My review of “Guns” by Stephen King

17284577Such is the pitiful state of political discourse in our country that this short but powerful essay by noted author Stephen King will go unread by a significant segment of the population.

Unread? More like shunned.

Quite the opposite of some of the comments I’ve seen, in Guns King does not advocate repealing the Second Amendment. He also does not advocate the confiscation of weapons. The owner of multiple handguns himself, King makes a powerful, lucid argument for some very sensible steps to try — try — to curb the rising toll of gun violence in America:

1. Strict and universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods; 2. ban magazines holding more than ten rounds; and 3. eliminate assault weapons.

These steps are imminently reasonable and should sound familiar as they were also proposed by President Obama and a great number of people I’ve talked to who are concerned about gun violence.

Gun advocates and the National Rifle Association have attacked these ideas, a knee-jerk reaction cloaked in phrases calling for the protection of every American’s rights and concern about the all-powerful government consolidating its power over a potentially helpless population.

To pull directly from King (and with apologies as I rarely use such language in this forum): Bullshit.

No one wants to take your guns away, no one wants to keep you from protecting your home and family, no one wants to curb your rights. But if you are concerned about something in your background raising a red flag about your capacity to own a weapon, or feel a semi-automatic assault weapon is the correct choice for hunting, or that a thirty-round clip is what you need to stop an intruder in your home — you’re not being honest with yourself or anyone else when you add your voice to the argument.

King demolishes the NRA’s oft-purported idea that a “culture of violence” is more to blame for gun violence than easy access to weapons and accessories designed with the sole purpose of killing people. Will the three proposals above eliminate mass shootings? Of course not, and anyone who claims they will is also being dishonest. Will they make it more difficult for a crazed person to enact? I think so, and if one, two, a dozen or a two dozen lives are saved as a result, that makes it worth doing.

Contrary to several comments I’ve seen, in Guns King addresses directly the novella he wrote, Rage, which many school shooters have cited as being an influence in their actions. King pulled Rage from the shelves as a result, but like the millions of guns already in circulation there are still plenty of copies out there (I own it). King points out that reading Rage was one step on the path these crazed individuals took to their “event,” but it wasn’t the only step. Many were mentally ill, bullied or abused.

 “I didn’t pull Rage from publication because the law demanded it; I was protected under the First Amendment, and the law couldn’t demand it. I pulled it because in my judgment it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do. Assault weapons will remain readily available to crazy people until the powerful pro-gun forces in this country decide to do a similar turnaround. They must accept responsibility, recognizing that responsibility is not the same as culpability.”

— King, Stephen (2013-01-25). Guns (Kindle Single) (Kindle Locations 328-332). Philtrum Press. Kindle Edition.

As I state above, the shame of it all is that many people will simply not even bother to read Guns. Like the insightful and compelling book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow, too many will shun Guns as “liberal” propaganda and ignore the fact that common sense and facts do not follow a political party or philosophy.

Yes, money from the sales of Guns goes to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and I suppose for many even $0.99 is too much to support an organization dedicated to keeping Americans “safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities” by enacting sensible gun control laws. I would argue that you can’t buy a gallon of milk or a soda from most vending machines for less than a dollar these days, but for that amount you can get a thought-provoking essay that you can read in less than an hour and think about, ponder, for a long, long time.

Remember when we took the time to learn the other side of a complex argument and considered carefully the opinions, fears and hopes of others? If you don’t (and most days I can’t), take a first step toward reclaiming democracy by reading Guns.


4 responses to “My review of “Guns” by Stephen King

  1. Thanks for sharing, Scott. I have mixed feelings about the whole gun control issue, but I unlike some I have had personal conversations with have an open mind about it. Both sides make valid points, but the bottom line is common sense. While I personally don’t think guns themselves are the root of the problem, I also agree that certain guns don’t need to be in the hands of civilians, particularly those with high-capacity magazines. At the very least they should be very difficult to get and very expensive. However, I personally know a few people who legally own semi-automatic assault weapons who use them on the shooting ranges for sport. In every case, they also served in the military and are trained how to use them safely and responsibly. It’s their right to own them and I certainly don’t judge them, particularly because of their service in the military; but for those who want to purchase assault rifles just because they think it would be cool to have them, I just shake my head.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by the senseless acts of violence in recent months and I wish the media would stop giving these maniacs so much publicity, which is a whole other issue altogether.

    God bless!


    • Thanks Sharky, for the comment. I grew up around people who owned guns and enjoy shooting them on a range … I even won an Expert Pistol Shot ribbon in the Navy. All that said, I will not own a gun or allow any in my house. If you pass a rigid screening and want to own a low-capacity firearm, that’s fine by me. As I said, these 3 measures will not eliminate gun violence, but if they save the lives of one, two or ten people, I think that’s worth the effort.

      For higher capacity weapons or collectors pieces already in circulation, I’d like to see a special license, perhaps random “bring it in to police station” inspections, something that does not make it impossible for the responsible owner to enjoy them, but at the same time providing some measure of heightened awareness and control.

      I would also like to see technology used in some way to lower the chance of the “wrong” person getting a weapon. I look at smartphones, iPad and other tablets, HD TVs, etc., and think there must be a way to biometrically tie a weapon to its owner. If we had that, the Sandy Hook shooter would not have been able to use his mother’s guns. Would he still have rampaged at the school? Maybe, but the death toll likely would be less as the (unarmed) school staff would have a more even chance.

  2. I read Guns as soon as I saw it available on my Kindle. It was a fantastic essay and I think everyone should read it.

    A point that King didn’t touch on that I believe in is the culture of fear this country lives on. Michael Moore talks about it in Bowling for Columbine. Although Moore can spin things way out of context in many cases, this is one I agree with him on.

    Something else I have never seen brought up. People always recite the cliche, if we outlaw guns (which no one is trying to do by the way) only outlaws will have guns. No one seems to mention the mass shootings at schools and malls always seem to take place using legally obtained guns. I think if those guns were not able to be obtained legally these shooter most likely would not have made the effort to get them through illegal channels thus saving lives. I also agree with King’s point, if the shooters had low capacity clips there would have been more opportunity to take him down and possibly save more lives.

    Yes, inner city gangs and hardened criminals on the streets will still have these guns, but that is another issue altogether.

    Thanks for your write up.

    • Thanks Bill for your comments. I agree with you, anyone on the gun control side who believes these 3 measures will “eliminate” gun violence are dreaming. As King and others pointed out, the barn door is standing wide open and the horses are nowhere to be seen. But in a similar vein, anyone on the gun advocacy side who resorts to tired platitudes like “if we outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns” is not giving serious consideration to the issue. There will still be gun violence, along with other kinds of violence, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Scott

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