We have guns in my house. This does not make us evil — or even all that rare.
It's tough to get good data on gun ownership. It's tough to get data on anything having to do with guns, given the powerful gun lobby. But the New England Journal of Medicine recently estimated that roughly a third of American households have guns. We're not in the majority, but we're certainly not unusual, either.
After the Newtown shootings, the website Daily Beast asked its readers to answer the question: Why We Own (Or Don't Own) Guns. The answers are as varied as you might imagine. One reason from Texas for owning a gun? Small penis size, but that one might have been a ringer. One reason for not owning a gun, from someone in Arizona? Guns are scary.
We do not own guns because we believe someone is waiting to break in, or that we would be skilled enough to shoot them if they did. We also do not own guns because we believe we might have to defend ourselves against a government agent, foreign or domestic.
We own guns mostly because of our respective family histories. Our fathers used guns in their jobs. One was a police officer, the other a soldier. Our guns are safely secured, and until last December, I did not think about them much.
That has changed, of course. Now, it's hard not to think about guns. But if you don't own or like guns, rest assured that the bloated money-machine National Rifle Association does not speak for most American gun owners.
The vast majority of gun owners embrace the Second Amendment, but they also embrace the right of citizens to not be harassed or harmed by guns. Those gun owners accept there may soon be more stringent regulations that stretch from ownership to storage and size.
In fact, that New England Journal of Medicine survey found not much difference between gun-owners and nonowners in their desire to see more gun legislation, including background checks and greater oversight of gun dealers, but you wouldn't know that from the public debate.
We live in strange times, and our attention is easily distracted. While all this is going on, legislators in Washington state are considering increasing the waiting period for couples divorcing in that state from 90 days to a year. By comparison, according to the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Washington state has no waiting period for someone who wants to buy a firearm, so long as that person doesn't have any outstanding warrants. The state does allow five days to complete a background check.
Connecticut's waiting period for divorce is 90 days, what lawyers sometimes call a “cooling-off period.” In Connecticut, you can go to a private seller, at which point you would wait longer for a three-minute egg than you would to get your hands on an AR-15-style rifle.
Last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy released what he called common sense gun safety reforms. Among other measures, he called for universal background checks, strengthening the assault weapons ban and banning large-capacity magazines.
I would have been comfortable if he'd gone further. We have guns in my house mostly because of family tradition, but that tradition includes a sense of citizenship and a desire for communal health. We are our better selves when we pay attention to that part of our past.
Craig R. Whitney, a former editor at The New York Times, will discuss his book, “Living With Guns: A Liberal's Case for the 2nd Amendment,” at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford.
Susan Campbell is an award-winning author of “Dating Jesus” and former columnist at the Hartford Courant. Her new biography, “Tempest-Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker,” is coming soon.