The recent gun debate in America has reached the 'chicken vs. egg' level of absurdity. Do guns kill people? Or do people kill people¹? Well, I think the only thing that matters in the end is that people are shot and die, adults and children alike. And something at some point needs to be done about that. Someone needs to bring in the question of responsibility, not the blame.
¹ Yes, sadly it's a human instinct to find someone or something to blame when tragedy strikes, to point the all-knowing accusatory finger and place the blame and guilt where we feel it belongs.
Currently here in America this accusatory finger wavers between pointing at guns and pointing at people. Or maybe pointing at people with guns. In any case, it's a mess here in the good ole U.S. of A. To quote Mr. King:
"Political discourse as it once existed in America has given way to useless screaming. On second thought, forget the finger pullers. We’re like drunks in a barroom. No one’s listening because everyone is too busy thinking about what they’re going to say next, and absolutely prove that the current speaker is so full of shit he squeaks."
The call for restriction on buying guns and the fear of losing the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution have been regularly taking over the news in the last few weeks.
So why the hell should we listen to Stephen King chiming in with his opinion on it? After all, he's a writer. Shouldn't he just shut up and write? (Oh wait, that's what some say to the singers here, not to writers.)
Well, King (apparently a registered owner of three handguns) in addition to having written an amazing Western-inspired fantasy "The Gunslinger" and the 6 sequels that followed, making even me gasp in delight over the words Roland Deschain teaches his apprentices ("I do not aim with my hand; He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand; He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun; He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart") he also authored (in his teens, no less) and a few decades later released into the wide world the book that more than one teenage school shooter just happened to have in his possession.
This book was "Rage", and having read it (also in my teens), I must say - that is some disturbing shit, if you pardon my language. It's about a messed up high-schooler who shoots his algebra teacher and takes the classroom of students hostage - and in a strange turn of events they begin to form a sort of the bond. That stuff is sick, and scary as hell.
King now knows about the appeal of this book for the aspiring young mass shooter - and after a few such events has pulled it from print. No, he has never even tried taking the blame for the actions his character may have inspired - as a matter of fact he's adamant about that - but he thought removing this story was his responsibility.
"According to The Copycat Effect, written by Loren Coleman (Simon and Schuster, 2004), I also apologized for writing Rage. No, sir, no ma’am, I never did and never would. It took more than one slim novel to cause Cox, Pierce, Loukaitis, and Carneal to do what they did.My book did not break Cox, Pierce, Carneal, or Loukaitis, or turn them into killers; they found something in my book that spoke to them because they were already broken. Yet I did see Rage as a possible accelerant, which is why I pulled it from sale. You don’t leave a can of gasoline where a boy with firebug tendencies can lay hands on it."
He does not take blame for what his books may have helped inspire, and asking him to do that is just as insane as blaming Marilyn Manson for school shootings (and there have been crazy people who did just that!). Regardless, by pulling his book from print he believes he did the responsible thing - and he would like you - yes, YOU, American public - to do the same.
Let me repeat it - he refused to take the blame, and yet he acted in the way he thought of as responsible.
"I didn’t pull Rage from publication because the law demanded it; I was protected under the First Amendment, and the law couldn’t demand it. I pulled it because in my judgment it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do."
What does he support? Very mellow measures, actually, if you side with the gun opponents - and quite restrictive measures, if you side with the gun proponents. He agrees with the lowering the number of rounds a gun magazine can hold to eliminate the possibility of shooting dozens of people at once; and banning assault weapons.
"Even if I were politically and philosophically open to repealing the Second Amendment (I’m not), I don’t believe that repeal, or even modification, would solve the problem of gun violence in America, particularly violence of the sort that’s at the root of that problem. Although I need to add that I also believe strict gun control would save thousands of lives."
That's really it. No taking guns away, no strict limits - just the sensible restrictions that can make it just a touch harder for someone to set out on a shooting spree in your local mall or school. He does not place the blame on people who already own such guns or manufacture such weapons - no more than he blames himself for having written 'Rage'. He just assumes that passing some restrictions would be acting responsibly.
"I read a jaw-dropping online defense of these weapons from a California woman recently. Guns, she said, are just tools. Like spoons, she said. Would you outlaw spoons simply because some people use them to eat too much? Lady, let’s see you try to kill twenty schoolkids with a fucking spoon.
Guns are not tools — not unless you reverse a pistol and use the butt to hammer in a nail. Guns are weapons. Autos and semi-autos are weapons of mass destruction. When lunatics want to make war on the unarmed and unprepared, these are the weapons they use."
Tragedies like the one that happened at Sandy Hook elementary school appear to shake up the nation and lead to quite a bit of speeches and hand waving - but in the end, it appears, everything settles down, another 'exciting' even comes along and the media circus dies off, public promptly shifts its attention away, and status quo continues. For a while. Until next shooting snaps our attention back. King very aptly and appropriately cynically describes the ridiculous media circus that sprouts with each such tragedy, runs in the predictable manner and fizzles off right on schedule. And he does not cut slack for our media or the National Rifle Association, given their always-predictable reaction:
"Nineteenth, the NRA drops the other shoe (only it’s more like a combat boot), proclaiming itself dead-set against any changes in existing gun laws. In their official statement, they blame the shooters and America’s culture of violence. They also single out the failure of mental health professionals to ID potentially dangerous persons, even though most US senators and representatives with A ratings from the NRA don’t want to see a single dime of federal aid spent on beefing up such services. (Gosh, they’ve got that pesky deficit to think about.) The NRA doesn’t come right out and say the victims are also to blame for thinking they could live in America without a gun on their person or in their purse, but the implication is hard to miss."
A gun owner himself, King does not vilify those Americans who own guns and love them. He does understand people's desire to be able to protect themselves if all hell breaks down. But he also does question the lengths we are willing to go to for hypothetical threats, the threats that the vast majority of gun owners have never faced and probably never will - while in the meantime the weapons that were bought with the goal of keeping the owners safe end up being involved in murders once a child gets hold of them, or a sleepy gun owner mistakes a family member for an intruder, for instance.
"I guess the question is, how paranoid do you want to be? How many guns does it take to make you feel safe? And how do you simultaneously keep them loaded and close at hand, but still out of reach of your inquisitive children or grandchildren? Are you sure you wouldn’t do better with a really good burglar alarm? It’s true you have to remember to set the darn thing before you go to bed, but think of this — if you happened to mistake your wife or live-in partner for a crazed drug addict, you couldn’t shoot her with a burglar alarm."
King's view on gun control is very conservative (if you are a die-hard liberal) and yet quite liberal (if you are a die-hard conservative). And yet he has his trademark King answer to all those who insist that "YOU WILL TAKE MY GUN WHEN YOU PRY IT FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS":
"In his war against the first grade, Lanza fired multiple thirty-round clips. As for the Glock: it was pried from his cold dead hands."