Here's something you don't read from a Madison liberal every day: I bought a new gun.
With the gun deer season fast approaching -- the traditional nine-day hunt begins on Saturday morning -- I decided it was time to replace my old semi-automatic rifle with a new bolt action model.
Part of the reason for doing that was practical. The old Remington model has a design flaw that will lead it to jam eventually, and I was starting to see the first inklings of that problem.
But part of it was philosophical. I don't hate all guns, but I don't love them all either. I feel pretty strongly that there is no place in our society for handguns or for semi-automatic weapons of any kind. It is those two styles of weapon that have done the most damage in our society. Semi-automatics are the weapons of choice for mass murderers, like the one who killed two-dozen kids and teachers in Connecticut almost a year ago. And handguns give easy access to deadly force to street thugs and despondent people who find in them a way that is all too efficient to take their own lives.
Whatever legitimate joy handguns and semi-automatic weapons give to those who use them in firing ranges or simply for collecting, that doesn't nearly justify the tremendous damage they do. In my view, they should be banned altogether.
So, my problem with my semi-automatic deer rifle was that it was a little hypocritical of me to own one. I say "a little," because in truth my five round semi-automatic was not that much different from the bolt action I replaced it with. Just to clarify, there are essentially three kinds of firearms. Automatic weapons are like machine guns. They keep firing as long as you hold the trigger. They already are illegal. Semi-automatics automatically load a new round into the chamber but you still have to pull the trigger each time you fire. And, finally, conventional weapons require the shooter to reload each time through some mechanism, which in the case of my new rifle means pulling back and pushing forward a bolt.
But there are different kinds of semi-automatics. The one I had carried only five rounds. The real damage is done by guns that hold massive clips of many rounds with hair triggers that make them for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from fully automatic machine guns. These should be banned for sure, but the reason I'm for banning all semi-automatics, even my relatively benign one, is that it is simple. We can get tied up in all kinds of esoteric discussions about what is and what is not an "assault rifle," for example. But it's easy to define a semi-automatic as any gun that automatically feeds a new round into the chamber without an action by the shooter.
For the purposes of dispatching a deer and taking home some venison, the Remington 700 30.06 bolt action rifle is all I need. It wouldn't work nearly as well for mass murder. And that's my point. It's all anyone needs for any legitimate purpose worth caring about. It's the kind of gun that any self-respecting liberal Madisonian should own.