The thing about gun lovers is that they are passionate. The thing about those who aren't gun lovers is that they simply want the killing to stop. That makes the argument asymmetrical and gives the advantage to the gun lovers.
After every mass shooting — Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and now the Navy Yard — there is outrage among the articulate middle class, but in time it dies down. This, too, is asymmetrical.
The middle class can't get to the barricades fast enough when it is they who are in trouble; but it is notably absent when their members aren't being shot or, for that matter, imprisoned, frisked or fighting on the front lines.
In Chicago, an average of three homicides occur every night. On Labor Day alone, 12 people were killed and 25 wounded. And Thursday night, 13 people — including a 3-year-old child — were shot at a pick-up basketball game in its Back of the Yards neighborhood. But these are almost all in the ghetto and are black-on-black murders.
As a nation, we lose 31,000 people to gun deaths, accidental suicide and murder every year. By 2015, gun deaths will exceed road fatalities. Most of the gun deaths will be among youngsters on the street.
Cars are getting safer by design, as new technology is incorporated. Guns are getting more dangerous by design, as more civilian versions of military weapons flood the country.
Military weapons are supposed to be lethal. The most obvious example of a modified battlefield weapon is the AR-15; it is the civilian version —semiautomatic instead of fully automatic — of the Army's basic assault rifle, the M16. The AR-15 was used in the Sandy Hook shootings.
Let's take time out for people like me who like guns. I love the feel of them, the inherent majesty of them, the transference of power when you heft one. Yes, they make you feel more manly, more like a card-carrying member of the warrior class.
I learned to shoot when I was quite young, maybe 11. The thrill — the sense of being augmented — stays with you. Guns are seductive. If you are young and male, the seduction is complete; you have a pocketful of machismo.
But if you are young and male and you live on the streets of a city like Chicago or Houston or Los Angeles, entrapped by drugs and gangs, your gun will seem like your best friend until someone else's gun takes your life, or you take another life. In this demimonde, children who are too young to have been in love are not too young to kill or be killed.
Joe Madison, a tireless crusader for many causes, and broadcaster on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, urged after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook shooting rampage that the bodies — the broken, bloody, shattered bodies — of the schoolchildren, should be shown on television. That way, he argued, the nation would be shocked into action.
No good, in other words, showing the flowers and the teddy bears. Guns don't make flowers and teddy bears; they make gaping, lethal wounds.
It was the pictures of the wounded and the dead that turned the tide of public opinion during the Vietnam War; it was stark pictures that drove home the horror of lynching.
If the day-in, day-out murders were documented, if the agony of the street killings were exposed by a modern-day Charles Dickens, this national veneration for the tools of killing would pass. Guns would begin to go where they belong: under lock and key, or in a well-ordered militia.
Guns don't enhance freedom, they curtail it; they put our cities off limits to many after dark and take life. Death is the absolute confiscation of freedom.
The gun lobby cannot be fought the way Piers Morgan of CNN fights it — with logic. The victims must speak from the grave through photography, video and even fiction.
You don't fight the gun lobby; you undermine it with the silent voices of those it has claimed. Guns kill people.
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS.
© 2013 Hearst Newspapers