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Gun control starts with using two hands

I have a few friends — their names and occupations don’t matter — who’ve basically decided that the people in the Middle East are irredeemable savages. And I think, sadly, that they’re expressing the opinion of lots of other silent Americans who are afraid to give voice to such a politically incorrect statement.

I don’t really agree with my friends. I’m still willing to believe that the vast majority of Middle Easterners are decent, hard-working folk who are just trying to eke out a living and raise their families in peace. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to deny the “savage” claim, especially when you read a story like the one I saw on CNN.com earlier this week.

According to CNN Turk, the news network’s affiliate in Turkey, three family members were killed and six more injured at a wedding in the village of Akcagoze. That by itself would be pathetic enough, until you realize that the deaths and injuries were caused by the groom, Tevfik Altin, firing an AK-47 assault rifle in celebration.

Apparently, shooting guns into the air is a common way to celebrate weddings in Turkey, but it seems Altin wasn’t very experienced at shooting his. He lost control of the rifle and “sprayed the guests with bullets,” killing his father and two aunts. Three children, aged 10, 12 and 16, were among those injured in the mishap.

This, to me, is symptomatic of the image problem that people in the Middle East have. On the one hand, they want the rest of us to take them seriously, and in places like Dubai, they build indoor ski hills and the world’s tallest building, and you think, “Wow. They’ve actually decided to join the 21st century. Good for them.”

But then you hear about a woman in Iran being threatened with death by stoning for committing adultery, rockets being launched and bombs being dropped in retaliation in Gaza, and idiots in Turkey killing wedding guests by firing their AK-47s in the air, and the inevitable conclusion you come to is that these people are still living in the Stone Age.

I mean, what the hell was Altin thinking? You want to celebrate getting married? Take your bride somewhere private, and celebrate the way couples in love are supposed to. What are you hoping to accomplish by firing an assault weapon? Best-case scenario, you waste a bunch of ammo, and the bullets fall to the ground harmlessly, away from all your guests. Worst-case scenario … well, I’m guessing Altin figured that one out on his own.

And I don’t know Altin or why he feels the need to own an AK-47, but I’d be willing to bet it’s little more than a macho thing. For whatever reason, he thinks that owning a big gun will make him more of a man. I wouldn’t be surprised if he owned a Hummer H2 as well. Am I saying he’s probably insecure about his masculinity? Yeah, pretty much. Assault weapon owners and Hummer drivers usually are.

I’ve seen one AK-47 in my life. It belonged to a friend of a friend who I knew years ago in Boulder. This guy, a spoiled rich kid from Beverly Hills, bought himself an AK-47 for no other reason than he heard it mentioned in a song by the rap group NWA, and he thought it would make people think he was a hard-ass gangster if he owned one, despite the fact that he was white and had gone to a private high school in one of the richest neighborhoods in the country.

Then, just to add to the stupidity, he kept the thing loaded, with the safety off, under his bed. That way, if an army of real gangsters invaded his apartment a block off the Pearl Street mall, he’d be ready. To the best of my knowledge, that particular situation never materialized.

The point is, by owning an AK-47, he didn’t seem hard or streetwise or tough to anybody; he basically just seemed like a complete imbecile who would be lucky if he never ended up shooting himself or someone close to him.

And as for Altin, who did end up shooting those close to him, I can’t imagine anybody would have thought he wasn’t excited about getting married if he didn’t fire his AK-47 in celebration. By firing it and killing three of his guests, though, he’s managed to make me think something about him, and that’s essentially that my friends had him pegged all along.

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Todd Hartley

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08 2010

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