This isn’t a political blog, and I’m not about to change that. But lately, I’ve gotten tired of how some people are all up in arms (pun intended) about guns.
I’m a 7th generation Texan. I grew up around guns, with a godfather who was an FBI agent, an uncle who was a rural Sheriff, and parents and grandparents who hunted.
My mother was a sniper of rare talent, who prided herself on out-shooting anyone, male or female, and I never saw her miss whether she was skeet shooting or hunting.
My cousins and I learned about guns and gun safety before we could read, and although I do not hunt, we keep a shotgun and a rifle for varmints (snakes, feral pigs, mountain lion, etc.) down on the farm and if I had to, I could and probably would use a gun to protect myself or a child.
In our family, kids learn about handling weapons of all kinds safely, from bows to swords, and handguns to rifles. Some of them hunt. One of my granddaughters works in a police department and is a skilled marksman.
I’m not an anti-gun nut. But I’m among those who think it’s about time we had a rational dialogue that leads to restrictions on some of the kinds of weapons that are readily available. How easy is it to buy a gun in my home state of Texas? Pretty doggone easy. In fact, I can think of many things that my home state makes a lot more difficult, or more closely regulated, than buying guns.
For instance, to become a manicurist in Texas, you must:
· Be 17 years old
· Possess a high school diploma or GED
· Complete 600 hours of classroom instruction
· Pass a state exam
· Pass a background check
· Post a bond or obtain liability insurance
To get a permit to carry a concealed handgun in Texas, you must:
· Be 21 years old
· Pass a background check
· Complete 10 hours of classroom instruction
Surely I’m not the only person who thinks that just maybe a license to carry a lethal weapon might need a tad more training than one to paint nails. The trouble is that there are many things in Texas that seem a lot more tightly regulated than assault rifles and concealed handguns.
Jumping back to the subject of manicures for a minute. Did you know that a manicurist faces monthly limits on some of the supplies (like acetone-based nail polish remover) they can buy? However, there is no limit on how many armor-piercing (cop killer) bullets anyone in Texas can buy — and no limit on the number of guns purchased, either.
Here’s a list of a few other things that take longer or require more paperwork than buying a truck full of guns or ammunition.
- Registering to vote or getting married. You have to register to vote at least 30 days before the election in which you want to vote. There’s also a 30-day waiting period after a divorce or the death of a spouse before you can get a marriage license, and a three-day wait between the time you get your marriage license and the date you can get married. Texas has no waiting period for gun or ammunition purchases, however.
- Buying decongestants. Because some people use Sudafed to make methamphetamine, federal law limits the amount of decongestants my family can purchase in one month. There’s no restriction on how many guns, or how much ammunition I can purchase in a single transaction – let alone in a month.
- Getting a cell phone. To get a cell phone contract, I have to provide my social security number – and to sign up for city utilities, I have to provide my social security number and proof of residence. You don’t need a social security number to buy a gun in Texas, just a state-issued identification card (driver’s license or “non-driver ID”). You don’t even need to be a U.S. citizen, although many gun stores won’t sell to out-of-state or foreign buyers. Except at gun shows, of course, and there’s a gun show in my home town almost every weekend.
- Owning dogs. I can’t take my dog into a restaurant, shopping mall, theater, onto a DART train or city bus, or onto public school property when I pick up my grandson. Many parks and all public buildings are “dog free zones” except for registered service animals. There are restrictions on how long a leash I can use, and there’s a limit to the number of dogs I can own. I have to pay an annual license and registration fee for each one. My homeowner’s association wants me to tell it how many dogs I own and prove that I have liability insurance in case of a dog bite. On the other hand, I can carry a concealed handgun into almost any building except the courthouse and the public library, take them onto public transit, and into any restaurant in town. (Some businesses post notices asking me not to carry a weapon inside, and there is a fine for violating the property owner’s request, but I have never heard of anyone having to pay such a fine. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I’ve just never heard of it.) There’s no “per gun” registration fee or annual license fee. And neither my insurance company or my HOA would dare ask if I own guns, or expect me to give them a list of the size, type, and kind. My insurance company does, however, require the age, weight, and gender of each of my dogs, along with details of their city registration and vaccinations, along with copies of their “Canine Good Citizen” (obedience school) certificates as part of my annual policy renewal.
- Taking your clothes off. In Houston, strippers are unhappy about a proposed rule that would require them to get a permit before they can take off their clothes in public. You don’t need a permit to buy an assault weapon or armor-piercing ammunition.
- Finding a site for a liquor store, bar, or restaurant. You can’t sell alcoholic beverages within 300 feet of a church, public or private school, or public hospital. But I can carry a concealed handgun inside a church or private school unless they post a sign asking me NOT to carry one. There are laws against taking one into a public school or public hospital — except in towns like Harrold, Texas, where teachers are now carrying concealed weapons.
- Buying air for my scuba tanks. I have to be a certified diver before I can air up my scuba tanks – and, depending on what mix of gases I want for my tanks, that means up to 40 hours of classroom and underwater training. There’s no requirement that I take any class at all to buy a rifle (not even an assault rifle), and I need fewer hours of both classroom and “practical” training for a concealed handgun (carry) permit than for a scuba license.
I know that there are many people who want a common sense way to keep assault weapons out of the hands of people who kill children – without restricting my ability to keep a varmint gun for use on a family farm.
But we’ve gotten so polarized on this issue, that nobody seems willing to even talk about compromise. If we can’t talk, how are we going to take action?
Can someone tell me where the sanity is in all of this? It reminds me of a song the radio played non-stop when I was a teenager: I’d Love to Change the World, by the British band Ten Years After. The refrain sort of sums up my problem: “I’d love to change the world/ but I don’t know what to do/ so I’ll leave it up to you.”
The trouble with leaving it up to other people is that the problem hasn’t gotten solved, and children keep dying. Gun owners seem incredibly fearful that any kind of restriction on even the most powerful weapons will lead to some sort of totalitarian dystopia where citizens have no rights – and those who want to ban guns outright don’t seem to understand that there are valid reasons why people want and need guns.
So I think it’s time for the middle-of-the-road types like me to start doing something. But I don’t know what to do. I am going to try to educate myself and find out, though. I don’t see any other choice.