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Musing on handguns

October 25, 2012

Right around my 18th birthday, I was with 3 or 4 other guys, crossing the midway in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, on a weekday evening.  The midway is an approximately block wide strip of lawn that runs east west for quite a distance.  It was created, I believe, for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893..  We were all students at the University of Chicago which is situated just north of the midway, but our dorm (Burton-Judson) was just south of the midway.  I suppose we were headed for some activity on campus.

Two fellows, about our age, approached us.  One of them, it turned out, had a handgun, and they robbed us


The proponents of keeping handguns legal and available, and the proponents of people having an easy time getting concealed gun permits, and the proponents of allowing people to carry guns on college campuses might argue that if we’d been armed, we could have protected ourselves.  And there is certainly some truth to this.  If we’d been armed, and had drawn our weapons at the approach of two strangers, we might not have been robbed.  Of course, we would have needed to be automatically suspicious of strangers approaching.  This was in Chicago.  One doesn’t know everyone.  Most people are strangers.  Of course, we students were all white, and the 2 fellows who robbed us were black.  So we could have drawn our weapons because the 2 fellows approaching were black.  That’s a pretty thought. 

Or perhaps there might have been others on the midway nearby and armed, and seeing us being robbed, they might have come to our rescue.  Perhaps there’d have been gunplay, if play is the appropriate word.  Maybe instead of our being robbed – we probably had less than $20 between us – there’d have been people wounded by gunfire.  Maybe someone would have died.

I don’t know what the gun laws are in Chicago.  I don’t know if they were any different then.  And I’ll bet that the two robbers had acquired their gun illegally, thus falling into the pro-gun saying “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”  Yet even so, and even though it was only the first of two times I’ve been robbed at gunpoint (the second time was in the same neighborhood), I still think easily, legally acquired handguns cause more problems than they solve, and that we’d all be safer if they were far less abundant in the USA.

I don’t think a blanket illegality is the answer.  I do think a more strenous process might be in order.  I think there are legitimate reasons for someone to own a handgun, but that like certain other things and situations we have come to find that restrictions are in order.  A waiting period is reasonable.  Restrictions, or even outright ban on more heavy armaments (exactly who needs an automatic weapon, or surface to air missiles for that matter).  Perhaps a limit on the amount of ammunition one can accumulate.  Certainly there could be heavier restrictions on those with a criminal record, especially for crimes involving violence and/or the use of guns, and for those with a prior history of mental illness.

The U.S. needs a wide-ranging, in depth, nationwide conversation about handguns, and/or all guns, and I believe this has been suppressed by certain groups, principally the NRA.   Perhaps, someday, we’ll have one.


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