Gun control: Future hangs on misunderstood majority of gun owners
Gun control seen through the eyes of the misunderstood majority of gun owners is more nuanced and complex than the absolutism of America's big gun lobbies. The Obama administration is courting this breed of centrist, gun-friendly Americans on the fence about gun control.
(Page 5 of 5)
"There is this sense that America is locking and loading because of Obama being elected ... and threats Obama may or may not pose," says Carlson, at the University of Toronto. "That may be true, but this transformation where Americans are turning to guns started in the 1970s, and as quickly as these shootings happen, gun culture has not transformed so quickly."Skip to next paragraph
Infographic Guns in America: Facts, myths, trivia
In Pictures American Gun Culture
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Bekalyn Craig, stay-at-home mother of two preschoolers, grew up in a rabidly anti-gun household, and she now lives in a house where, she says, "there are more guns than people." The Craigs' bedroom is their makeshift armory. Her husband, Paul Craig, a home automation installer, grew up around older brothers who let him use their can-plinking .22 rifle. As an adult he embraced rifles and handguns for self-protection
Not usually one for social movements or protest, he came out to the Guns Across America rally in Atlanta holding several signs, with his family in tow, largely because he felt "like we're at a precipice." He worries about the slippery slope and doesn't trust Obama, whom he calls "a snake in the grass."
To him, First and Second Amendment rights are inextricably linked, forming the core duality of citizenship. "If a guy's holding a gun, you tend to let him say his piece," he says.
But even this family is unsure about whether America's gun regulations are effective enough to stop violence. Ms. Craig's own family experience with mental illness gives her pause, especially after the Newtown massacre, which was perpetrated by a mentally unstable 20-year-old.
Mr. Craig also supports banning certain types of large-caliber weapons that have no practical civilian purposes. "Do people need a .50 caliber [a massive, legal caliber] in the back bedroom?" he wonders. "I'm not sure about that."
Pro-gun but unafraid of controls
Outside the Lawrenceville Gun Show on a chilly north Georgia morning, the record lines to get in underscore what Parker Russell calls "a great national freakout" about gun control – that Americans better get those high-capacity magazines and pistol grip semiautomatics now, before they're outlawed.
Inside, Americans, Koreans, Russians, and Pakistanis conduct a brisk arms bazaar. On display are a pacifist's nightmare: signs that say "Cash only, no paperwork, private sale" – the famous "gun show loophole" – and tiny $49 trigger devices (sold with "certificates of legality") that can turn a friendly semiautomatic rifle into a savage bullet-sprayer.
The 20-something Mr. Russell is standing next to his diminutive Smart Car, which in turn is parked next to a massive black pickup truck dubbed "Zombie Hunter 001." Essentially conservative, Russell was raised with guns around the house, and now owns a pistol and a rifle; he came to the gun show looking for another light shooter. His girlfriend grew up in a strict anti-gun house, and she just purchased her first firearm.
He does not share in the frenzied concern over Washington's plans for gun control, in part because he believes there could be improvements in gun regulations that would not affect basic Second Amendment rights – such as shoring up gun show background checks.
Yes, he says, Obama could lead a Constitutional Convention to repeal the Second Amendment. But, beyond that, the idea of a major firearms crackdown in America – including an all-out ban of guns like Brinley's AR-15 – is just too out of the mainstream.
And if he's wrong?
"It all goes in cycles," Russell says. "If this guy taketh guns away, the next guy will give them back."