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How I came to accept guns – to a point

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I’m all right with his guns now, after a long period of discussion with him. He is not planning to use the gun for self-protection, he does not brag about having guns, he understands their potential horror, and strongly dislikes shooter video games and movies that glorify guns.

But here’s the caveat. I know Chris. I have seen him at his best and his worst. I trust him to own a weapon made to kill, and to understand the responsibility that comes with it. I don’t feel that way about anyone else.

There is one more thing that Chris likes about his gun. It makes him feel tough. He’s kind of a manly man, and firepower, whether you intend to use it or not, is a pretty manly thing. This is the tiniest part of why Chris is a gun owner, but it’s there, and it’s the part that I don’t like, and that I can’t approve of.

So, along with not trusting other gun owners to handle their guns properly, I also don’t trust them to shake off that feeling of power that a gun gives them – power over other lives. In the end, that’s the real problem with guns – their corrupting force.

I used to simply want guns gone, but Chris has taught me there may be a compromise. Before you can buy a gun, you should have to be carefully licensed, the way you are to drive a car. Owning a gun gives you added power, and therefore added responsibility to society. You want a gun? Take a training course, pass a safety test, prove you own locks, and update your license every few years.

This way the people who own guns are likely to be those who take them seriously, and gun owners will be better informed about gun safety. But more important, we will send a message that owning a gun is a serious business. Guns are made to kill. It’s better to treat them that way instead of pretending they could ever all disappear.  

Emily D. Johnson works in product development for a New York technology firm. She has an MFA from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor's degree in geology from Princeton University.

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