Me and a Gun

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Begala

Why most gun owners support tougher controls.

A hunting buddy of mine emailed me from the waiting room of his doctor's office in Columbus, Ga., a few days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was cringing in embarrassment as an old redneck spewed racially divisive rhetoric in front of African-American patients. Then my friend's embarrassment turned to astonishment as that same redneck (almost certainly a gun owner, given the region and his demographic profile) said, "I never cared much for Obama, but that speech he gave about those little kids--I give him an A for that. He's gonna try and get more gun control, and I hope he gets it."

News flash: most gun owners support common-sense gun-safety laws. I should know; I'm one of them. I own so many shotguns and rifles it's a veritable arsenal. I used to hunt with my father and grandfather as a boy, and now I love taking my sons hunting with their grandfather and uncle. When I hear the words "gun culture," the first image that comes to mind is not a crazed loner. I think of cold, crisp mornings riding a horse out into a Georgia field, feeling the thrill as an English Pointer snaps to attention at the scent of a bird. Or long hours sitting in a Texas deer stand with one of my sons, waiting, wondering if a big buck will arrive before the dying of the light. I taught each of my boys about the birds and the bees in a deer stand. Taught them how to respect God's creation, honor the wild things we harvest, and thank the Creator humbly for our place in the food chain and the ultimate free-range, organic meal.

Before the slaughter in Aurora, Colo.--and long before Sandy Hook--a survey of gun owners found that nearly 9 out of 10 of us support criminal-background checks of anyone who seeks to buy a gun. (Currently only in-store purchasers are checked; there's a loophole for gun shows.) Eight in 10 gun owners support background checks for employees of gun sellers, 7 in 10 support banning gun sales to anyone under 21, and more than 6 in 10 would prohibit violent offenders from obtaining a concealed-handgun permit.

We should enact all those common-sense gun-safety laws and more. We should reinstate the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons, like the AR-15 used in both Aurora and Sandy Hook. And I don't know a single hunter who supports the legal purchase of 30-round clips. I have hunted for decades, and have rarely gotten off even a third shot at a deer, much less an 11th or a 29th. Those massive ammo clips are useless for target practice, and pointless for personal protection. If you can't protect your home with three shots, you're not going to be able to do it with 30. Their only purpose: to abet mass killing. They must be banned.

Like so many gun owners, I am fanatical about safety. …