Our nation’s gun laws make about as much sense as the phrase "Curvy fit skinny jeans."
I shared this sentiment with a friend from my rural hometown the other day who seemed surprised when I told him I didn’t own a gun.
"You’ve forgotten where you grew up," he said. "Here if you get pulled and the cop asks if you have a gun in the car and you say "No," he’ll say, "Wait right here, hon, I’ll go get you one."
This is, of course, an exaggeration. At least I think it is. In the rural South, one can never be entirely sure.
Much is made these days of rural v. urban. Cities skew blue politically, rural areas are almost always solidly red. In my home county, pro-NRA Donald Trump held a fiery rally within shoutin’ distance of my kinfolks’ hog houses and it was hard to tell exactly who was producing more mephitic fumes.
Rural folks own guns. I grew up with guns stashed in the backs of closets right beside the ugly bridesmaids’ dresses I’ll never wear again.
I’m not against hunting, if you eat what you kill. The trophy stuff I don’t get at all. And I don’t care if you own a properly permitted gun for protection as long as you keep it safely locked up away from the chirren.
What I despise is NRA-backed legislation to deregulate gun silencers (these make it exponentially harder for police to locate shooters); federally mandated concealed carry (lax gun law states like Florida shouldn’t have reciprocity with stronger concealed carry states like Oregon and, again, this makes the cops’ job much more difficult); and ending gun-free school zones as supported by Trump. That makes sense if you got elected with all that gun lobby money. Not so much if you’re in kindergarten trying to fingerpaint without an assassin roaming the hallways.
As we wearily try to make sense of the latest mass shooting, and balance that with gun owners who are sensible, safe and sane—the vast majority, I like to think—we need to move beyond the "thoughts and prayers" phase and dig down to the "I’m committed to doing everything in my power to make our country safer by supporting gun-sense legislation."
Not long ago, a prankster enrolled me in the NRA and now I get the monthly magazine, which is fascinating, if unsettling, reading. The prankster would probably hate that reading it has only cemented my belief that the only thing that sends some members of Congress diving under their desks and shivering in fear is the thought of losing all that gun money that keeps them in office.
We have to think before we spew tired talking points. We have to get past the "laws won’t help because criminals will always get guns."
That’s a cop out. A parking lot strewn with dead bodies in Las Vegas, an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., a college campus in Blacksburg, Va., a nightclub in Orlando…all demand we do more.
Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.