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Time to unload this love affair

| Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Had a punk rock girlfriend once.

She was so punk, she wore not one, but two green Mohawks. The woman looked so dangerous that guys would slide over and ask me just how a brother gets with a woman like that.

People thought I was mad, bad and dangerous to know. That was just how I liked it.

But truth be told, she was nothing but trouble. Stole from my family. Took every drug she could find. It was an unhealthy love affair that everyone but me knew should have ended long before it did.

Kind of reminds me of our collective love affair with guns.

Sure, they make us feel real cool, like big, bad dudes. But heaven knows, it's time to break things off.

Judging from my exchange with Mike Stollenwerk, though, it's going to be one long, ugly breakup.

The Lancaster native sent me an e-mail lamenting the fact that Pennsylvanians aren't permitted to carry concealed firearms inside of government buildings in Harrisburg.

A graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Stollenwerk works with gun advocacy group OpenCarry.org. The organization believes, as the John Lennon song put it, that happiness truly is a warm gun.

Why, you might wonder, would Stollenwerk or any other Pennsylvanian need to carry a gun into a legislative chamber where decisions are generally made with brainpower, not firepower•

"When we create gun-free zones as they did at Virginia Tech, you create victimization zones where no one has a firearm to protect themselves," he stated. "A firearm is clearly the best way to defend yourself."

Stollenwerk successfully sued the Pennsylvania State Police in 2004 to remove the requirement that gun buyers provide Social Security numbers.

Like many people, he appears to have bought into the fantasy that he will someday thwart a crime by packing heat.

The idea is about as realistic as thinking you can forge a lasting relationship with a drug addict sporting twin Mohawks. But it's so ingrained in our national psyche, we believe it's true.

If arming ourselves was a panacea, why have 100 homicides occurred in Philadelphia already this year, while Pittsburgh is enduring one of the bloodiest springs in recent memory?

I asked Stollenwerk whether he carried a gun. He said he does.

Then I asked him if he was carrying a gun because he hoped to or expected to shoot someone someday.

The phone suddenly went dead.

Having been in denial once about my own irrational, potentially dangerous love affair, I understand where Stollenwerk is coming from. Denial makes us believe turning our colleges, our state legislatures and our schools into potential firefights is a sensible answer to a complex problem.

It makes us blind to the fact that our kids or loved ones are most likely to be harmed by our guns, and those unknown criminals we fantasize about cutting down, Dirty Harry-style, never seem to materialize.

It has made us unable to realize that the love affair needs to end.

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