CARLTON FLETCHER: I haven't changed, it's the gun laws that have

OPINION: Georgia Legislature makes sure weapons are handy anywhere

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Handguns are made for killin’, Ain’t good for nothin’ else. … So why don’t we dump ‘em, people, To the bottom of the sea? Before some fool come around here, want to shoot either you or me.

— Lynyrd Skynyrd

People who know me as more than some yahoo who writes stuff for the paper, especially people who knew me growing up, often ask me about “changes” they’ve noted in me based on said stuff they’ve read in the paper.

One of the things that’s frequently mentioned is my apparent disdain for guns and Georgia legislators’ attempts to assure gun owners that they can strap on their weapons anywhere they by-god please and not worry about the sissified liberals who would try and take away our God-given right — “And thy brethren shall know thee by the caliber of thy weapon” — to strap that weapon on anytime, anywhere for protection against the heathens hiding around every corner.

One long-ago acquaintance said to me the other day, “Dude — He’s always called everyone dude … we knew each other from the hippy days of the late ’60s and early ’70s — growing up, you always thought hunting season was a national holiday. About the only thing you were more excited about than your shotgun and going dove hunting was baseball and football seasons.”

And he’s right. I grew up around guns and got my first one (a single-shot 410) when I was about 10 or so. Rifles, shotguns and pistols were as much a normal part of my upbringing as fishing poles and barber shops and toting bricks and Wednesday-evening prayer meeting services at Pinetta Baptist.

I still appreciate the fact that there are any number of people who legitimately buy these types of firearms for hunting — and I mean the process of shooting animals for food, not slaughtering them just for the trophies to hang on the wall — for recreational shooting, as a hobby and for protection of their home turf.

It’s these fanatics who insist they need a .357 on their hip when they run to the grocery store or watch their kids play at the elementary school auditorium or while they’re passing the collection plate at church services that frighten me. They’re the ones who see a gang member behind every tree, who insist anyone with darker skin and a trace of an accent is a potential terrorist sent here to help in the overthrow of our democracy, who know — from listening to Rush Limbaugh and the like — that our government is plotting a nefarious takeover that will derive of us of all our rights and include the forceful collection of our guns.

They’re the ones who view the anguish of family members of gun violence victims — even the sickening and cowardly attack of 6- and 7-year-old babies — and proclaim these attacks could have been prevented if school administrators or teachers or even the 6- and 7-year-olds had had weapons of their own. Never mind the fact that the deranged animals who are responsible for such heinous acts were able to do so because gun laws in this country are laughably lax.

It would be easier to come to grips with our country’s penchant for gun violence that is a constant part of the never-ending news cycle if there was some notion that the violence was aberrant behavior that grew from either mental illness or some logical stimulus. But because guns are so readily available, these weapons have become part of the first response to any slight, real or imagined. Maybe it’s our wilderness and pioneering background, our melting-pot origins that brought every nationality of people together in an experiment of coexistence.

But Americans are, in general, violent by nature. In the most civilized and mechanized country in the history of the world, we are quick to lash out in anger. We’ll worry about the consequences when we have to. Unless we have absolutely no money to pay a lawyer, we can use insanity, the mistreatment of our ancestors, conspiracy theories, pre-emptive self-defense, or any other creative nonsense to justify our use of deadly force.

Or, if we live in a state like Florida, we can use the good old stand-your-ground, show-‘em-who’s-boss, you-don’t-belong-here defense and not only walk away, we can literally get away with murder.

Oh, wait, we do live in a state like Florida, except our legislature is hell-bent on out-Florida-ing Florida.

So, dude, no I haven’t really changed my views on guns all that much. I don’t believe there’s any place for semi- or automatic weapons outside a war zone, and I believe the actual right to own a weapon should be granted only to those who can show they are a) capable of owning a weapon without using it as an intimidator or a persuader and b) are intelligent enough to keep their weapons out of the reach of children.

But I’m a realist. I live in Georgia, and I have a working knowledge of the people who are making the laws here. So praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. Be thankful we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.