The old sodbuster was sitting in the booth next to The Boy
and I at Denny’s last night. He was alone, and I had him pegged as a widower.
It looked like the seat across from him was still occupied in his mind. It made
me sad, but it had been a sad day.
After we ordered, he started up a conversation—this happens
a lot when we’re out in public and The Boy is in his martial arts uniform.
After a couple minutes of friendly chit-chat, he shakes his
head and asks me what the hell about the shootings in Connecticut.
I pause to choose my words carefully, then proceed to say
something about guns. His hackles go up and the mood shifts to adversarial just that
quick. He assures me the problem is not
And there we were. A microcosm of the gun debate in America;
an old Idaho farmer and a hippie from California. Obviously, rapprochement would be impossible from this point and we would
part with hard feelings, convinced the other one was an irredeemable asshole.
But like I said, it was already a sad day, and I didn’t want
to throw down with this lonely old dude sitting alone at a four-top in a greasy spoon in the middle of
Nowhere. So I tried something different.
I told him that I thought the Second Amendment was just fine
as it is—a bit of a stretch, but compromise often requires some
truth-bending—and that people shouldn’t be so quick to mess with the
And suddenly I was at least a semi-reasonable guy to this fellow again. He agreed heartily with my assessment of the sanctity of the
U.S. Constitution. Then he spoke about guns in American tradition and hunting
and all that good stuff. I nodded, my face a case study in compassionate
After agreeing with him, I said something like, “But I don’t
see why someone would need an AK47 and a hundred-round clip for hunting. Do you? For
one thing it wouldn’t be sporting, for another you wouldn’t be able
to eat the meat!”
After we shared a good chuckle at that image (KA-BLOOOEY!
Carnage everywhere—haw haw haw) he took a moment to think, then agreed with me.
Then we agreed that kind of automatic weaponry was probably really overkill for
home protection, too.
I said, “We ought to leave the Constitution alone and pass
some laws outlawing weapons that should only be used in warfare.” This guy must
have seen some combat, he was so quick to agree. He probably hadn’t thought of
it in those terms before.
Then he shook his head and said that even if such laws were
passed and enforced, essentially the genie was out of the bottle. These guns
were everywhere already.
I agreed and added, “We can’t solve today’s problem right
away, but maybe we can begin to solve tomorrow’s problem right away.”
I went on. “The kind of weapons we’re talking about are
sophisticated, precision machines, you can’t just crank ’em open and oil ’em up
and they’re good to go. If new sales of these guns and ammo packages stop,
after a couple generations the ones in circulation will start breaking down,
the parts to fix them will be black market and crazy expensive and the people
with expertise will also be few and far between and priced out of the average
spree-killer’s ‘revenge’ budget. Time will finish what legislation begins.”
That made sense to him. Preserve his right to keep and bear
arms, but do what we could to get and keep urban warfare ordnance off of the
streets, even if it doesn’t happen until some far-flung, optimistic future.
And right there, in a Dennys in Meridian, Idaho,
bi-partisan, compromise consensus was reached on one of the hottest-button
issues of the day between two parties who started out with diametrically
opposing views… until they started talking to each other.