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I can tell you what the shafts in my golf clubs weigh. I can tell you their loft and lies, which aren't standard, and explain why my irons are a half-inch longer than what you'd buy off the shelf, and why my driver is a half-inch shorter. I could explain why, though my hands are small (not Donald Trump small but about the same size as Jack Nicklaus'), my irons have three wraps of tape under where my right hand sits. I could give you a little lecture on spin effect.

The reason I don't do that here--though I sometimes do it in other venues--is because most of you would be bored out of your skulls by my going on about my custom sticks. It's irrelevant to you if you don't play golf; it's probably irrelevant to you if you do. Most people don't geek out over sports equipment.

But I do. I'm really curious about how things work, and I enjoy taking care of my gear. I'm the same way with guitars. If I had guns, I'd no doubt be the same way about them.

I think it's only an accident that I'm not into guns. I like well-built, precisely tooled things. I was around guns a lot for the first 30 or so years of my life. I've fired handguns and shotguns and, under the supervision of the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff's Department, a fully automatic Uzi sub-machine gun capable of firing 600 rounds a minute.

I could have been sucked in; I could see myself with a gun safe and a couple of nice Italian shotguns, maybe even a brace of Colt M1911s. That I haven't touched a gun in the past quarter century has more to do with my finding other ways to entertain myself than any distaste for the object itself. Like some people say, a gun is a tool with no inherent nobility or shamefulness. I understand why people collect them, why people fire them.

I even understand why some people believe it is important that private citizens have easy access to them.

What bothers me, however, is the inability of some gun owners and advocates to acknowledge the price this country pays to subsidize their habit. While we can argue about exactly what this means and whether certain limits ought to be placed on the kinds of weapons citizens should be able to own and whether the founders could have ever conceived of a time when fully and semi-automatic rifles would give criminals the power to kill dozens in seconds, the fact is American citizens have a constitutional right to arm themselves.

And I've got no problem with that. I don't think the evidence proves that guns are either a deterrent or cause of violent criminality. Guns are obviously more lethal than some other weapons, and some guns are obviously more lethal than other guns, but I don't think guns make people violent. (I do think guns make violent or scared people deadly and suicidal people effective.)

Because I think adults ought to be able to decide things for themselves, and while I might believe--and statistics might support--that we'd all be safer with fewer guns, I don't think it's appropriate to tell you that you shouldn't have a gun. If you think it makes you safer, if you think it might come in handy in the event of a home invasion or a governmental clampdown, fine. You have a right to have a gun.

But with that right ought to come a sober responsibility. And most gun owners, especially those who live in primarily rural states, understand this. I think guns ought to be insured, that we ought to acknowledge that they are inherently dangerous machines that exist primarily to extinguish life. It ought to be very expensive to be careless with a weapon; gun owners should be willing to take extreme measures to prevent their guns from being stolen or misused.

And maybe you shouldn't be able to transfer a gun to a person you've just met in a parking lot. Maybe you ought to have to see something other than his cash before arming a stranger. Maybe 30-round magazines aren't necessary.

What's troubling is the knee-jerk reaction to any suggestion that we have a problem with guns in this country. What's troubling is that a cynical fear-mongering gun lobby has become so powerful that any proposed political or legal response to the slaughter of innocents is immediately met with pre-emptive vitriol by a minority of highly invested, pedantic hobbyists who fancy themselves good guys with guns.

It doesn't really matter whether it was an AR-15 or Sig Sauer MCX that was used in Orlando. And it doesn't really matter if the term "assault rifle" describes a gun's design features rather that its purpose. The fact that some people don't distinguish between fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons doesn't make them morons. The problem here is not that too many Americans are ignorant about guns.

I wish more Americans were ignorant about guns.

I know what kind of mail I'm going to get, so you can save it. I don't care how many times you saved the lives of others and yourself because you had steely courage and a fast draw. I don't find you credible. Maybe if one of you had told me a story about how once having access to a gun came in handy, I might think, "OK, these things happen. There's that side of it." But all of you guys are superheroes? All of you are so calm and collected (and yet so intemperate in your response to what are, after all, only words)? All of you are so brave (and humble)?

All you sheepdogs, with nothing but scorn for us sheep.

Here's the deal. Most gun owners are fine people. Most don't fantasize about shooting people. But some do; gun porn wouldn't exist if there wasn't a market for it. Some people are drawn to guns for murky psychological reasons, for some of the same reasons that some middle-aged men buy exotic sports cars. (And sometimes a Heckler & Koch USP Compact is just a $1,000 conversation piece.) America's fascination with violence may be our real problem, but as a practical matter our liberal gun laws make it relatively easy for the squirrely and the vicious to hurt and kill folks.

And society at large ought not be held hostage to the selfishness of a few people who think they ought to be allowed unfettered access to extraordinarily dangerous ordnance. Because the NRA and arms manufacturers have no incentive in finding common ground, it's time for the real good guys with guns to step up.


Philip Martin is a columnist and critic for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at and read his blog at

Editorial on 06/21/2016

Print Headline: Where are the good guys?


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  • 23cal
    June 21, 2016 at 8:30 a.m.

    Excellent. I'm a gun owner and hunter, but the NRA and it's wild-eyed minions embarrass me.
    You know how Westboro Baptist is anything but Christian? These gun fetishists are anything but "responsible gun owners".

    June 21, 2016 at 9:37 a.m.

    There's a big difference between responsible gun owners and the raging maniacal ammosexuals who are the NRA.

  • Slak
    June 21, 2016 at 9:41 a.m.

    Thanks for the morning's serving of hippie pabulum, Phillip.
    Nice 15 paragraph setup to ease us gentle readers into your final hate fest. Try putting the hate in the middle, next time. The sandwich method helps the BS go down better.
    "Sheep dogs"
    I'm feeling your sheepish scorn, lol
    Go lie down with some lions and tell me how that works for you, lol.

  • BirdDogsRock
    June 21, 2016 at 10:02 a.m.

    Philip, thanks for trying to calmly define the rational middle ground. I am owner of numerous mostly sporting guns, a hunter, target shooter and CCP holder. And I literally have bought a gun with cash from a stranger in a parking lot. The safe I bought to store my guns securely cost more than any three of my guns combined. Yet I have no real problem with your suggestions. I don't think they will be as effective as we would hope (for plenty of practical reasons), but I would support them as an attempt to do something that might help a bit around the edges. Meanwhile, motive and mental health are more at the heart of the matter.

  • MaxCady
    June 21, 2016 at 10:07 a.m.

    Phil, I'm here to tell you, it ain't the sticks!

  • bork
    June 21, 2016 at 10:12 a.m.

    Emax, you are absolutely right. Indians, not arrows. And now that I'm losing swing speed at a depressingly rapid rate I think I might be as well served by a six hybrid and a ball retriever than the 12.5 degree three metal with the Oban Devotion 85 x. Yet I still dream.

  • Delta123
    June 21, 2016 at 10:49 a.m.

    While I don't agree with the NRA on all counts I think I understand on some level the approach that they take. Like any other lobbying group (take your pick from far left to far right) they see correctly how rights can be incrementally chipped away. The camel getting its nose under the flap of the tent as they say. For instance, pro-abortion groups see ANY limits that are put on abortion "rights" as unconstitutional and in violation of Roe v Wade and therefore they stand foursquare against ANY legislation to restrict abortion on demand. Its all a matter of perspective.

  • WhododueDiligence
    June 21, 2016 at 11:36 a.m.

    "It ain't the sticks."
    I once thought it had to be the sticks and they needed a thorough cleaning in the toilet but even that didn't help much. My wife, who sometimes can shoot lights out with sticks, expressed doubt but approved on the grounds that anything's worth a try.
    And speaking of six hybrids, I now have one of those! That is quite pathetic but sometimes it performs magic, especially when it's out in the rough with the chiggers. Scoff all you want, but it has a nice feel and sometimes I get a feeling it could be the stick!

  • DontDrinkDatKoolAid
    June 21, 2016 at 3:10 p.m.

    Phil, it would be best if you stuck to ingratiating yourself into parades.

    June 21, 2016 at 4:21 p.m.

    You're wrong.
    Phil is a treasure; one of the best things about the DoG.