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Take it from Mike Royko: Machineguns don’t kill

An FBI agent holds a Thompson Machine Gun. Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Editor’s note: Mike Royko, the great Chicago columnist, died 21 years ago this Sunday. To mark the anniversary, we thought we would republish one of his many columns about guns. This column was published in the Chicago Sun-Times six days after John Lennon’s murder on Dec. 8, 1980.

The death of John Lennon is causing another outcry for stronger gun controls. Naturally, being a good American and a macho guy, I am against gun controls.


Mike Royko
Mike Royko

My position has been clear for many years, since I am the founder of the National Association for the Legalization of Machine guns, Bazookas, Hand Grenades, Cannons, Land Mines and Anything Else That Goes Boom (NALMBHGCLMAETGB for short).

I formed this group because the gun laws discriminate against those of us so weak-eyed or such bad shots that we are useless with a pistol. We need something that will really give us firepower.

You are probably asking why we want this firepower. The answer is obvious: For the same reason as those who like handguns.

They say it is their constitutional right to bear arms. (Actually, it isn’t. They always leave off the part that says the right to bear arms is so this country will have a strong “militia”). But if somebody can claim it is his constitutional right to keep a .38 in his dresser drawer, I don’t see why we can’t buy machineguns. After all, anything a pistol can do, a machinegun can do better.

For example, the gun lovers say they need guns to defend themselves from robbers, fiends and murderers who might come through their windows at night. Unfortunately, for every robber, fiend or murderer who is shot dead by some citizen who snatches his pistol out of his dresser drawer, hundreds of innocent people are killed when their guns go off accidentally, or when they get drunk and have a domestic quarrel, or when some thief steals their gun and uses it to shoot somebody else.

But that doesn’t mean guns aren’t effective. It probably means most people don’t move quickly enough, or aren’t good enough handgun shots, to be effective against burglars and fiends.

Now, if it were possible to set up a machinegun on a tripod on my bed, I would be well prepared. Instead of having to look in a drawer for a pistol, I could simply sit up and begin spraying my windows with hundreds of rounds. Any criminal crawling through my window would be quickly dispatched, as would my next-door neighbors.

Or, I hear someone rummaging about my basement. I could go down there with a pistol. But what if he also had a pistol? He might get off the first shot, and that would be the end of an honest citizen.

But if hand grenades were legal, I could just lob one into the basement and the world would have one less criminal. My home repair bills would probably go up, but one has to pay a price for security.

Then there is the threat of foreign invaders. That is something frequently mentioned by the devoted gun lover. Many of them are concerned that the Russians or Chinese or somebody else might invade this country, and they want to be able to defend themselves. They want to be able to take a few of them Russkies and gooks with them.

Such patriotism is commendable. But the question is: How effective could handguns be if Russian tanks and troops made it as far as our city streets or country roads?

Ah, but cannons and bazookas would be something else. If I could set up a cannon on my lawn, I could keep the Russians off my streets, by golly. Let them go to the next street, where some liberals live. And the nice thing about a cannon is that it is difficult for a child to accidentally shoot himself or his sister while playing with it.

Many gun lovers also say that if people can’t own guns, they are at the mercy of an oppressive government. Only the threat of being shot at by honest citizens keeps government from taking our liberties, they say. But once again, how effective is a handgun against the kind of weapons the government can muster — planes, tanks, etc.?

That’s why my organization wants the heavy stuff legalized for home use. Land mines, for example. See how many government inspectors and other bureaucrats would come snooping around if they thought that they might step on a hidden mine as they cross your lawn. And mines would also be effective against those rude people who let their dogs go on your grass.

So I would remind the anti-gun people of the favorite slogan of us gun lovers: “Guns don’t kill; people kill.”

It’s that spirit that makes me wonder why so many people are concerned about the spread of nuclear weapons. I don’t see anything wrong with all kinds of little countries having their own nuclear arsenals. Every country should have The Bomb. After all, “Nuclear bombs don’t kill, people kill.”

Come to think of it, why can’t individual Americans have their own little nuclear arsenals? I’ll have to bring that up at the next meeting.

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