When you talk about guns, it’s worth pondering the World War II generation.
Millions of American men joined the military, were taught how to use a military weapon and then carried it into war for three or four years.
Then they came home, got jobs, got married, bought houses and raised children.
What’s interesting is how seemingly few people in that generation felt the need to acquire an arsenal of military weapons and constantly badger Congress for access to even more.
But, like we said, millions of men in the WWII generation had probably already been there, done that and were sick and tired of lugging a gun around.
In 1945, the U.S. had 12 million soldiers, sailors and Marines on active duty. Five years later, the total was fewer than 1.5 million. That rose briefly to about 3 million at the height of the Vietnam War and has settled at fewer than 1.5 million in any given year since.
Despite the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, far fewer men today have had actual military experience, thanks to our volunteer army, than previous generations.
Which may, when you think about it, explain why so many men today seem so intent on having their own military-style hardware. There is, of course, no practical reason to own a military weapon with a 40-round clip.
Nearly all of these people will be satisfied to own and occasionally shoot their guns. Only a statistically negligible number will turn them on other human beings, like James Holmes did last week in Colorado.
That tragic massacre has predictably been followed by calls from a small number of politicians in liberal, urban areas for more gun control.
But it is all sound and fury and nothing will result.
The National Rifle Association has almost every member of Congress, and both presidential candidates, too frightened of political retribution to even talk about the subject.
Voters should know, however, that in past political lives, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have supported gun control laws. Right now, they both realize it would be political suicide to do so.
The NRA is at its heart an industry lobbying organization that must constantly gin up fear of gun control and crime so its corporate sponsors can sell ever more weapons and ammunition to an increasingly fearful public.
The NRA is good at what it does and very good for its sponsors.
Beyond that, public support for new gun laws has steadily declined over the past 20 years as more and more Americans have turned against government in general. Fear of an intrusive federal government has become the perfect foil for the NRA to raise money.
Beyond that, the mass shootings may be horrific but, surprisingly, this is not a growing problem. About 20 people a year are killed in these group-shooting incidents, according to USA Today, and that rate has changed little in decades.
Most of the real gun carnage is confined to inner cities and involves impoverished minority people killing each other one or two at a time, which rarely warrants sustained media coverage like the Colorado shootings.
In fact, 10 people may be killed in Chicago on a hot weekend and you will never hear any of their names.
So, the Colorado tragedy will pass. Our outrage is fleeting and there is little public or political will for changing the status quo.
Sun Journal, Lewiston (July 25)