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Alone With J

August 1, 2011

By J SWYGART
    To be technically accurate, I guess I can be counted among the 357 gazillion gun owners in the United States.
    I own a .22 single shot rifle. It’s right there in the closet, next to the front door. No, wait. I think I moved it into the garage. Or maybe it’s in the attic. Give me an hour or so and I could probably put my hands on it.
    The same claim, however, doesn’t hold water when it comes to finding a bullet to put into said gun. I know beyond question there are none of those in my house.
    Anyway, the point here is this: I don’t like guns much. And I like irresponsible gun owners even less. This is being reiterated in the wake of the weekend tragedy that left a 4-year-old Ossian area boy dead, the result of a stray bullet that found its way into the boy’s head. An accidental death, to be sure, but was it an avoidable one? Maybe. Probably.
   To save time later, we’ll pause here to allow all the card-carrying NRA members to recite their mantra that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. (Five ... four ... three ... two ... one). Okay, now we’ve got that out of the way. Also for the sake of brevity, let’s just leave out that nonsense about prying your cold, dead fingers from around your weapon should anyone try to take it away.
  I don’t want to take away your guns. Well, okay ... maybe I do. Some of them, anyway.
  The facts surrounding the death of the young boy in Wells County remain, at this writing, a little cloudy. But there are a few things we do know, and they don’t seem to make a lot of sense.
    First, it was 11 p.m. when the incident occurred. Now I’ve been fishing late at night, as was this young boy at the time of his death. But shooting a weapon? At night? I’m afraid I’ve never taken part in that particular type of “fun,” so I guess I’m as much in the dark as was the person who pulled the trigger on that fateful night and, unintentionally but factually, left a boy dead.
    Initially, we didn’t know anything about the alleged shooter, other than his name and age. But as the story unfolded, it turns out he could not, under any circumstances, be considered a “responsible gun owner.”  Alcohol reportedly played a factor in the shooting. And the suspect has a history or domestic violence, as well as a court order prohibiting him from possessing weapons. But such restrictions historically have done little to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Realistically, there’s probably no way to stop such infractions. Guns are just too easy to get.
    But this I do know: the death of this youngster will rekindle talks of stricter gun controls, and in turn the NRA membership will rise as one to deflect even the hint of a suggestion that such restrictions are actually in the organization’s — or the nation’s — best interests.
    The National Rifle Association has, in this column’s opinion, been its own worst enemy for as long as I can remember. One would think that a group which represents primarily sportsmen — the cream of the crop when it comes to responsible gun owners — would be eager to rid the bad apples from the barrel that has become rampant and largely unchecked gun ownership in this country. But, very much to the contrary, the NRA has opposed every piece of sensible gun control legislation — particularly as such attempts at legislation pertain to handguns —that has come down the pike for decades.
    As lobbying groups go — the NRA organization is a strong one, and it didn’t get that way by turning its back on gun owners. I get that. The organization has succeeded in convincing Indiana lawmakers — whose only real moral goal is to get re-elected — that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms extends to the most public of places; and that business owners cannot prevent employees from keeping guns in their cars. If the Indiana General Assembly was a Facebook entry, you can bet the NRA would click the “like” button.
    But while the ever-growing list of “rights” of gun owners is simply mind-boggling to non-gun enthusiasts like myself, one cannot reasonably expect the trend to be reversed anytime soon. No matter how many Hoosiers, young and old alike, die as a result of gunfire — intentional or accidental — along the way.
    And that’s the saddest fact of all to come from the Wells County tragedy.

    The writer is the opinion page editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat.

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