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Check Yer Guns at the Door
February 28, 2002
By Eddie Ruff

Gun control, as we know, is a hot-button issue every election year. As Democrats, we need to formulate a strategy that works both in middle America and the big cities. I propose a double-tiered plan.

No one wants to stop farmers and ranchers from being able to, say, shoot a rattlesnake out on the lone prairie. However, no one wants carloads of gang members cruising around Compton firing AK-47s at innocent bystanders, either. We need to find a workable compromise, one that allows our rural denizens to freely practice their 2nd Amendment rights, yet denies urban dwellers the privilege of randomly deploying automatic weapons with impunity.

The NRA screams loudly at the thought of ANY ban on ANY weapon ANYwhere. But this seems shortsighted. Surely they don't think armed-to-the-teeth urban criminals are part of the militia mentioned in the Constitution? Conversely, impassioned pleas to totally disarm the populace are falling on deaf ears of most politicians. Republicans, especially, made strong arguments against Democrats in the last election cycle - accusing the "bleeding heart liberals" of trying to take guns away from loyal, freedom-loving, red-blooded Americans. Don't we know "God, guts, and guns" are what make this country great?

This strategy was very effective in middle America. Democrats pointed out that there was no real concerted anti-gun plank in the party platform; what these hard-working Americans REALLY needed to look out for was the Republican plan to bust their unions. But this counterattack failed for the most part. Half-hour paid commercials, funded by the NRA, flooded the airwaves in the weeks before the election, frightening the cowed populace with visions of a shredded Constitution. There is not much doubt that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of swing voters rode the pro-NRA pendulum to the "right" as a result.

Kinder, gentler, SANER Americans know rampant gun possession and use can be unhealthy for children, and adults. We look to Europe and admire their lack of gunshot injuries and deaths. "It's socialism - it's fascism!" shrill the conservatives, "if we let 'them' take away our guns, nothing will stop Big Government from taking over our lives!" Well, that's not a very good argument when thousands and thousands of our friends and neighbors all over the country are being shot and killed. That leaves THEM with no life left to take over! Then again - we do value our Constitution, and our founders obviously thought guns were okay under some circumstances. Maybe we just need to compromise. Under which circumstances are guns appropriate and allowable? And which types of guns, and where?

I would say guns are completely appropriate and allowable in rural areas. Rifles, shotguns, and yes, even handguns are useful tools for farmers and ranchers. They use them to shoot crop-threatening vermin, and livestock-threatening predators. There are hardly any more effective weapons available for this purpose. Also, rural dwellers often live in isolated situations where guns may provide a sense of security. Admittedly, home invasion robberies aren't exactly pervasive in the farmbelt, but why deny these good people their rights to protect themselves and their property? On the other hand, they really don't need M-16s and bazookas to shoot coyotes and jackrabbits, so I think we can put a prudent hedge around those sorts of weapons.

Now, in our urban areas, where shots are heard continuously, our citizens cower in fright. This should not be. No one should fear being carjacked at gunpoint while shopping downtown, nor should we be afraid to allow our children to walk to a city school. Guns don't belong in the hands of road ragers stuck in traffic on an overcrowded freeway at rush hour. Guns don't belong in lockers at P.S. 101. Guns don't belong in dark alleys or central parks or popular nightclubs or... well, you get the idea. Guns don't belong in cities.

So we need two different standards. Sensible standards for our rural areas, where many types of rifles, shotguns, and handguns can be possessed, and, if necessary, used, by anyone. And sensible standards for our big cities, where there are no crop-eating vermin or cattle-stalking coyotes. We don't need guns when there are telephones every sixty feet and cops two minutes away. Our cities need to be made gun-free zones where people can live in peace and safety. Don't just call them a disarmed populace, call it a safer society. We need to face facts, guns are out of control in places like L.A. and New York. It doesn't have to be this way.

In cowboy days, town marshals would tell gunslingers "check yer guns" when coming into town. Bartenders would tell potential patrons "check yer guns" at the door. There is no reason why we can't tell people "check yer guns" at our city gates. When people are traveling form "gun-OK" areas into "no-gun" areas, just provide gunlockers so they can secure their firearms until they're ready to leave. No concealed weapons permits. No handguns in glove boxes. No shotguns and rifles in gunracks. And certainly no automatic weapons under trenchcoats or sticking out of car windows. This strategy will prevent thousands of deaths annually. And it will make our cities safer. NRA-buffs screamed bloody murder when they couldn't bring their guns into the Olympics. The screamed some more when the committee wouldn't provide the aforementioned types of lockers, which have proven effective in other venues, so they could check their weapons. Finally, they left their guns at home, and filed neatly and obediently into the events. Guess what? No one got shot. Go figure.

Want to own, and shoot a gun? Join a gun club (yes, we COULD have those in big cities, as long as the guns remain at the club after use). Move to Montana. Buy a ranch. Find some old rusty cans, some critters, some thievin' varmints, and fire away. But if you're coming into the big city, check yer guns at the door.

Eddie has a B.A. in Political Science and is currently attending law school in California.

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