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Posted: 3/13/2001 5:01:01 PM EDT

responsibility is taught. It's good and constructive to feel responsible,
to know you are worthy of trust. A sense of responsibility ­ for yourself
and others ­ is one of the things that separates good and successful people
from scoundrels and failures. The responsibility of gun ownership is
something we take with the utmost seriousness. Useful for self-defense,
guns also reinforce the sense that we are, ultimately, responsible for our
own lives, starting with our security and that of our families. The broad,
constitutionally protected rights of gun ownership also reflect the mutual
trust and responsibility shared by citizens and government in America. We
wouldn't want to live in a country governed by people who didn't trust
citizens with guns. Nor would we want to govern people who couldn't be
trusted with guns. Our individual and collective senses of responsibility
do much to define us as Americans.

Finally, we value and admire guns as a marriage of form and function, and
as examples of craftsmanship, artistry and mechanical innovation. Guns can
be ornately engraved and finely finished, mechanically simple or complex,
decorative or utilitarian. We find most all of them downright interesting.
Some of them are rather beautiful.

The letter writer asks why we love guns, not why criminals, psychopaths and
incompetents find them appealing. None of our reasons for valuing guns
contradicts the fact that firearms are subject to misuse, often with
horrific consequences. Responsible gun owners are more interested than
anyone in deterring misuse of guns. Most of us fully understand the
problems and threats guns pose in our society. We're intent on finding
solutions.

And by understanding why owners value their guns, people who don't own guns
may also come to understand why simplistic proposals to ban them outright,
or unduly restrict ownership of them, meet such opposition from us. By
resisting the temptation to trivialize or ignore the deeply held and
legitimate concerns of responsible gun owners, others may find it easier to
engage gun owners in creative, constructive dialogue. That could actually
lead to useful solutions to reduce gun misuse and violence.

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