A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics
I teach in Belleville, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis. Belleville is the home of James Hodgkinson, the man who opened fire on congressmen and staffers at a G. O. P. baseball practice Wednesday morning.
As I write, Rep. Steve Scalise is in critical condition. Several others are recovering.
My university students Wednesday night were, to say the least, upset. Many expressed a certain gratitude that this is not seen as something peculiarly Midwestern or particularly partisan. Knuckle-dragging gun nut socialist hoosier, that sort of thing, that would only add more sadness to the almost unbearably painful. It’s sad enough that this is what it is, a sick man, our neighbor, caught up in a culture of violence. As near as anyone can tell, Hodgkinson just got a gun, went to Washington, and shot folks. Easy as that.
One of the people he shot wants to make it even easier to get guns.
Rep. Steve Scalise is a strong supporter of an interpretation of the 2nd Amendment that promotes nearly unregulated gun ownership. On 5 January 2011, he introduced a measure to improve the purchase of firearms, House Resolution 58, the “Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act”, a bill that “Amends specified law, prohibiting the killing of wild birds and wild animals in the District of Columbia, to declare that nothing in it, or any other provision of law, shall … discourage or eliminate the private ownership or use of firearms.” In February, he cosponsored H. R. 822, which would ensure national reciprocity for concealed carry permits. It should come as no surprise that he earned an A+ from the National Rifle Association.
No one deserves what happened to Steve Scalize. But no one should be surprised when it happens. Guns are so easy to get.
So just how easy is it to arm yourself in America? I posed myself a little test. I am a Vietnam veteran. How much would it cost me to equip myself, and arm myself, as I was in Vietnam? And how long would it take me to answer that question?
I carried the M-16. About the closest anyone can come to such a weapon these days is the Colt AR-15, essentially a semi-automatic variation upon the M-16. Prices vary, but often are under $1000. So let’s call it $999.99. Ammo not included. I would also like a helmet, old school, Vietnam era, $29.99. A flak vest, $249.00. Jungle fatigues, $79.00. Jungle boots, $38.05. I’ll supply my own socks and underwear. I’ll even bring a belt. I found a bayonet and scabbard for $50.
At this point, I am as well equipped, and well armed, as I was in Vietnam. $1,446.03.
However, if I were to purchase a 1911 Colt .45, the standard issue side arm of my era, $369, I would now be better armed than I was in Vietnam. (Side arms were generally given to officers and sergeants, and I was a common soldier.)
I cannot leave this without pointing out one serendipitous find. I can also purchase an M-79 grenade launcher for $8,500. At times, I carried one of these in Vietnam. As I write, my wife insists that a grenade launcher is exactly what we need for home security.
Total cost, $1,815.03. Make that $10,315.03 if you really need the grenade launcher. Grenades not included.
That’s how easy it is. It took me fifteen or so minutes to find and price all this.
I make no claims about being an expert in weapons and such. Which is my point. I am no expert. I can nonetheless easily find what I want.
On the same day as the shooting in D. C., there was a work-place shooting in San Francisco. And, almost unnoticed, there as a boy shot here at a gas station. By the time I publish this essay, there will be another massive shooting somewhere. I wish I could end this essay on a note of hope. But I am amazed at how little my government cares about weapons in private hands. My city has more regulations about siding than side arms. I once called the local police about gun regulations. The lieutenant, to whom I spoke, was indifferent to the fact that I had actually just inherited an unregistered revolver. A summary of my state’s gun regulations I once read while I drank a cup of coffee. I have no idea why the National Rifle Association is worried.
I don’t know if there even should be a unified national policy on gun control. Rural Wyoming is not the same as the city of St. Louis. That said, I am not “a well regulated militia”. I’m a fat old man at a computer. Nor was James Hodgkinson “a well regulated militia”. He was just the sad, crazy neighbor from just over there.
I don’t know what Wyoming residents need for snakes and wolverines and such. But I know St. Louis. So I say to my fellow St. Louisans, you want home security? This is what baseball and schnauzers are for. Get a baseball bat and one of those little speed freak yappy schnauzers, and you’ll be fine.
Copyright 2017 John Samuel Tieman