One Against the Gun

If a button could keep a kid from being shot, would you put one on?

Sandy Hingston One Against The Gun Pins

Photograph By Claudia Gavin

It seemed like such a reasonable argument.

“The fact is,” the column on the back page of the December issue of Guns & Ammo magazine stated, “all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be. Freedom of speech is regulated. You cannot falsely and deliberately shout, ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. Freedom of religion is regulated. A church cannot practice human sacrifice.”

But longtime G&A contributor Dick Metcalf went and touched the third rail:

“The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads, ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ Note carefully: Those last four words say ‘shall not be infringed.’ They do not say ‘shall not be regulated.’ ‘Well regulated’ is, in fact, the initial criterion of the amendment itself.” Metcalf then laid out an argument for responsible gun use, and for the United States to enact regulations requiring adequate training for those who own guns.

Within a week, in response to a torrent of social-media hatred from readers, Guns & Ammo editor Jim Bequette abjectly apologized for running the piece, saying, “I thought it would generate a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights. I miscalculated, pure and simple. I was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness.” He then announced that he had fired Metcalf and that he himself had resigned, effective immediately.

December 14th was the first anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut—a tragedy in which a young man shot and killed his mother, then shot and killed 20 first-graders and six more adults before turning a gun on himself. It was a crime so unimaginable, so horrific, that afterward a lot of people, myself included, thought surely it would mark the beginning of the end for America’s gun madness.

It didn’t. It hasn’t, as the swift and severe repercussions of Metcalf’s audacious rationality showed. In Newtown’s wake, Congress failed to enact even the most modest of gun regulations—a bill with bipartisan support that would have required background checks for gun purchases made at gun shows and online. The bill’s failure meant back to business as usual for the National Rifle Association and its cronies, several of which promptly got to work planning to commemorate the first anniversary of Newtown by declaring December 14th “Guns Save Lives Day.”

Haven’t you had enough?

As “Guns Save Lives Day” approached, I called Shira Goodman, the executive director of the Center City-based anti-gun-violence group CeaseFirePA, to ask: Why the hell hadn’t the massacre of 20 innocent children been enough to get gun-control legislation passed? Goodman, a lawyer who started at CeaseFirePA just six weeks before Sandy Hook, talks really quickly, because when it comes to gun control, she’s got a lot to say. One of the things she said was that over the past few decades, the gun lobby “has created the perception that it’s monolithic and all-powerful.” Another thing she said was that anti-gun people tend to care about a lot of different issues: the environment, health care, gay rights. Gun people only care about guns, and as a result, “There’s a gap in intensity.”

There’s also fear among anti-gun people, because, well, the other side has guns. (Of course, there are many responsible gun owners, yadayadayada, disclaimer, whatever.) And gun control is one of those issues we don’t talk about. It’s like abortion—you just never know. Maybe Dustin from Accounting is packing. Maybe your barber has a .38 tucked in his belt. The fear, combined with that intensity, stifles discussion. Meantime, the pro-gun among us own a “staggering” number of guns apiece, according to Goodman, and nag their legislators all the time.

So I’ve been thinking: What if those of us who don’t want to live in an America where guns are a leading cause of death for kids, where 300 million guns are in circulation, and where the sum costs of gun violence top $174 billion per year could identify kindred spirits?

Those are “One Against the Gun” pins there in the opening photo. They actually exist. I had a bunch of them made (in four colors!). You can put one on your lapel, on your hat or on your bag. You can wear it on the bus, at work, at basketball games, at the grocery store. They’re free. I’ll give you one, if you ask.