One of my oldest Illinois friends, "Ed," owns three handguns. Why? I ask. "To protect against home invasions." Why three? "Got one on each floor. Gotta be accessible -- fast." But how about your basement rec room? "Well, maybe I need another one." Have many home invasions in this fancy suburb? "No, not yet. But they're moving out our way." They? "You know, the criminal element." The dark people? "Hey, I'm not a racist, but you just look at the crime rate down in Chicago."

So you're safe with your four pistols. "Three. Safer, anyway. I showed my wife how to use two of them." So when the Chicago gangsters break in, you'll be ready for them. "Damn right. Me and the NRA. Against the forces of evil."

Must be a good feeling. "That it is. Not many organizations are so sincere about the safety of the American people as the NRA." You help them out? "Both them and my church. Send 'em a nice check twice a year." Contributions to America's security? "They stand between people like me and just plain ... plain ..." Chaos? Anarchy? "You got it -- chaos, and takeover by the government."

The government's about to take over our government? "Now, don't get smart. You know what I mean. With millions of people like me, bearing arms under the Second Amendment, the government's gonna think twice about taking over, well, everything."

Everything? Like our bridges, our roads, schools, police, fire departments, post offices, Army, Navy, Medicare, Social Security ... ? "Exactly. There just wouldn't be anything left to private enterprise, to the American people." You want the government to keep its hands off your Social Security? "Now just hold on. I know Social Security is a government program, and I like it. But I just don't want government bureaucrats messing with it, is all." Like when government bureaucrats try to privatize it? "You got it."

I'm gonna lay a couple of numbers on you. How does the NRA figure in these data? More than 1 million Americans have been killed by handguns in the last 44 years. Of the richest 23 nations, 87 percent of the children killed worldwide by guns are American kids. "First, I don't believe you. And second, the NRA never pulled one trigger in all those murders." They just make sure more and more Americans are armed -- for their own safety -- right? "Right! You can't blame a fine organization that defends the Constitution, the Second Amendment, for any consequences, like what people do with those self-defense weapons."

Sure, that would be like blaming parents for letting their children play with loaded guns. "Now you're twisting things. Most Americans are law-abiding citizens ..." Who kill each other with handguns at the rate of ... "Now you're trying to trick me with numbers. I don't know why I talk to you about this."

Every day, 53 more Americans killed by guns. Pretty hard to deal with that toll, isn't it? "I don't have to deal with it. That's mostly criminals who kill each other like that. Me, and the other NRA members, we're law-abiding folks who buy our guns legally, and go through background checks and stuff." Except for the 40 percent sold at gun shows, where anybody -- including your criminal element -- can and do buy uncounted numbers of unchecked guns every year.

"Hey, don't blame me for what other people do."

No, that wouldn't be fair. Unless you help fund the organization that spends multimillions to make sure nobody passes laws that interfere with those profitable gun show sales. Sales to crooks, murderers, terrorists -- and to law-abiding citizens like you.

"I never sold any guns to crooks or ..." You just give the NRA the money to enable those sales. Lets you off the hook -- right? "Right. Then get off my back, OK?"

OK. You never killed anybody. That's nice. All you do is provide the money that lets the NRA put the guns in the hands of people who kill with them. I get it. No skin off your nose.

"So sue me."

Norm Haughness of Tehachapi, a philosopher and educator, wrote a longtime column for The Californian's sister publication, the Tehachapi News. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.