Obama, the NRA and gun hysteria

by Bill Kunkle

Post-election sales of weapons and ammunition have increased all over this great land with gun-righters stockpiling against what they believe is the coming communist/socialist surge of legislation enacted by President-elect Barack Obama. The National Rifle Association (NRA), which pumped $15 million into defeating Obama's bid for the White House, provided the oomph for this over-the-top baseless sense of fear.

Times have changed. In the Wild West, which included West River South Dakota, guns were common; law enforcement officers were few and far away and nobody needed the NRA to beat the drums. A hundred years ago, hunting was never looked on as a sport or a recreation - it was a necessity. Many used black powder rifles. A used 1894 Winchester could be bought for $12. I shot rabbits and pheasants for the table with a Stevens .22.

While we are hearing a lot of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth over this upstart, half-Caucasian hoopster from Honolulu by those who have been O'Reilly'd and Limbaugh'd out, I suggest to stay calm. They, and the NRA, have distorted Obama's position on gun control beyond recognition. If the past eight years have taught us anything, it's that facts don't mean a thing. It's a fact that more than 30,000 people are shot to death, accidentally or on purpose, each year in this country. And it is a fact that all hunters and marksmen out there raised around guns and taught to respect them as the killing machines they are, will keep their guns.

Neal Petersen of Philip holds a federal firearms license and has been in the gun business for 20 years. He has not seen an increase in weapon or ammunition sales here, but said his supply company in Rapid City has. He has heard "lots of rumors" that President-elect Obama would increase taxes on hand guns and ammo. But rumors often have no basis in fact. We agreed that Philip and Haakon County have dedicated law enforcement that is well supported by taxpayers.

People in Haakon County are respectable, honest and intelligent and well protected, having little use for military-type assault weapons. And that is not a rumor.

But that is not true everywhere. In Eugene, Oregon, there have been 20 bank robberies since September and home burglaries and invation every day. Ninteen hundred people live on the street and some die there. Unfortunately, the police there are not adequately equipped or supported to do their job. So things are different, depending on where you live. Many people feel the need to protect themselves and others from being harmed by predatory animals.

Maybe there is another reason why guns and ammo are flying off dealers' shelves. To listen to the television ads, the nation's biggest problem is erectile dysfunction. Some men may feel bigger and stronger owning a powerful gun and not need the expensive medication.

The real reason is maybe we, as a nation, are just addicted to guns. It is a pleasure to just see how well they are made and to dream of John Wayne or Dirty Harry. It's satisfying, sexy and some of my best friends own guns.

But don't blame it on Obama. Let's adopt an attitude of relaxed attention and let the new guy show us what he can do.