If I had owned a gun at any point in the past 25 years or so, I would most likely be dead by now.
Not because of some accidental shooting when loading or fooling around with it, even if statistics show that's a common cause of death. Although, I have managed to injure myself a number of times with the tools of my trade and I'm a writer for God's sake, so my scatterbrained hyperactivity and lack of dexterity wouldn't stack the odds in my favor.
Instead, I imagine I would have ended up in that other disturbingly large statistical group of people who shoot themselves. I don't say that as some sort of grand statement meant to garner sympathy or earn myself a spot on a comfy chair on a talk-show set. My struggles with depression over the years are no secret. I bring it up because it's important that I'm cognizant of the fact that having guns in my life would be one of the surest ways to shorten my life.
People have intent. Guns have a purpose. A person's intent can change, quickly or slowly, for good or for ill. Even the most pacifist among us have felt a rage that aches to become violent, some of the saddest have eventually found joy. We all have conflicting desires. We can all do good or evil.
Not guns. Guns have one purpose: to kill. All those other buzzwords you hear from extreme gun-rights proponents, about deterrence and safety and self-defense, flow directly from that purpose. A gun is not a Swiss Army knife; guns are tools with one function, which they carry out with ever-greater speed and efficiency.
It sounds like I'm winding up to a big ''ban all guns'' moment. I'm not, even if I believe that in a perfect world they wouldn't exist. As the massacre in Newtown reminded us once again, our world is light-years from perfect.
As I was considering what to say — and this is one of those times when we all have to say something if we want to see anything change — I remembered that the first column I published in Washington was about growing up with guns on the farm in rural Kentucky versus having a handgun shoved in my face while on my lunch break on 14th Street. The latter was a learning experience. But 20 years later, gun culture has only gotten worse.
While I don't support a ban, I do support the radical approach of requiring people to have a reason to own a gun. Are you a farmer with livestock? You're good. Do you live in a rural area where coyotes, wildcats or other local wildlife threaten your or your pet's safety? Check. Are you a D.C. resident who wants to legally hunt in the Shenandoah? Have a rifle.
Are you a Turner Diaries reading middle-aged white guy wracked with fear that Obama's jack-booted government thugs are coming next week, month or year to drag you away to a FEMA camp to be a slave to the 47 percent? You do not need a goddamn gun.
Frankly, hardly anyone needs a gun. More guns don't equal more safety, no matter how many times you've watched Red Dawn and Live Free or Die Hard. More guns just equal more shooting, more death.
I'm not crazy. Per the Supreme Court, we're not changing our gun-loving society into something like Japan or Australia anytime soon. But in the face of ongoing gun carnage — even as overall violent crime goes down, people still keep stockpiling and shooting — if we can't start asking for change now, then it will never happen.
I choose to keep guns out of my life because it's the only sane choice for me. Perhaps we've reached the point where we realize limiting guns is the only sane choice for the nation.