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Special.. . the driver who had irritated her one year after her husband had been arrested for shooting another motorist in a highway dispute? Shootouts between drivers are becoming so commonplace that someday we will be able to look upon them nonchalantly as a kind of annual twenty-one-thousand-gun salute to the auto industry. And what more beautiful American family scene than this, coming to us via the Charleston Gazette: A twenty-three-year-old West Virginia man painstakingly shows his two-year-old son how to hold the .22-caliber pistol and how to pull the trigger “Now, son, pull!” and “deputies reported Mrs. V as saying she heard the crack of the pistol and turned around to find her husband had been shot.” Well, yes, dead in fact. The little rascal. What speaks more eloquently of rootless America than the Californian who expressed his irritation toward his Glendale landlady by shooting her with a six-foot-long German antitank weapon? Seeing a parked motorist discard a crumpled cigaret package on his front lawn, a Washington, D.C., suburbanite picked up the rifle he always kept handy at the front door and shot him dead. What other nation’s environmental movement could inspire such zeal? Where but in this marvelous showplace of capitalism would a political assassin plan to say with wry gladiatorial intimacy, as Arthur Bremer tells us he planned to remark to George Wallace after filling him with .38 slugs, “A penny for your thoughts”? Where but in this sprawling land, filled with wonderful, recalcitrant misfits who fled other countries seeking the wide-open spaces of anarchy, would you find twenty thousand state and local gun-control laws that are mostly ignored with impunity? Where but in America, with its reverence for education, would a college youth who shotgunned to death a newsboy, without cause, be punished only be being required to write a theme on “The Reverence of Life” and to serve a summer jail term that would end in time to allow him to start the fall semester? Indeed, we hold education so dear that we are ready to fight for it from a very early age; at least that is one interpretation that can be put on the recent shakedown of Baltimore students that yielded one hundred twenty-five handguns, and the casual and incomplete shakedown in Los Angeles schools that yielded forty guns in one month alone. \(Yes, the L.A. kids are not afraid to use them, as was proved at the homecoming parade at Jefferson High School that left five students, including the boy was killed and a 14-year old girl wounded early today when caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between two youths in a corridor of a Richmond high school.” In one month San Francisco high schools expelled four students, three of them girls, for carrying guns. Armed patrols for school hallways is a growth industry. In some of the livelier school jurisdictions, teachers and principals consider a handgun to be as much a part of their equipment as nineteenth-century teachers considered the hickory stick. Given the prevailing atmosphere, nobody in Washington seemed to think it very queer that Secretary of Labor Peter Brennan got deputized as a U.S. marshal so that the pearl-handled revolver that had been his constant companion for years when he was living in New York could be legally carried into any state, or that it was odd for him to hire five armed guards his office. After all, a bureaucrat can’t be too careful. Only an American President would as Richard Nixon on the day he announced his opposition to new controls on the sale of handguns call for federal legislation to provide $50,000 to the family of any policeman slain in the line of duty \(about six hundred having been slain, by We have flattered ourselves in pretending that the gun-control debate in this country is based on philosophical differences. We like to think that we hang on to our guns and buy more, and then more, because of our “frontier heritage” or because, as one Texas historian wrote for a government publication, “a boy still becomes a man, usually on his birthday or at Christmas, gun ownership he is following a tradition that goes back to John Smith and Jamestown and has persisted ever since.” Or we like to talk about how, by God, nobody’s going to come into our homes and rape our wives. Such convictions do have a profound influence on the debate, of course, but they are not the biggest obstacle to establishing reasonable gun controls. The individual emotions wrapped up in gun-ownership could be dissipated. Plinking at tin cans can get extremely boring. Waiting for the burglar who never arrives will ultimately make any man feel foolish. Owning a gun just because Daddy owned one is not the most persuasive argument in an increasingly sophisticated society. Arming for bear in a city that supports only rats and mice would strike most people as nonsensical. The tradition that was made at Jamestown can be unmade, in time, in New York City. But none of these changes will happen none can happen because of one insurmountable hurdle: the money in guns and ammunition and all the concomitant services and auxiliary equipment. \(for man is enslaved by a dread dizziz and the sooner it’s over the sooner to The firearms economy is almost impossible to escape. Even the most conscientious reformers occasionally trip over one of its insidious roet.s. In the same issue of The New York Times Magazine that carried an article deploring the existence of the inexpensive handgun called the Saturday Night Special there was, oops, a two-page Sabena airlines advertisement detailing “Seven reasons to start your trip in beautiful Belgium,” Reasons Number 2 being “. . . firearms. All beautiful bargains” which is to say, transatlantic Saturday Night Specials. It’s a very big business, big enough to prevent the rest of us from coming to terms with each other. Gun owners spend an estimated $2 billion a year, at the minimum, on this business quite enough money to keep Congress and all state legislatures apprised of the desires of the gun and ammunition manufacturers, retail gun dealers, sports-clothes manufacturers, gun-magazine publishers, antique-gun dealers, hunting-resort owners, and “conservation” groups who get a kickback from ammunition sales. At bottom, it isn’t tradition but trade that controls this issue. THERE’S a bright side to it. The trade does have a lilt. Madison Avenue responds with all its heart: a military surplus submachine gun offered for sale as “The Perfect Father’s Day Gift”; an imported Persian Mauser Carbine peddled with a wink and the guarantee, “The Shah himself test-fired each gun”; a Beretta automatic pistol recommended to suburbanites of Peoria and Pasadena as “the choice of soldiers of fortune everywhere.” In the good old pre-1968 Gun Control Act days, when only money stood between the citizen and his own * From E. E. Cummings, “XII,” in One by One January 18, 1974 3