“You would have thought I had gone up there and done these horrible things,” said Van Cleave, who received the call in the midst of planning demonstrations at two Autozone stores to protest the firing of an employee who used his firearm to break up a robbery.
Those who support the Second Amendment say they feel just as horrified and numb as any other American after Friday’s massacre of kindergartners and other young children at a Connecticut school. But now, as the call for new gun-control laws increases, gun owners say they also feel under attack.
These are the people who see guns as an answer to the problem of violence, not the problem itself. They worry that their Second Amendment rights will be taken away. Challenged by those who see any gun as an instrument of destruction, they defend their belief that guns are beneficial. Harder still is to explain the allure of weapons like the .223-caliber Bushmaster, a military-style semiautomatic rifle that a some want banned.
“I could ask you why should anyone want a Ferrari?” Van Cleave said Sunday. “[Bushmasters] are absolutely a blast to shoot with. They’re fast. They’re accurate.”
And there’s no denying that their fearsome, combat-ready appearance adds to their appeal, he said.
“Guns are fun, and some of them are much more cool than others. It’s just like we have television sets that look cool, and others are much more boxy,” Van Cleave said.
Investigators say Adam Lanza used a .223-caliber Bushmaster to kill 27 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
But none can say why.
Lanza, 20, killed himself before police arrived. He was also carrying two 9mm semiautomatic handguns, including a Glock. The guns belonged to his mother, a gun collector who was slain in her home before the rampage began.
Before Connecticut became home to what, for now, is perhaps the most infamous mass murder in the country, the state was arguably the place where the mass production of repeating firearms was perfected. Samuel Colt set up shop in Hartford in the mid 1800s to produce a firearm whose revolving chambers would feed bullets at a then-unheard-of speed, and it was his company that later developed the forebear of Lanza’s deadly rifle.
The Bushmaster is a civilian version of the M-16 military rifle and its descendents. The flash suppressors, designed to hide the muzzle flash from the enemy, have no practical use at the average shooting range, but they look fierce. Although not as powerful as many popular hunting rifles, such as the .30-06 caliber, whose bullet and cartridge are both larger, the weapon is made for high performance, with a large magazine and rapid rate of fire.