In an angry essay released Friday, best-selling novelist Stephen King calls on gun owners - including himself - to support a ban on semiautomatic weapons and other gun-control measures in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
In the 25-page essay, Guns (available exclusively for 99 cents in Amazon's online Kindle Store), King writes that he owns three handguns "with a clear conscience."
He criticizes the National Rifle Association, the media (for knee-jerk coverage of school shootings) and politicians (for inaction). He also discusses why he pulled his novella Rage, about a teenage gunman, after it was linked to four shootings between 1988 and 1996.
King writes that "it took more than one slim novel to cause (the shooters) to do what they did. These were unhappy boys with deep psychological problems, boys who were bullied at school and bruised at home by parental neglect or outright abuse." All, he notes, had easy access to guns.
He adds, "My book did not break (them) or turn them into killers; they found something in my book that spoke to them because they were already broken. Yet I did see Rage as a possible accelerant which is why I pulled it from sale. You don't leave a can of gasoline where a boy with firebug tendencies can lay hands on it."
He writes that he asked his publisher to pull Rage -- published in 1977 under the pen name Richard Bachman -- "not because the law demanded it; I was protected under the First Amendment, and the law couldn't demand it. 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. They must accept responsibility, recognizing that responsibility is not the same as culpability."
His essay also addresses fellow gun owners:
"No one wants to take away your hunting rifles. No one wants to take away your shotguns. No one wants to take away your revolvers, and no one wants to take away your automatic pistols, as long as said pistols hold no more than ten rounds. If you can't kill a home invader (or your wife, up in the middle of the night to get a snack from the fridge) with ten shots, you need to go back to the local shooting range."
And he asks:
"How paranoid do you want to be? How many guns does it take to make you feel safe? And how do you simultaneously keep them loaded and close at hand, but still out of reach of your inquisitive children or grandchildren? Are you sure you wouldn't do better with a really good burglar alarm? It's true you have to remember to set the darn thing before you go to bed, but think of this - if you happened to mistake your wife or live-in partner for a crazed drug addict, you couldn't shoot her with a burglar alarm."
In a statement about the release of the Kindle Single, King said, "I think the issue of an America awash in guns is one every citizen has to think about. If this helps provoke constructive debate, I've done my job. Once I finished writing 'Guns,' I wanted it published quickly."
David Blum, editor of Kindle Singles, said that King "finished this essay last Friday morning, and by that night we had accepted it and scheduled for publication today."
Launched in 2011, Kindle Singles are works that are considered too long for a magazine article and too short for a book.
Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY