US gun support runs far deeper than politics

Gun survey

Adam Lanza's mother was among the tens of millions of US gun owners. She legally had a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle and a pair of handguns, which her 20-year-old son used to kill 20 children and six adults in 10 minutes inside a Connecticut school.

In the raw aftermath of the second-worst school shooting in US history, countless gun enthusiasts much like Lanza's mother complicate a gun-owning narrative that critics, sometimes simplistically, put at the feet of a powerful lobby and caricatured zealots. More civilians are armed in the US than anywhere else in the world, with Yemen coming in a distant second, according to the independent Small Arms Survey in Geneva.

Take Blake Smith, a mechanical engineer who lives near Houston and uses an AR-15 style rifle in shooting competitions.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who famously claimed to have shot a coyote while jogging with a pistol holstered to his running shorts, has signed a half-dozen certificates applauding Smith as one of the state's top marksmen. "But I won't call myself a fanatic,'' said Smith, 54, whose father first let him handle a gun around age 6.

"I sit at a desk all day. And when I get out to the range, I don't hear any gunfire going on,'' said Smith, who likens his emotional detachment to his guns to the way he would feel about a car or any other machine. "I'm so intent on my sight alignment, my trigger pull, my position. I don't worry about anything. I don't think about anything. It's relieving. It's therapeutic. Everybody has to have their Zen.''

Since the school shooting, President Barack Obama has asked for proposals on reducing gun violence that he can take to Congress in January, and he called on the National Rifle Association, the country's most powerful gun-rights organization, to join the effort.

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