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GUEST COLUMN: Why do I think of owning a weapon? | Opinion

Second Amendment


The gun I dream of buying keeps popping up in my head in a recurring fashion. It never reaches fever pitch but loses velocity and intensity. It curls around my brain and then falls asleep, only to reawaken some later date when the air is full of menace. The reason for my wanting to own a weapon is perennially American. To defend mine and myself.

It is an interesting change of mind, which in some ways is really the story of my life. I have mentally jumped hoops, changed my mind and become new people. When half a lifetime ago, I first came to these shores, Americans’ obsession with guns was both intriguing and puzzling to me. In my British colonial days, only the army and police carried guns, to kill or to control.

My question was: Why do we need to defend ourselves from our fellow citizens, the majority of whom were pleasant, civilized people? I sensed no animosity or need to defend myself — until my patient with the gun.

He came to my office for a consultation and as he disrobed, to my surprise, he placed a gun on the table. He was not a cop and certainly had no fear of an attack from me. Maybe he meant to intimidate me? Little intimidates me; I have heard lions roar, been almost trampled by elephants and been close to razor-sharp-toothed crocodiles.

No one else has brought a gun to my office, but he forms part of a complex mosaic of ideas and thoughts that time has wrought for me in this country. As an immigrant, lessons of history seep into one’s being, often without knowing it. Living among friends and neighbors, the story of guns in America becomes clearer the longer I have been here.

To some, guns are an extension of themselves as psychological crutches. To others, guns are part of their machismo, not unlike in my Africa, where silverback gorillas pound their chests to show their rank. For some women who are increasingly arming themselves, guns have become a political prop; identifiers of where they stand in the political hierarchy. I find no need to beat on my chest.

The notion of self-defense is remarkably tenuous. When I consider my experience as a surgeon, long before the 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold Columbine massacre, I tended to many victims of trauma, none of whom had a chance at self-defense. Most died from gunshot wounds of the chest and heart, while abdominal wounds tore up their intestines and played havoc with their lives. The woman lawyer shot by a cop-husband in a courtroom as she represented his wife in a divorce, stood no chance. It resulted in her extensive injuries and never-ending misery.

We in Colorado have had our share of shooters. In every instance, the NRA’s mantra of, “to stop a bad guy with a gun with a good guy with a gun” was always empty and hollow. Men armed to their teeth with weapons of war attacking defenseless moviegoers, shoppers or kids in school, belie the Second Amendment’s tenets of well organized militias.

So, my question returns. Why think, no matter how fleetingly, of owning a weapon, knowing the insanity of gun violence and how defenseless one is, ambushed by AR-15-armed, pretend gangsters? For many Americans it’s a simple equation. You feel uneasy, you buy a gun. We see it at every turn and every national crisis — gun purchases are a national-reflex response.

2016 ushered in a new president, and a general unease settled over the nation like morning’s fog. Neighbors I considered friends suddenly bared their fangs, and where we once dialogued, now we avert our gaze or shout at each other. My unease is not painful, nor intimidating; it’s but a low-grade toothache. Would a Glock, Beretta or Smith & Wesson take away this existential miasmic sense?

My doubt causes me to sheath my worries and listen to Bob Dylan singing, “I shall be released,” where his man in a lonely crowd swears he is not to blame.

Pius Kamau, M.D., general surgery, is president of the Aurora-based Africa America Higher Education Partnerships; co-founder of the Africa Enterprise Group and president of the Consortium of African Diasporas in the U.S.A. He has been a National Public Radio commentator and a blogger, and is author of “The Doctor’s Date with Death.”

Pius Kamau, M.D., general surgery, is president of the Aurora-based Africa America Higher Education Partnerships; co-founder of the Africa Enterprise Group and president of the Consortium of African Diasporas in the U.S.A. He has been a National Public Radio commentator and a blogger, and is author of “The Doctor’s Date with Death.”



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