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When my wife and I moved from Brooklyn to Belfast in early 2002, we shared a desire to renovate a charming old house for the pure satisfaction of it and to suit our needs. We’re still at it. As for me, a slow-rolling longing to create Dada-inflected objects in due course subsided. If anyone asks, I answer, “I used to be an artist.”
Another slow-rolling longing involving guns sustains. The itch made itself felt long before our move — from my Flatbush boyhood in fact. The building superintendent’s son and I fired our .22 rifles into our apartment-building complex’s coal bin — I cannot recall what we used for targets — with of course his dad’s permission. Fun times.
In Maine, where gun ownership involves no more than a background check, I could acquire the handguns of my dreams, mostly revolvers. To date, I have done significant violence to paper targets and would sooner shoot myself in the foot than kill a living creature.
In politics I list leftward. I was and remain a Bernie Sanders progressive who likes what Elizabeth Warren has to say. There’s that.
Any serious hobbyist wants to learn as much as one can about one’s interest, which is to say that I subscribe to several gun publications. A number of subjects covered are straightforward enough: reviews and articles about rifle and handgun hunting, technical information about factory ammunition and components for those who reload, reviews of optics, range-finders and such. Setting aside the lethality of the items therein covered, it’s pretty much what one would expect in a “Leave-It-to-Beaver” world.
Revolvers with their limited capacity and long guns requiring bolt or lever actions to seat the next round — quaint technology by present-day measure — take second place in these magazines to coverage and ads about high-capacity semi-auto pistols, with an emphasis on concealed-carry, and semi-auto rifles (“black” guns), often identified in reporting of mass shootings as assault weapons. Strictly speaking, they’re not. Assault weapons issued to the military are capable of selective fire. Purposeful resemblances notwithstanding, civilian “black” guns are, by law, semi-auto only: one round per trigger squeeze, which, as we know from slaughter upon slaughter, can be devastating enough.
Ads featuring the last word in manly firearms are appropriately seductive. As often as not the weapons bear names that make one want to stand and salute. These objects of desire appeal in no subtle way to the rugged individual’s right to defend hearth and home from black helicopters stuffed with liberals hellbent on parting red-blooded men and the occasional woman from their constitutional rights. To call some of the editorializing thuggish is to award the term more stature than it deserves. Legislators proposing stricter regulations are the enemy. Of freedom, I mean. Freiheit uber alles! The Second Amendment as holy writ.
Especially galling is a reluctance by these magazines to address mass shootings head on, other than to opine that had victims been armed, or at least their teachers in school massacres, the gunman could have been taken out in short order. The gun lobby’s fondest wish.
This leaves a gun owner to think: “Why should I, a peaceful, law-abiding citizen, be subjected to — God forbid! — licensing, or worse yet, confiscation of the kind of gun snowflakes perceive as a threat. This is America! I have my rights!”
And he does. But something’s gotta give.
Mike Silverton of Belfast is a gun owner and former artist.