Samuel Colt received a US patent for his revolver (so called for its revolving cylinder) in 1836, more than four hundred years after the first handheld guns were known in Europe and just 130 years before the Beatles’ explosive follow-up to Rubber Soul. According the National Rifle Association there are today more than 300 million privately owned firearms in the US, including 100 million handguns. Of American households, just under half own some sort of gun. A person must be declared mentally unfit by a court or have been committed to a mental hospital to lose the right to buy an automatic weapon in America.
On Sunday night in Tuscon, Arizona, a vigil was held to memorialize the shooting a year ago that killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl and a judge, and wounded 12, including a congresswoman whose survival despite being shot in the head many consider miraculous. Bells tolled in the Arizona afternoon, songs rung out, candles glowed, no one fired, and the congresswoman held tightly onto the sturdy hand of her astronaut husband. A year before, the shooter had been brought down by unarmed civilians.