FLINT - This is an appeal to the plinkers and plunkers out there - in other words the law-abiding folks who own the vast majority of assault-style weapons in this country and use them for nothing more violent than picking off cans and bottles at a sand pit or putting holes in cardboard targets on a range.
Without you, gun legislation has no real chance of passing Congress.
I heard about it on the radio. A news analysis said gun legislation has the proverbial snowball's chance because Republican lawmakers, and even a few Democrats, say they're not feeling any pressure from their constituents.
And without pressure, what do you expect them to do, vote their conscience? Vote for the good of the country? Vote because an assault-style weapon ban and limits on large capacity magazines are what a majority of Americans want? Vote because of the 26 children and adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month or the thousands more who are sure to follow if we don't do something?
C'mon. That's not going to happen. Not with this Congress. Not while the NRA is stuffing campaign contributions into their pockets and throwing fear into anyone who opposes them.
So it comes down to you - the plinkers and plunkers of America. You are the key. President Obama admitted as much when he introduced his gun measures this week.
"Behind the scenes," he said, (special interest groups will) do everything they can to block any common sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.
The only way we will be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different, that this time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged."
And he's right. It is how we will be judged - by our own consciences and by future generations.
So what will it be, plinkers and plunkers? Is your fun worth more to you than the lives of thousands more men, women and children? If not, then you need to say so. You need to tell your legislator and keep telling him, "Things have got to change."
And just so you know, I realize doing so will be tough. Who likes to admit that something they enjoy is something that should be banned or limited? No one.
Especially when it comes to guns. Guns are fun. I completely get the attraction. I used to be a plinker and plunker myself. I shot cans, bottles, targets. But the thing is, I managed to do those things with my dad's old .22 rifle, which took one bullet at a time, and a .22 pistol, which, I think, took six. (It's been a long while.)
I've never shot a Bushmaster AR-15, like the one Adam Lanza used, but I'll bet it's fun-squared. I'd love to fire one. Who wouldn't want to fire a gun that spits bullets as fast as you can yank the trigger? I would. I'd also love to fire a bazooka, lob a grenade and own a Sherman tank. None of that makes me bloodthirsty. I simply grew up playing too much Army man. I think a lot of extreme-gun owners did, too. They don't and never will use their weapons to harm or threaten their fellow man. They're just toys. Loud, destructive, completely fun toys. I get it.
But those toys are not toys when they get into the hands of this nation's legions of troubled and disenfranchised souls. They are wickedly effective tools. And like it or not there's no logical way to keep them out of their hands if they're in yours. That's the simple truth.
So while we might like our extreme guns, we as a nation can't afford them. It's time to change. Most gun owners will proudly tell you they are patriots who love this land. Here's a chance to prove it by putting the national interest over self-interest.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Write to Andrew Heller at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.