Jack Ohman

Ohman: Do we own guns or do they own us?

As California and the nation watched another armed lunatic unload clips of 9mm bullets into innocent bystanders in Isla Vista, killing three of them, here we are again having the same gun conversation.

As I have written before, I am a gun owner. I’m not into it, I just own them. I have pistols, shotguns and deer rifles. I inherited most of them from my father. I also have three grown children who are college students. Like the young women who were murdered, they go about their day on and around campus, not expecting that they could be shot and killed.

My question is this: Do I have to choose between guns and my children’s lives?

I’m beginning to wonder.

When I saw Richard Martinez express his indescribable outrage and grief over the murder of his son and five other students in this latest tragedy, he reminded us once again that we just keep having this Möbius strip national gun conversation over and over again.

Mass shooting. Gun advocates and opponents take to the television news shows. Congress is urged to do something. Nothing happens. A few months later, another mass shooting. More deaths. Nothing happens.


Why can’t we get this one right?

Because we live in a violent society. We think it’s all “The Brady Bunch,” and it’s actually “The Wild Bunch.” Because the National Rifle Association has really good lobbyists. Because Congress lacks courage. Because gun violence is glorified in the media and video games. Because, because, because.

Some gun owners like myself (and I am probably a shrinking group of that number who would agree that more regulation is necessary) are torn. We own these things, but I am starting to think we don’t own guns.

They own us.

We have made a rather Faustian bargain with guns and our right to own them, and the people who don’t own them don’t understand why we do: We own them to feel safe and yet American society is jeopardized by our collective ownership.

The Second Amendment has way better lobbyists than, say, the First Amendment. There’s more money behind the support of the Second Amendment than all the advocates for the First Amendment. We can all name the NRA and its executive director, Wayne LaPierre. Can you name the leading First Amendment advocate? Nope.

Obviously, the vast majority of gun owners don’t pose a danger to society. I also suspect that the vast majority of gun owners have children, teenagers and young adults. So put yourself in Martinez’s position for a moment, or, say, the position of the parents who lost kids in the most recent shooting. It’s not hard to do.

Your beautiful daughter is a college student. She’s minding her own business. Having coffee or something. Reading. Some kid, angry about how women in general have treated him, drives by and shoots your daughter in the head.

Would you feel like maybe the system is an unfair one? That a lunatic’s right to buy three semi-automatic pistols and dozens of clips supersedes your right to have a daughter?

The Second Amendment doesn’t call you up and excitedly tell you about her week at college. You don’t give the Second Amendment away at a wedding. The Second Amendment doesn’t give you grandchildren. Does it?

I am not calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. But I do think that owning guns should be way harder than it is now. Maybe there should be a state database and a system of registration. Maybe a license and a periodic test.

You know, we do that for another thing in our society, and it seems to work out fine.

It’s called owning and operating a car.