Garry Wills is one of the smartest people and best writers in the country. He’s spent a great deal of time pondering the role of guns in American culture. He nails it in this piece for the New York Review Of Books:
“Gun rights,” as used by devotees of an absolutist Second Amendment, means their right to own guns. But as used in real American life these days (or real American deaths), it means the rights of guns. Guns themselves possess even more rights than persons do.
Guns’ exemption from common-sense legislation guarantees them not only rights, but also rites. Guns are sacred objects. They should not even be insulted, which is blasphemy. They are “the American way.” They are more than things, more even than persons. They are an unstoppable force, a god. They are, indeed, Our Moloch.
Those are the first and last paragraphs in Wills’ recent piece, The Rights Of Gun. How right is he? Totally. The NRA has become a cult whose second amendment absolutism verges on idolatry. A good example is the fetish some gun worshipers have for strapping on their weapons to go shopping. Who the hell needs a long gun whilst thumping melons at Wal-Mart? Mercifully, they’ve banned such performative rituals and other retailers have followed suit.
I know many gun owners; none of whom feels the need to strut about in public with their weapons. Some hunt, others like to target shoot but they all lock their guns up. OTOH, at an estranged friend’s house, I once sat on the couch and felt something beneath me: a package of bullets. I think he was just a rotten housekeeper but I was not amused.
I’ve never owned a gun. They were verboten in my house. My father was a veteran but he disliked guns. Since he was an interpreter, I doubt if he ever shot anyone but he knew what pistols are for: to kill people. And rifles are for hunting, not grocery shopping. Assault weapons are for the military, not civilians.
I admit to being mystified by the religious fervor exuded by the more extreme gun worshipers. Perhaps it’s a result of having the man who played Moses, Charlton Heston, as NRA president for five years. Whatever it is, it’s creepy and the country is overdue for some sensible gun control measures. It’s time for people to have rights, not guns.