’s remote that he or she will hit the unhinged shooter as opposed to some innocent bystander sitting nearby. Jeb Bush, in the wake of San Bernardino, stated, “An armed America is a safer America. This just reeks of common sense.” Common sense? Really? Marco Rubio stated that guns are “just another way for law-abiding people to be able to protect their families.” Recall the intruder in the kitchen. Donald Trump opined that if the Parisians had been armed, “it would have been a much different story.” He has, when elected president, pledged to eliminate all gun free zones (such as schools). And so it goes.

Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.