Mr. Burns vigorously stirred the pot with this column about how the subjects of motorcycles and guns commingle. This piece was followed one week later by another MO columnist, Chris Kallfelz, who has a different perspective about how issues surrounding guns and motorbikes exist in the sphere of personal responsibility. Read his column here. —Ed.


Say, I’m a little pressed for time on this week’s column and need a quick and easy topic that won’t offend anybody. How about guns, and “gun violence,” a term that by itself set one of my Facebook friends off on a rant a few days ago? (He says “gun violence” is a phrase recently invented by gun-control forces to inculcate the insidious idea that guns are violent. Which they’re not until somebody pulls the trigger, I believe was his point.) All I know is there seems to be a tremendously high correlation between being a motorcycle person and a gun person. Many of the people who get misty eyed at the sight of a nice original Katana turn positively weepy when presented with a lever-action Winchester 30-30 like grandma used to shoot.

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As I write this, the most recent mass shooting (massacre, unfortunate incidence of gun-related violence, whatever you choose to call it) took place last week in San Bernardino, California: 14 dead and many wounded. The week before that, another armed nut shot up a Planned Parenthood in Colorado. Every time one of these happens, our President expresses sadness and a wish to pass stricter gun regulations, which leads to an avalanche of people saying what a jerk he is for even thinking about restricting their Second Amendment rights, followed by the other side saying what a bunch of crazies the gun nuts are for not wanting to do anything to stop the killings except arm people with more guns, the same predictable responses from both sides of the firing line.

The solution, as always, lies somewhere in between. Even though it’s sad we’re unable to accomplish anything meaningful as a nation anymore, it’s at least always good fun to watch people’s brains fill up with hot magma as they dig deeper into their mental foxholes. I actually like guns myself and own a couple, but I’m nothing like the serious enthusiast some of my friends are, most of whom agree with me that beefing up background checks and making guns a bit more difficult to obtain might not be a bad idea if for no other reason than to soothe the general public that something’s being done. In fact, it seems obvious (to me) that the public’s had about enough gun massacres. But compromise is a dirty word when it comes to the Second Amendment. All or nothing.

Sort of reminds me of all the noise about motorcycle noise here in the Golden State, where everybody (more a vocal minority) insisted on their right to have their lives saved by loud pipes, right up until the public had enough and passed SB435, which pretty much bans nearly all aftermarket pipes on bikes produced after 2013. Loud bikes and exhausts that say FOR CLOSED COURSE USE ONLY have always been illegal on the street, of course, but if nobody enforces a law, does it exist? I haven’t really noticed motorcycles getting any quieter, and California’s pipe benders have found creative new ways to market their products anyway, within the law. It wasn’t the end of the motorcycle world after all, or hasn’t been yet. And when people call the police to complain about those loud motorcycles, the person at the desk can say in all seriousness they’re doing all they can do to fix the problem and have a nice day. Squads of men in assault vehicles (is that pejorative against vehicles?) did not swoop into everyone’s garage to confiscate the Kerker pipes off their old GS1000s, life goes on.

The gun crackdown, not if but when it happens, will be like that. All my gun-toting pals point out that they’re law-abiding gun nuts. As such, none of the proposed enhanced background checks would really affect them. Assault weapons bans are already here, for full-auto guns anyway – which plenty of people own anyway, more than there are RG500 Suzukis and RZ500 Yamahas in the U.S., which also aren’t supposed to be here. (“Assault weapons” is another term my staunchest Second Amendment pals say is pejorative, since they’re only assaulting squirrels and targets. This of course ignores the opinion of bleeding-heart liberals watching the 6 o’clock news that AR-15-style military-derived rifles are the go-to choice of massacrerers everywhere, and bear a striking likeness to the guns people carry into war on the same 6 o’clock news.)

Maybe you just have to have been around long enough to observe a little history, but we seem to have a case of collective amnesia when it comes to certain hot-button issues in the U.S. I found some old George Wallace for Governor buttons in a box of old stuff I “inherited” from my folks the other day, the guy famous for standing on the Alabama capitol steps in 1963 and proclaiming, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

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I was three. The next year, the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. The South was making progress, though: A hundred years before that, Jeff Davis, speaking from the same courthouse steps, decided it was a good idea to go to war to defend our right to own other people, which is quite a bit more egregious than not allowing their kids into the best schools.

With my limited knowledge, I don’t pretend to know the right and wrong of any of these complex issues, but I do know a little compromise might’ve saved quite a few lives and dollars. Clark Gable pointed out the same thing in Gone With the Wind and was shouted down. What if Jeff Davis and them had just reported in to Washington as usual, taken the floor and and said, “Y’ know, we’ve been thinking and decided you all may have a point about this whole slavery thing. What say we form a committee to look into it? Maybe we can start talking about a “rent-to-own-yourself” program or something, using federal subsidies of course … and now I’d like to buy everybody a mint julep.”

We’d probably be still in the negotiating stage today, much like with the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Sadly, that’s not how it usually works. The zealots always drag the rest of us, who don’t care all that much one way or the other but only want to be home in time to watch Hee Haw, into some big conflagration where everybody loses and/or has their ass shot off. And in the end, the same zealots with the open pipes who refused to wear a helmet always wind up partially muffled and in a non-DOT beanie helmet or Nazi replica one, with Worn Under Protest, NRA, and Stars and Bars stickers, bent but not broken, looking for adventure and the next conspiracy whilst holding up traffic in the left lane.

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