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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.

By Staff writer / February 17, 2013

  • Shooting survivor Margaret Stroup.

Gun control and the misunderstood majority of gun owners is the topic of the Feb. 18, 2012 Christian Science Monitor weekly magazine cover story project. Shooting survivor Margaret Stroup (pictured here, and featured in the story link below) has decided to protect herself with the kind of weapon that almost killed her.

Joseph Gamble/ Special to The Christian Science Monitor

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Atlanta

Nick Brinley was totally conspicuous the other day as he walked onto the State Capitol steps here armed with a loaded AR-15 – the very same make of short-barreled military-style rifle used by Adam Lanza to murder his mom, 20 grade-schoolers, and six Sandy Hook Elementary School staff members on Dec. 14, in Connecticut.

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Instead of menacing the public, though, Mr. Brinley joined about 350 other gun enthusiasts waving signs saying things such as "Don't mess with the Constitution, it ain't right – [signed] Me" to protest a post-Sandy Hook gun-control package being floated in Congress, and backed by President Obama.

"If you want to see a place where nothing's going to happen, this is it – no one's getting shot here today," said Brinley in the curt tone of a Hollywood action hero.

But as Brinley leaned self-confidently against a railing as though a backpack, not a deadly firearm, were slung across his back, it also became clear that his gun stance contains more nuance and complexity than the absolutism of America's big gun lobbies, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Gun Owners of America, which Ron Paul once called "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington."

A 30-something suburban aerospace engineer with studs in both ears, a fashionable haircut, and business-casual attire, Brinley says his right to buy and shoot AR-15s should never be curtailed, as bills in Congress now propose.

But, by the same token, he acknowledges there are fundamental problems with America's gun regulation system, citing holes in the background-check process and cross checks with mental-health records. That puts him at odds with the NRA's stated positions.

"OK, it's ridiculous to ban 10, 20, or 30-round magazines, but I'm not really sure who really needs a 100-round magazine," he says about a proposal to limit purchases of 10-round magazines.

After Newtown, there's indeed a new conversation rising from what appears to be a collective desire by Americans to heal the country's penchant for senseless gun violence.

The NRA will probably never back down from its absolutist "no infringement" stance on the Second Amendment, but polls and interviews with everyday gun owners suggest that even stalwart shooting range enthusiasts like Brinley see the current system as imperfect, even dangerous.

Integral to the president's push for "common sense" gun controls, then, is engaging an emergent breed of centrist, gun-friendly Americans on the fence about whether new controls will effectively thwart violence – or prove a political Trojan horse to disarm lawful gun owners.

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