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Steinberg: Ban assault rifles? Let’s legalize grenades instead

A hand grenade explodes after a 10th Mountain Division soldier threw it during a training exercise on May 18, 2016, at Fort Drum, New York. | John Moore/Getty Images

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My fear is that a mob of armed evildoers will rush my home, guns blazing.

Sure, I could fend them off with the substantial firepower of an assault rifle. But returning fire would expose me to their attack; it would be better, tactically, if I crouch on the second floor and lob grenades out the window instead.

An M67 fragmentation grenade would do the job nicely — pull the pin, count to two, out the window, hit the deck. Bad guys neutralized.

There is a problem with this plan. Civilian ownership of grenades is illegal under the National Firearms Act of 1934, which bans “destructive devices” such as grenades.

Now might be the moment to change that. In the wake of 49 people being murdered at a gay nightclub in Orlando last Sunday, Americans are crying for curtailing availability of assault rifles, the type of weapon used in the shooting, as the minimum reaction of a once proud nation to these mass killings.

It’ll never happen. If gun violence is an American folk illness — and no other industrial country comes close to our rate of armed carnage — then calls for gun control are the fever that breaks out in the post-massacre stage of the disease.

OPINION

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Take two aspirins and wait for it to pass. Rather than push for assault rifles to be banned, as they were between 1994 and 2004 without the republic toppling, we should be countering these weapons. Thus grenades should be legalized. One well-placed grenade would have stopped Omar Mateen cold.

“Legalize grenades?!?” the liberals among you moan. Surely, this must be a Swiftian modest proposal. Grenades are military weapons with no purpose but to kill.

The same could be said for assault rifles, if you ignore — and I am deadly serious here — the role that fantasy plays in gun culture. Assault rifles have a purpose: They allow those who hate and fear the United States government to imagine themselves defeating it in some post-apocalyptic revolution daydream. The guns are role-playing totems, fetish objects, household gods for those who can’t scrape together a sense of security and self-worth otherwise. That would explain their owners’ eye-popping passion. Guns are a kind of masturbatory aid in the elaborate heroic fantasies of millions of Americans, who imagine themselves supermen.

Think I’m exaggerating? Consider this reaction to the Orlando shooting.

“What happened to courage in America?” one regular reader emailed Sunday. “One man enters a dance club, and starts shooting people in a packed night club, who run away and hide. I, for one, and hopefully some of my friends, would have rushed this madman to save the lives of others. People who really know me, know I would have done this.”

Pretty to think so. This particular imagined heroism was unarmed. But typically guns are part of the thrilling narrative running in people’s heads. They can easily imagine thwarting an ISIS terror cell; they can’t imagine shooting themselves, even though the former never happens, and the latter happens a lot. We let those people call the shots, literally.

It might change. The duo vying to be our next president take opposite views on this.

Donald Trump analyzes the situation and would bar, not assault rifles, but Muslims. The gun is not the danger, but the religion of the person wielding it is. Hillary Clinton analyzes the same situation and suggests we have some kind of system that would discourage people of all faiths who want to murder their fellow Americans from acquiring an easy means to do it.

No need for us to argue. All we need to do is vote in November. We have a clear choice. If you want to live in a country where Muslims are barred while guns are limited only by the ability of gun companies to manufacture them, then vote for Trump.

But if you think, like most Americans do, that we’ve gone insane with guns, that the blood of our children and brothers and sisters and parents pools at our feet, waiting for us to do something, then vote for Clinton.

Oh, and consider my grenade proposal. They make a very satisfying “boom.”

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