Stephen King takes on thorny issue of gun control in new essay

Posted Jan. 26, 2013, at 6:29 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 27, 2013, at 6:30 p.m.
Stephen King speaks at the University of Maine in Orono in 2008.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Stephen King speaks at the University of Maine in Orono in 2008. Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — Best-selling Maine horror writer — and gun owner — Stephen King thrust himself into the national debate over gun control Friday with the release of a new Kindle essay on Amazon.

In his Kindle Single “Guns,” King reacts to the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and other mass shootings by calling for tougher nationwide gun control measures, or “reasonable measures” — including a ban on semiautomatic weapons, and clips and magazines of more than 10 rounds.

He also advocates for comprehensive, universal background checks — including a waiting period and stiff penalties for those who lie about their pasts in order to obtain weapons.

“Here’s how it shakes out,” the essay begins, as it launches into a description of the steps in which the nation sees a school massacre, namely the one at Sandy Hook. From the shooting itself, to initial breaking news reports, to confirmed deaths, to details, to corrections.

“I think the issue of an America awash in guns is one every citizen has to think about,” King said in a statement published on the Amazon page promoting his essay. “If this helps provoke constructive debate, I’ve done my job. Once I finished writing ‘Guns’ I wanted it published quickly.”

Added Amazon: “… Anger and grief in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are palpable in this urgent piece of writing, but no less remarkable are King’s keen thoughtfulness and composure as he explores the contours of the gun-control issue and constructs his argument for what can and should be done.”

King could not be reached for comment Saturday.

In making his case, King points to Australia, which banned or restricted automatic weapons after April 1996 when a gunman armed with an AR-15 killed 33 people and injured 23 more. The Australian government also instituted a buyback program for automatic firearms that netted 600,000 weapons.

King noted that homicides by firearm declined by 60 percent in Australia after the stricter gun controls were introduced.

On Saturday, Tom Franklin, president of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, applauded King’s move.

“I’m so glad to have him do this,” he said. “It’s critical that this remain in the news and in people’s minds.”

It could be months before Maine lawmakers address the stack of gun bills facing them this legislative session, he said.

“These gun [control] laws don’t cost anything,” he said. Citing a California study, Franklin pegged the society cost of a single murder at $1 million, when such costs as prosecution and prison housing are added up.

Franklin called King’s essay “the best 99 cents I’ve ever spent. He certainly is unabashed. I was very pleased that he identified himself as a Maine gun owner who recognizes that we can have better gun laws and still fully protect the rights of gun owners.”

Attempts to reach National Rifle Association field representatives were not successful Saturday afternoon.

“Guns” is available to Kindle customers in the Kindle Singles Store at www.amazon.com/kindlesingles for 99 cents a download.

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