Do you really need a gun?

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Guns!

Gotta get a gun. Yes. I need one. There are all those bad guys out there. And the government is going to get me. If I have a gun I can protect myself.

That’s just fear talking. Nothing but fear. Owning a gun makes you feel safer. But chances are that you’ll have an accident with it, or your kid will get it and hurt herself, or your spouse will shoot you, or you’ll shoot your lover, or you’ll shoot yourself, or someone will steal your gun. Much less likely is that someone will break into your home waving a gun, and you’ve got to stop them. But it won’t be like on television. You’ll have only one chance, and if you miss you’re dead. As opposed to just letting the robbers take what they want.

What is this crazy fear so many have that the government is going to get them? Is that the new bogeyman? We saw what happened to people who took that seriously and armed themselves: right-wingers in Texas, the Black Panthers in Chicago, all dead now. If the government wants to get you, your AK-47 isn’t going to stop them. Even a load of hand grenades won’t stop them.

What stops the government from becoming too powerful is people like you and me getting together and saying “No,” standing on the street with signs, writing our Congress members, talking to our mayor. Bullets invite only more bullets. Protest and discussion can lead to real progress. It wasn’t armed blacks in the South who overcame the worst of racial segregation in the 1960s. It was people marching hand-in-hand, armed only with love and caring about their fellows.

But it’s my Second Amendment right to have a gun! You can’t take that away from me.

The Constitution wasn’t written by God. It was written by men — for men, for white men. We’ve changed it before. We don’t treat blacks as slaves who are worth three-fifths of a person. We allow women to vote. And we can repeal the Second Amendment. The idea that everyone has the right to arm themselves is a big mistake. We’re not safer with lots of people carrying concealed weapons. This frantic fear that the only way to stop a crazy is with a gun must not be allowed to destroy our communities, our lives here. I don’t want someone at the city council meeting with a concealed weapon who decides I’m a threat because of what I say. Is this the fear we all want to live with?

There is a choice. We can allow people to have guns for hunting, for marksmanship, for sport. But you don’t need an automatic weapon for that. You want to shoot a dove? A shotgun with a couple shells should do. You want to shoot an elk? A rifle that you have to reload is just fine. We don’t have to encourage incompetence by letting people have guns that can be shot 10 times without reloading. The only reason to have a gun that you can shoot and shoot and shoot without reloading is to kill someone. Or to assuage your fears.

A gun. It makes you feel big, feel powerful. But really it’s a great threat to your life. It is our fears we are shooting at, not at other people. It is our powerlessness we are arming ourselves against. Yet the real power we have is to do good, not to shoot, to care and to help and not to destroy. Fear begets anger, which creates fear in others that creates more anger and more fear for us until . . . someone reaches for a gun.

They’re not like you and me. They think the right to have a gun is going to make them safer.

Until we say stop to this madness of fear overtaking our lives, we will arm ourselves and be ready always to kill. We should be always ready to answer harm with kindness, disarming with our good those who wish to hurt us.

Arf, formerly known as Dr. Richard L. Epstein, is the author and publisher of books on reasoning and is head of the Advanced Reasoning Forum in Socorro.