Readers Write: Is America's gun culture useful or dangerous?
Letters to the Editor for the weekly print edition of April 16, 2012: One reader argues that a recent cover story ('Inside America's gun culture') didn't give adequate coverage to the use of guns for hunting, competition, and sport. Another worries that 'any angry malcontent with a short fuse and a chip on his shoulder, could pull a loaded gun.'
Guns in America: unnerving or useful?
The March 12 cover story, "Inside America's gun culture," gives an interesting presentation of the self-defense aspects of gun ownership. However, there are other aspects and motivations for gun ownership in America.
For example, large numbers of people shoot guns at paper targets for sport and competition. This is a sporting activity that takes a lot of concentration and training to do well. There are shooting competitions using rifles, shotguns, handguns, and traditional muzzle-loading firearms. Each type of gun used in these competitions is substantially different and requires a unique skill set.
Another activity guns are used for is hunting, to obtain food for oneself and/or for needy people (Hunters for the Hungry) as well as for sport. Hunting plays a role in the environment as well; it's often needed to bring down animal populations from unhealthy levels. This is especially true for deer in certain regions.
So while the article explored the self-defense aspects of gun ownership well, it did not present these other motivations for gun ownership at all.
Several justifications are given by self-appointed militiamen cited in the article for indulging in their compulsion to arm themselves with loaded, concealed weapons. Contrary to their intent, these justifications provide strong but unwitting cause to oppose this dangerous trend.
For example, Shane Gazda "felt threatened" when he was informed by a convenience store owner that his twin toddlers were not allowed in the restroom. This incident convinced Mr. Gazda to always "pack heat" in subsequent family outings. I infer from his example that in the event of any disagreement with a store owner or sales clerk Gazda would reach for his loaded gun, or at least be poised to do so.
Would he do the same in the event of a disagreement with a coach at his daughters' soccer game, or at a political rally where the speaker disagreed with him? I do not feel safer knowing that any would-be hero, or any angry malcontent with a short fuse and a chip on his shoulder, could pull a loaded gun from his pocket in the blink of an eye in a public place.