I was in Chicago for the World Series last year. Minutes after the Champagne was being uncorked in the Cubs locker room, I was driving on the Kennedy Expressway, heading back to the house where I was staying on the north side of the city. At about 1:00 AM, I saw something was not reported anywhere. I believe it’s relevant to our debate about gun control.
“Gun control” sounds like a threat to many Americans. Birth control is another touchy subject. We even argue with loved ones about the TV’s remote control. Let’s face it. We have control issues. (The Cubs’ bullpen also has had control issues, frustrating their 2017 playoff performance.)
You know who specializes in control issues? The police department — especially those charged with riot prevention. Cubs fans had waited 108 years to celebrate, but there was no violence in Chicago last November. Let me tell you why.
Every exit off the expressway was blocked that night with a squad car — sometimes two — with their lights flashing. No one was being allowed anywhere near Wrigleyville. Chicago’s northwest side was locked down that night, denying access to outside (suburban) agitators, as well as tired fans who just wanted to get some sleep. Nobody objected because — unlike in a war zone — everyone was happy.
Nobody’s happy with how this nation talks about guns. It’s too much or too little; too soon or too late; too reasonable or too hysterical. I’d like to suggest our debate is simply too close.
Chicago’s cops knew if they blockaded Addison and Clark Streets, only rabid Cubs fans would be intercepted. Fewer “regular folks” would be inconvenienced, which would normally be considered the smartest approach. But focusing their efforts nearer to the action risked forces being overwhelmed or creating a spillover disturbance nearby. So they stemmed the tide of ebullience miles away, to be safe and sure.
When keeping people safe might be too difficult, it’s better to keep them away.
Whenever we’re talking about guns, we’re already too close to the controversy’s hot spot to prevent a spillover disturbance. We don’t like to hear about anything being taken away from us, whether it’s a gun or a girl or the lunchtime buffet line.
I’ve reviewed our Constitution’s Bill of Rights and I can’t find anything else that our government has promised to protect that can be bought at a store this weekend for 40 percent off. American citizens might get mildly peeved if their right to vote or speak is threatened. But don’t you dare stand in the way of American consumers’ Constitutional right to shop until they drop.
Giving up a gun would be tough for any American who has one. Giving up a gun they got a good deal on? That’s downright unpatriotic! Americans feel most empowered when they consider themselves successful shoppers.
A gun may be a right, but it’s also a possession. It’s a commodity that we can grip. Are we holding the line against tyranny, or holding in our hand something that makes us feel powerful? For many, that’s a distinction without a difference, but we’ll never make progress on the topic as long as those two concepts remain intertwined.
Here’s my modest proposal. Give every American, when they register to vote, a gun. Each American can keep it or give it back, but that’s it. If America is going to keep a militia, let it be a well-regulated one. Once every American possesses the same gun, it will no longer be a consumer product.
It would be against the law to buy, sell, swap, or store any gun except the one you were given. The National Rifle Association could declare victory and close their doors for good. Once commercial interests have been separated from gun ownership, there may be openings for new discussions.
Should bullets be rationed? Should hunters rent guns to be used inside game parks? Will competence training be required every few years? If a gun is a right, what’s the right gun? These are all debates worth having.
Then we should protect freedom of the press by giving every voting American a newspaper subscription.
Don Kahle (firstname.lastname@example.org) blogs at www.dksez.com.