WASHINGTON — Stephen King, the prolific writer of best-selling novels, released an essay Friday calling for “a trio of reasonable measures to curb gun violence” in response to last month’s tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and other mass shootings.
King, a Maine native and a part-time Bangor resident with liberal political views, said he owns three handguns “with a clear conscience.”
In the wake of the shootings Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, King said he hopes that gun owners will urge Congress and the gun lobby to support “reasonable” changes such as banning assault weapons.
King’s 25-page essay, titled simply “Guns,” is available only on Amazon’s Kindle digital platform, for 99 cents. Profits from the sales will go to victims of gun violence, according to King’s website.
“I think the issue of an America awash in guns is one every citizen has to think about,” King said in a news release. “If this helps provoke constructive debate, I’ve done my job.”
A representative for King said Friday that the author was not giving interviews or otherwise promoting the essay.
Like many of King’s fictional works, “Guns” is raw, oftentimes profane and filled with social commentary. The author also recounts his personal deliberations about one of his own works that apparently was read by some school gunmen.
The essay begins with King’s acerbic, step-by-step critique of the way mass shootings are covered by the media and play out in the public debate: the initial scramble for details — many of them later proven incorrect — and footage, the ensuing nonstop coverage of funerals and grieving, the “talking head” analyses and the political rhetoric as calls for gun control are met with staunch opposition from pro-gun groups.
Eventually, King writes, the shooting story gets displaced in the news and “any bills to change existing gun laws, including those that make it possible for almost anyone in America to purchase a high-capacity assault weapon, quietly disappear into the legislative swamp.”
And then, he adds, “it happens again and the whole thing starts over.”
King recounts his own experience with his little-noticed novel “Rage” — written under his pen name Richard Bachman — the story of a troubled teenager who brings a gun to school, kills a teacher and holds a class hostage.
King pulled the book from publication after several teenage gunmen quoted it, referred to the novel or had copies.
King draws comparisons between his decision and the questions he said gun owners’ rights groups should be asking in the current debate over gun control.
While King writes that his novel “did not break” the gunmen or turn them into killers, “they found something in my book that spoke to them because they were already broken.”
“I didn’t pull ‘Rage’ from publication because the law demanded it; I was protected under the First Amendment and the law couldn’t demand it,” he writes. “I pulled it because in my judgment it might be hurting people and that made it the responsible thing to do. Assault weapons will remain readily available to crazy people until the powerful pro-gun forces in this country decide to do a similar turnaround.”
King endorses three of the gun control proposals laid out by President Obama:
• Comprehensive and universal background checks for all gun sales and stiff penalties for lying to obtain a weapon.
• A ban on the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines and clips.
• A ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15, which was used in Newtown and other mass shootings.
Although he’s not a prominent political activist, King occasionally gets involved in liberal causes.
In 2011, he launched a liberal morning talk radio program on a Bangor radio station he owns to counter the more conservative views heard on other stations.
And last year, he publicly called for rich Americans — like himself — to pay more in taxes.
He and his wife, author Tabitha King, are also major philanthropists in Maine.
Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:
On Twitter: @KevinMillerDC