Mr. Wallace asks: "Is there a middle ground between people who desire to own guns and those who wish not to have guns in their neighborhoods?"
Yes, it is called Canada. The longer answer follows.
In my answer to that question, I am including some personal background information that may cause some of your eastern urban readers to grasp (and gasp at) why I am about to answer your question regarding the possibility of "middle ground" between anti gunners and gun owners as myself. The demographics of the country have changed significantly since I was born. I acknowledge that fact has caused some new attitudes among many regarding beliefs that I hold.
I am a "Baby-Boomer." I was born in a small town and rural area in mid America just after the end of WW-II. I grew up on the outskirts of a town in Missouri so small you could see the outskirts of the other side of town from my home. When I was born 50 years ago, more people lived in rural America than in urban areas. As I attended elementary and high school there in the 1950s and 1960s, we had a vacation each November for one week called "deer season." It was during such a school vacation when I was age 11 that I shot my first deer. As far as I know, they still have a week long November vacation for the same reason. Ostensibly, the school board justifies this because of the "hazards of buses picking up children in rural areas during the hunting activity." The real truth is they have this November vacation because the absenteeism of the students who hunt is so high during deer season that government school funding (which is attendance based) is adversely affected. Many of the teachers hunt too. I have never heard of anyone being injured by gunshot during any hunting season in that area. As for the number of guns per capita in that area, it is probably safe to estimate that in the nearest 20 counties around my hometown, there exists about 300,000 people, and at least that many firearms. I married the daughter of the county sheriff who, though now long retired, recalls investigating only one murder involving a firearm in the eight years he was the sheriff. That, committed by an elderly man with a WW-I vintage British 303 Enfield rifle while in a drunken stupor. In the past fifty years, there have probably been three to four murders in the entire county involving firearms.
In the 18 years I lived there while growing up, I never knew of anyone who used any kind of drug, other than alcohol. I understand that times have changed there now. Marijuana is rumored to be the biggest cash crop in the county now. Drug dealers from urban areas have moved into rural areas of the country where there is remote land and ample space to plant their crops on government and private land without much fear of discovery. They set booby traps and sometimes guard their crops with weapons to discourage discovery. There is good reason not to stumble on such crops when hunting now.
When I was a nineteen year old self sustaining college student working at an "inner city" gas station at night for survival I was attacked, knifed, and was in the process of being repeatedly kicked while lying prone in a pool of blood, by a gang of punks who would have certainly killed me had not a neighboring businessman with a pistol come to my rescue. I now avoid "inner city" areas, especially at night.
If there came a time in America where the Federal Government decided to require all owners of firearms to register their guns, and there was any attempt to confiscate or regulate the firearms in the possession of the people where I grew up, I honestly believe that there would be violent, armed rebellion and bloodshed of the highest order. The government would have to kill or imprison a lot of otherwise harmless, good people in that pursuit. They will probably soften their attitude with time given the incessant media blitz equating firearms with evil, and in the future, the liberal goal of disarming law abiding America will become more realistic.
The reason that rural people, and for that matter, the majority of people in middle and western America accept firearms dates back to the origins of the nation. A unique and fundamental element in the character of the vast majority of Americans in the past 250 years has been the concept that they are tough, independent, capable people who have the right of self protection. Americans are somewhat unique in their regard of government as a necessary "evil" which bears close watching. One of our biggest collective "American" fears is that government might escape the control of the people. Most realize that successful armed resistance to a modern technological army such as our own is at the least, unlikely, however recent examples such as Vietnam and Mogadishu seem to give some element of credence to the possibility. The Constitution forbids the use of the military as a police force. Additionally, I doubt that our own military could be successfully "ordered" to fire on large numbers of US citizens. Para-military federal police, such as the ATF and FBI outfitted with the same weapons as the military, including tanks, automatic weapons, combat aircraft, high explosives etc. do seem to be a threat to citizens reminiscent of that used in some foreign countries such as pre-WW II Germany and the Soviet Union. Americans suffered the same depression as did the Germans. We did not react as did the Germans however, and this character unique to Americans is perhaps one of the reasons why. We did not allow a totalitarian dictator to seize control of our nation with the resultant accumulation of power which defied the best interests of the people. Independent ownership of firearms is a (symbolic) component of our spirit of independence from central controlling government. This mentality runs counter to current politically correct liberal dogma. The term "liberal" as it is currently applied to political leanings means the reverse of what it meant 100 years ago. Then, it would have been a "liberal" who would advocate free and unrestricted gun ownership. I love my country, but I fear my government. An unarmed citizenry expecting protection from crime, willing to trust elite politicians who vote their own job security, and as a result, who seem to be un-removable once in power, is a citizenry doomed to suffer tyranny. The Federal Government has a history of unconstitutional abuse of power. The Federal Government has unconstitutionally usurped the power of the states in any number of instances by assuming the authority to withhold distribution of money back to the states on a selective basis. It is in the interest of such a government to reign over a disarmed citizenry.
And now, something completely different: I ask you to take the following quiz:
WHO AMONG THE FOLLOWING CHOICES DO YOU THINK HAS KILLED MORE INNOCENT UNITED STATES CITIZENS?
A. The "Viper Militia, with its purported "arsenal of weapons?"
B. Bob Wilson, with his 25 or so guns, etc.?
C. Ted Kennedy, with his black '68 Lincoln?
(Hint: The correct answer is a person who is an anti-gun liberal U.S. senator.)
As a veteran of the Air Force (pilot) and having traveled far and wide across the world, including Vietnam and the Middle East, I have participated in armed conflict. I have seen countries where citizen ownership of firearms is just about totally restricted. I have seen a country also which requires all male citizens of a certain age group to have access to firearms. The rates of firearm related crimes in either country is similarly low. The easy access to, (or lack of) firearms is irrelevant to the propensity for violence. It is quite evident that other social factors unrelated to guns are at the root cause of violent crime, in spite of all of the relentless clamor of the liberal media and those who fear guns. The causes of violence in our culture are the stuff of other essays.
My residence is currently in an urban area located in the western United States of about 2.5 million people. Gun laws here are by New York standards, unbelievably "liberal." Here it is perfectly legal to walk about in public with a loaded firearm strapped to your waist. Many stores display signs requesting that firearms be checked upon entering. It is not lawful to attend public events or enter a bank with a firearm. You may carry a loaded pistol in your car, as long is it is in view in a holster, or in the glove box, or trunk. We have a state law which requires that anyone who is not a felon, takes a fifteen hour course and submits some paperwork must be granted a license to carry a concealed gun. Thousands do! Much to the chagrin of the liberal media which predicted that bullets would fly chaotically as a result, there has yet to be an incident of a concealed carry citizen who has killed an innocent citizen or otherwise misused this law. There have been numerous instances of thwarted crimes and saved lives as a result of the concealed carry law. News of these instances is typically suppressed by the mainstream media. Yet, you are much safer from crime here, than where Mr. Wallace lives, in spite of all the local gun restrictions there. It is much riskier to be a criminal here. Where would you rather attempt to attempt a car jacking?
Am I a red necked "gun nut?" (I don't think so...) I do own around 25 or so assorted guns, (well, some people collect beer cans...) and that fact would indeed put me solidly in the "gun nut" category with many of your "anti-gun nut" readers. If I lived in New York (city) I would probably be considered a criminal. As a hobby, I load my own ammunition, and keep a small supply of powder (the proper term is propellant) and equipment in a steel locker in my garage. I am fairly knowledgeable in the science of ballistics, firearms, and hunting. I do not believe in killing animals exclusively for sport. When I practice shooting, it is at range targets, and any game I kill is "food." Although I own a few near "antique" military rifles, most are "bolt action." One is an eight shot semi-automatic M-1 rifle which resides in a walnut and glass display case on my den wall. Though it fires the same type 30.06 ammunition several of my hunting rifles do, it is far too clunky for hunting. Other rifles I own are at least as deadly and far more accurate for any shooting purpose. I have never owned a firearm of the type the media generally terms an "assault" weapon, (black, ugly, with a large banana clip) but the M- 1 was used very successfully during the "assault" on the beaches of Iwo Jima and Normandy. As part of my Air Force training, I qualified "expert" with the M-16 "assault rifle." (a puney gun by hunting standards) and the .38 cal pistol. As far as I am concerned, every gun I own is a potential "assault" weapon, including a very old, very lethal black powder muzzle-loader which will blow a hole the size of a baseball in soft tissue. I shoot occasionally, but due to business activities, I have not fired a gun in about 15 months. I would not even remotely consider joining, nor do I know anyone who is involved in any kind of pseudo-military "militia" group with juvenile fantasies of resisting or harassing our government. I still maintain faith in the ballot box. I live well. I do own a pickup truck but it has no gun rack, and incidentally three other cars and an airplane. I don't wear a beard, flannel shirts, or goofy red flop eared hats. I play golf and tennis, have a comfortable income, a gorgeous wife of 30 years a master's degree and two wonderful college educated children.
I would not be a welcome neighbor to Mr. Wallace. He wishes not to have guns in his neighborhood. A word of comfort, Mr. Wallace. I would not live in your neighborhood... (New York City) Too many criminals, with illegal guns. Too many sirens. Too many drug dealers and users. Too many people who would kill me for ten dollars in my pocket. Too many pimps, prostitutes, and people who don't do honest work to survive. Too many taxes. Too much corrupt government. And, too many irrational liberals who believe that the key to ending the problems in their neighborhood would be to make sure that I didn't own a gun.
I love my country, but I fear my government. An unarmed citizenry expecting protection from crime, willing to trust elite politicians who vote their own job security, and as a result, who seem to be un- removable once in power, is a citizenry doomed to suffer tyranny. The Federal Government has a history of unconstitutional abuse of power. It has unconstitutionally usurped the power of the states in any number of instances by assuming the authority to withhold distribution of money back to the states on a selective basis. It is in the interest of such a government to reign over a disarmed citizenry. Mr. Wallace's eyes light up I'm sure, as I mentioned too many criminals with illegal guns. He believes that a general restriction of the 300 million or so existing legal firearms in the U.S. would have a "trickle down" effect on the ones that are illegally possessed by criminals. Not in this society Mr. Wallace! The bull was let out of the barn over 200 years ago when it was decreed that the "right of the people to own and bear arms shall not be infringed." The illegal guns possessed by the bad people in your neighborhood are only a symptom of the disease infecting our country, not the cause.
I need to remind Mr. Wallace that it is not the job of the police to protect us from harms way. Their primary job is to enforce law by the pursuit and capture of law breakers. With the breakdown of "family values" the judicial/penal system, and the epidemic of violent crime in urban areas, police are overwhelmed by their primary job. Should he or I be the victim of a crime, their function would be to investigate the crime and catch the perpetrator(s). The probability of those who committed the crime ever being caught and punished is relatively low. Punishment of the criminal is not a police function. In American society, their function is primarily reactive. If you favor a proactive police system, you invite totalitarianism of the highest order. I am, (not the police) primarily responsible for my own "protection" from harm. A civilized, democratic society should be responsible for an atmosphere wherein I may enjoy my Constitutional rights relatively free from fear of crime. In view of the reality of our society, if Mr. Wallace's demand that I be unarmed in his neighborhood is made law, (Constitution be damned) then he represents a threat to my safety. In that event, I, a law abiding citizen, will exercise my good judgement and avoid his neighborhood. I doubt a violent criminal would. Were I a criminal, I would want to live in his neighborhood.
Actually, the only way the wishes of Mr. Wallace to restrict private, legal ownership of firearms will come about is either a change in the Constitution, or if the Supreme Court can be packed with enough liberals to effectively decree that the Constitution does not mean what it says. That, of course, means a reversal of the 220 year assumption that it does. It also requires a revision of history which, for the moment, even defies the capabilities of our most outspoken New York anti gun political operative U.S. Representative Charles Schumer. What has happened in places like Washington D.C. and New York City is a microcosm of what would happen around the country if legitimate ownership of guns could be so restricted. Virtually any type of ownership or possession of a gun in those cities constitutes an illegal act. As such, according to Mr. Wallace's logic, those cities should be the safest in the country...but of course, they are not. These are places where the dregs of society continue to rob, kill, and rape in ever increasing record numbers. Ah, but Mr. Wallace blames the easy access to guns in surrounding states for his neighborhood criminal's propensity to possess guns. Therefore the need, according to Mr. Wallace, to restrict guns everywhere, to keep them from the hands of criminals. He says that lawful gun owners must compromise with the anti-gun people. You can own your gun, he says, but not in my neighborhood. Just exercise your Constitutional right away from me. "Someone used a gun to hold up a merchant. Someone killed a shop owner he was robbing with a gun. Therefore, we must find those guns, and we must punish them.." says Mr. Wallace. We have anti- smoking laws that segregate smokers in restaurants, so why don't we have anti-gun laws that set up gun owner neighborhoods and otherwise...Right Mr. Wallace?...Oh yes, the Constitution...
The bottom line is this. If the gun-phobic crowd doesn't effect a Constitutional change, then I will have my gun, and Mr. Wallace will live in a city where only the police and the criminals have guns. He, and his like will continue to be sacrificial lambs--easy picking for the criminals, and I won't. The crime problem is not the fault of the guns. If there is to be a "middle ground" of compromise regarding the freedom to own guns then what other parts of the Constitution should be open to "middle ground" compromise?. The Constitution exists to be a benchmark for laws. Few people, even we NRA "gun nuts" would seriously argue that some gun laws are necessary. Many local gun restrictions however, should not stand a true Constitutional test as it is now. Admittedly, the framers never envisioned a society so corrupt that the freedom to own guns by law abiding citizens would even be questioned. Drug abuse, lax punishment for serious crime, and a general tolerance for what the framers would undoubtedly call immoral and degenerate behavior was not a circumstance the nations founders had imagined. Had they envisioned this late 20th century phenomenon however, I doubt that they would suggest a solution be to restrict the lawful citizens right to bear arms.
We should have a system where by law abiding citizens can purchase a basic firearm equivilant to any that is used by a police force. I (as does the NRA) favor instantaneous criminal background checks for handgun purchases. Our laws concerning violence involving firearms should carry teeth. There should be swift, severe punishment for criminals who use a firearm in the commission of a crime. Convicted felons who are subsequently found to have firearms in their possession should be jailed for a minimum of five years at hard labor. A second offense of that nature should carry a life term. Most perpetrators of violent firearms related crimes have a history of repeated similar offenses. Violent criminals who are brought before the justice system are repeatedly given "wrist slap" sentences and returned to menace you and I over and over. On the other hand, making private ownership of firearms by law abiding citizens "crime" is usurping a constitutional "right." Assuming that you can "abuse the right to own firearms" is like saying that you can "abuse the right of free speech." You can abuse such things as authority or a privilege to drive a car, but never a constitutional right. It is not constitutionally possible to disarm the law abiding citizens of this country. It would not be prudent to attempt to do so either. Sorry Mr. Wallace, there is no "middle ground."