I’ve fired a gun. I took my aim with the old, heavy shot-gun (probably only a step up from a bebe gun), carefully lining it up with the old skillet that hung from the wire with an array of other old things to shoot at the homemade range on the farm. I steadied the gun, feeling nervous that I might miss or accidentally hit a loved one, or get knocked over from the kick back. Heart thumping, I carefully pulled the trigger and let my shot fly. Ding! I couldn’t believe it! I hit the target! A smile creeps across my face and pride fills my head. I lower the weapon and my old fears arise because this is still something that could cause harm to my loved ones huddled close. I hand the old heavy gun back to its owner and proclaim that I’m done. One shot, one hit. Objective complete. Though I’m proud of myself, I don’t ever want to do it again.
I’ve shot a gun. I see how our host enjoys taking aim at the homemade ranges set up at the Northern Michigan farm. I understand the real and present danger of a bear on the land, threatening the safety of the dogs and grandchildren (or us). I understand that the sound of firing the weapon is enough to frighten away the animals or possible intruders. I can see the enthusiasm of the gun owner as he describes the civil war era gun he has recently procured and how it is a fine addition to his collection. And while it is not a hobby I prefer nor want to take part in, I respect his will and ability to do so. I get it.
I don’t want his rights taken away. I don’t want his collection of guns to be taken away. I want him to pursue his passion, to be able to protect his family from lurking wildlife, to expand his collection, and to play on his own land and practice his aim. Like the majority of gun owners, he is a kind, responsible man who probably wouldn’t hurt a fly and deserves his rights. I get it. I understand.
On the flip side, there is rampant gun violence in this country. No one can deny it. My heart broke on December 14, 2012 when I heard the horrific news that 6 adults and 20 children were slaughtered at an elementary school. First graders. They were murdered by a deranged and psychotic person armed to the hilt and using an automatic assault weapon. The shooting was done in 10 minutes. Ten minutes. Six adults and 20 first grade children were killed in 10 minutes. It’s sick and horrifying.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook has since been debated and discussed at nauseam. I’ve tried to read all sides of the debates and all the stories to be better informed. Yes, the shooter was mentally ill. Yes, there is a major lack of support in this country for the mentally ill and their families. This needs to be improved, no doubt. It is said the killer was likely into violent video games. No, playing video games does not turn someone into a murderer, but it has been proven that these images are desensitizing us as a nation towards violence. Perhaps this needs to be explored as well. Finally, there is the question of guns. Yes, the majority of gun owners are law-abiding, responsible people. Yes, the Second Amendment allows us the right to bear arms (and has been tested and defended in the Supreme Court several times).
As I said before, I understand that gun owners are enjoying our right to ownership and are naturally protective of that right. I respect this right and agree. Keep your guns. The issue I have is over a) the type of guns available to the market and b) the easy accessibility of guns available to just about anyone, which goes hand in hand with a lack of checks and balances in the system. Regarding the type of guns available I personally don’t understand why society needs assault weapons. From a conspiracy theorists point of view that in the extremely rare occasion it is necessary for citizens to overthrow a dictator, you’d want to be equally matched in weapons with the military. Ok…. That is an extremely rare occasion that the second amendment was probably getting at when it referenced militias being able to bear arms… I’m not convinced it’s worth our children’s lives on a daily basis though. If the psychotic shooter who entered Sandy Hook on that fateful day had only a shot-gun, perhaps he would not have been able to take so many lives. Perhaps it would have taken him longer and allowed police to arrive or given a chance for someone to stop him as he reloaded. He would have needed better aim to kill so many, versus littering those babies with up to 11 shots each. It’s sick. I personally can’t understand how these particular weapons can be legal and how anyone can truly defend their existence in society.
Now, I totally agree that it’s hard to take rights away. Or make previously legal items or products suddenly illegal, and I can understand gun enthusiasts outrage at this prospect. It’s probably the same outrage smokers felt as they were slowly banned from just about everywhere. It’s a free country, right? But poor smokers, your product is lethal and it can harm you or harm others so your rights have been restricted and you have been inconvenienced. Or maybe outrage from the alcohol industry and the everyday person who wanted to have a few drinks at the bar and drive home at the age of 18. Oops, sorry society, alcohol over certain quantities, especially if you plan to drive can harm you or harm others so that right has been limited (and to the dismay of college kids everywhere been taken away) so you are now inconvenienced. I’m inconvenienced every time I get on a plane. I have to strip off my shoes, jacket, pull off all things metal, have all of my belongings scanned, including a potential pat down because some psychotic person put a bomb in their shoe. I am a law-abiding citizen just trying to get from point A to B but my right to a calm and easy travel experience has been taken away, all because my water bottle could be harmful. The point here is, I know it’s not fun to lose a right to own or use a product that is currently legal, but it can harm you or others and isn’t that why all of these other rights were taken away, for the better good of society? So why are assault weapons exempt? Why do the truly most deadly products on the planet get a free pass here? Why are the small percentage of people interested in these products protected over everyone else? (Let me be clear, I’m not talking about all guns, just the ones specifically designed for mass killing/firing with high ammunition clips etc.) There are bucket loads of restrictions and regulations on everything from OTC drugs, to toys, to children’s pajamas. Why are our most lethal products on the market exempt? Why are guns, when used as intended, can actually kill someone not subject to greater scrutiny?
To my other point, why also are we so worried about inconveniencing our fellow law-abiding gun owners? No offense neighbors, but your product of choice is lethal whether you are intending to use it in that manner or not. Why the loophole in background checks or any other safeguards at point of purchase? I have to scan my ID every time I buy beer at Target (I’m 35) and show my ID when I buy Sudafed (because a small number of crazy people used it to make meth). It seems logical that law-abiding citizens would want to keep guns out of the hands of the criminals that give the entire past time a bad name. (Apparently 90% of Americans support background checks) So why isn’t this happening?
The biggest arguments I’ve seen, largely from the NRA is that it would a) inconvenience law-abiding citizens (sorry, cry a river to the smokers and travelers), b) inconvenience gun sellers (boo hoo, your peddling guns here, not teddy bears) c) it won’t work anyway so why bother (that’s like saying no one goes the speed limit so we should just do away with them) or d) the system doesn’t work… (Hmm seems like we could fix that considering we have networks just for being social that can house a whole lot of info & share it quickly). I understand concerned citizens fear of data collection or a registry. Maybe the concerned should complain to the registered sex offenders that aren’t allowed to live within a certain distance from schools and can be found on the internet? (Ok, not trying to liken all gun owners to sex offenders by any means! Just making the illustration that some people, who really don’t want to be on a registry are on one and for a much, much worse offense then owning a gun). …Also not saying there should be a registry…There is tons of data floating around out there on just about everything we do, there ought to be a way to have enough out there to tell if someone is “allowed” to have a gun or not without violating privacy rights. And most importantly, holding all gun sellers by the same set of rules! Why is a gun show allowed to skip this step or online retailers? Hmmm, if I’m a criminal or intend on using a gun for a less than honorable reason, where should I go buy my gun? Law-abiding store down the street or loophole gun show in the next state??? It doesn’t make sense to me.
It’s not just Sandy Hook, it’s all of these tragedies that have ripped the fabric of our society. Politicians and special interests will scare you and have you believe this is an all or nothing proposition. They’ll ask you to pick a side: anti or pro. I am not anti-gun. Once again, I feel like one of the few (or many?) silent minority (or majority?) that think there is middle ground. That it’s not Democratic or Republican. That it is not Anti or Pro. That things could be better and are worth a try. I feel like the lack of checks is ridiculous. I think letting it slide, especially in the wake of yet another horrific tragedy is cowardly. I feel like the assault weapons are absurd in our society (or part of a sick one up game the gun manufacturers are playing with us to make a profit because if average joe’s have the best weapon then they better sell an even better one to our military and so forth). I don’t want the rights of my host on the farm to be taken away or that of my neighbor. And I’m NOT advocating ALL guns be taken away (no one is). But I also don’t see how his right is more important than my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a safe society. There has to be a way to balance the rights of my neighbors AND protect society from those who wish to do us harm. Background checks seems like an easy one to me. Getting rid of assault weapons seems like a good idea to me too. Mental health, video games, media, movies glorifying violence are all possibilities too. One step at a time. I’m going for low hanging fruit.
I’m not waiting to be horrified by the next mass murder and I don’t want armed guards my children’s schools. (Armed guards didn’t stop the massacre at Columbine and, hello, crossfire?). There’s got to be a better way.
If you’ve read this and you feel the way I do, please consider contacting your House and Senate representatives today. The Senate votes on Senate Bill 649 next week (Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act). It includes universal background checks, anti-trafficking and straw purchasing measures, and school safety enhancements. Call 202-224-3121 ask for your Senator, and tell them you support common sense legislation and are for Senate Bill 649. (Assault weapons ban is an amendment being considered too, I believe is separate from this Bill).
If you like the law the way it is, but were still saddened by the children and adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook, consider the “26 acts of kindness” to honor the victims.
If you disagree with me that’s ok too. I’d like to better understand your point of view (respectfully and kindly if you please).
Thank you for reading.