Vital Signs

Gun Sense and Sensibility

When Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated 30 years ago with a cheap imported handgun, I was among the many Americans who believed that America's "gun culture" was out of control. To me, it seemed obvious that all guns should be banned. At the least, a psychiatric test ought to be required for anybody who wanted to own a gun. Yet 30 years after a gunman deprived America of the chance to elect Robert Kennedy instead of the criminal Richard Nixon, I am writing my first gun rights column for Chronicles. And I feel especially comfortable writing about gun rights in "a magazine of American culture" because I've come to believe that gun ownership represents some of the very best of American culture. How did I get here from there?

In the coming months, I'll discuss not only the practical importance of firearms ownership—such as the public safety benefits of guns in the right hands—but I'll also examine the cultural aspects of guns in America: why some people love guns, and why others loathe them.

Regarding the latter group, some people believe, including many of the supporters of Sarah Brady's Handgun Control, Inc., that the use of force by anyone who is not a government employee is immoral. As Mrs. Brady states, "To me, the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes." James Brady agrees: asked by Parade magazine if private possession...

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