I do not own a gun.
I wish more Americans could say the same, because our culture has become far too coarse and violent.
Guns are at the heart of the problem, a defining characteristic of America’s global image as a developed nation still stuck in the Wild West.
I am not an anti-gun extremist who wants to shred the Second Amendment, round up all the weapons and call it a great day.
That will never happen, nor should it.
I come from a family of gun owners. My dad taught me how to shoot when I was a boy growing up in rural East Texas, where you were an oddball if you didn’t own one.
And I’ve already begun teaching my two youngest children respect for guns by showing them how to properly handle and shoot BB and pellet guns. When they get older, I might even take them to a shooting range where they can learn how to properly handle a more potent weapon.
My youngest son, who likes to take his Daisy rifles out to the country to shoot at tin cans and fence posts, has asked me many times why I don’t own a “real” gun. I don’t tell him that guns are evil, because they aren’t.
My message, hopefully, is honest. Guns serve many purposes. They are used for sport. They are used for self-defense. And, to a lesser extent, they are used for survival by those who still live off the land, as my father and his father once did.
But at some point during my adolescence, I discovered that I was not cut from the same cloth as my dad and my older brothers, who could nail a deer or a squirrel from great distance. I didn’t like killing furry creatures.
So when my father died a quarter-century ago, I politely declined to take any of the guns he’d kept for hunting.
No need for them in the big city, I told Mom.
I can appreciate the Founding Fathers’ well-intended if antiquated idea about maintaining a well-armed militia ready to ward off the evil encroachment of a rapacious empire, foreign or domestic.
Guns didn’t start the Civil War, World War I or WWII.
Guns didn’t march themselves to Sandy Hook Elementary School, to a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., to a nightclub in Orlando or to a hotel in Las Vegas.
It is we humans who anoint them with special powers, who test them wisely or turn them into wicked instruments.
Even if I could wave a magic wand, I would not get rid of the whole lot.
I would take aim at the weapons that are designed to slaughter, and I would set my sights on those folks who, like the Las Vegas shooter, amass arsenals far beyond what anyone could reasonably justify.
Seriously, who needs 49 guns?
Unless you’re a certifiable gun collector, shouldn’t that wave a red flag that just might warrant an occasional knock on the door from the feds?
And can’t we agree that assault weapons — you know, the guns capable of mowing down a crowd of people in minutes — do not belong in the hands of everyday people? Yes, fully automatic weapons technically are no longer legal — unless they were made before 1986.
Those are grandfathered. And in a testament to the brute strength of the gun lobby, there are several more loopholes that allow them to stay in circulation.
According to VOX, which cites federal data, there are more than 630,000 of these machine guns out there.
These weapons don’t just speak to those who are waiting for trouble — in the sense of a well-armed militia.
They scream to those who are looking for trouble and a way to carry it out. They are meant for war, for annihilation, not as staples of a civilized culture.
But again, they are just a small part of the problem. America is the undisputed gun capital of the developed world.
We boast less than 5 percent of the world’s population but more than 40 percent of all civilian-owned guns, according to VOX. We own more guns than the next top four — you can almost count the fifth nation, too — countries combined. To use a food analogy, we have become a fast-gun culture: a massive pile of guns waiting to feed a culture of violence.
We flex our ferocity in public with open carry laws. Just more fuses waiting to be lit.
We kill at a record pace. That Vegas shooting was the deadliest in U.S. history but, just as significantly, it was one of 1,516 mass shootings over the past 1,735 days, according to The Guardian.
We can no longer use the Second Amendment as an impenetrable shield against common-sense gun reform. We can no longer live in fear.
Wake up, Congress, and do something.
While we mourn the victims of the latest rampage, remind Americans that it is our trust in one another, and not our fear of one another, that binds a great nation.
Let’s stop worshipping our dadgum guns. They’ve turned into false prophets promising salvation while leading us down a path of hellish self-destruction.
It’s time we own up to that reality.
James Ragland is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News.