Father, Hunter, Gun Owner
I Can't Stop Thinking About an Answer
On December 14, 2012 I was sitting at Minnesota State University, Mankato watching my wife go through a teacher pinning ceremony for special education. My wife was graduating the next day and I sat there, proud to see all her hard work being recognized.
One of the other husbands watching his wife go through the pinning ceremony leaned over and said that there was a school shooting and 20 kids had been killed in Newtown Connecticut. Having children in elementary school I was immediately struck with sadness and disgust for how incredibly evil people can be. This news quickly spread and cast a grey cloud on the wonderful graduation event that was about to unfold.
This day marked the beginning of many hours talking and debating with friends and family on gun control and watching the media bring this topic to the forefront. Being a long-time firearms owner, regular shooter and hunter this was a topic I was not only passionate about, but one that challenged me on many different levels. Since the time of the Newtown shooting I have been following this gun debate very closely and have listened to both sides. I have shared my views on Facebook with friends, debated over coffee with acquaintances, talked about it with my wife and children, and continue to educate myself through reading.
Here is where I finally ended up on this topic:
There are many inanimate human-created objects in the world: golf clubs, computers, guns, footballs, chairs, cars, you name it. Each object simply sits there and does nothing until a human comes and interacts with it. Since none of these objects are “alive” they simply cannot function without some type of energy setting them into motion. A strong wind, a falling tree, etc. can set an inanimate object into motion, but we call those “acts of God” — at least in the insurance world.
Otherwise, most movement of inanimate objects comes from human interaction. “We” as humans create the energy that puts things into motion.
As I think about guns, they too are inanimate objects requiring humans to put energy into them to get them to shoot. At a very core fundamental level (setting aside a gun as a weapon) it is a human-driven machine. So, anything done with a gun is a direct result of human interaction and energy. The accountability falls on the person and the focus should be on them instead of the weapon.
Like it or not, right or wrong, we live in a fast-paced, technology-driven society. We also live in a society that has an insatiable appetite for instant gratification (I want it fast and right now!). Technology has only fueled this human behavior because technology has created an expectation that there should be instant results (emails, texting, buying online, etc.). We now have come to expect and “demand” that things get done fast!
In thinking about the Newtown Shooting, we want something done NOW. But mental health is too big and too complicated to tackle and it could take many years to see results from those efforts. Not to mention as humans we tend to get complacent and bored if it takes too long, thus things are forgotten or let go of all together. Mental health is like our health care system — too big, too complex and too difficult to change. The faster path is going after the gun. As difficult as it may be to change the gun laws it’s much faster than changing mental health. We want to fix things NOW!
We can fool ourselves all we want but what we see on TV, read in the papers (or now on your I-Pad), listen to on the radio, etc., has great influence on us. Many of the life paths we choose are not just a result of the environment we live in or the parents we have (or don’t have), but it’s the things we watch, see, aspire to, hope to be, etc. There is great power in that. An entire society can change its hairstyle, clothing choices, cars it buys, etc., just by watching something.
Furthermore, the more we see it in our society the more we desire it. That’s why so many millions and even billions of dollars have been spent on political campaign ads, commercials, advertising, etc.
When I think about the gun debate taking place right now, the guns are at the forefront because the media has put them there. The focus is on the guns because the advertising is on the guns.
Laws govern our society. We have streetlights, stop signs, taxes, etc. Without laws we might have a society that functions under its own rules. Some may be good, some may be bad, but rules are created so that the masses know how to govern themselves. If they do not they are deemed “law breakers” and as such end up in jail, fined or in extreme cases put to death. These law enforcement measures are meant to send a clear signal to society that behaviors outside of the law are not tolerated. However, laws or no laws, consequences or no consequences, humans who are intent on hurting others or breaking the law will do so no matter how many restrictions are put into place.
When I think about the mass murders, the everyday murders and suicides where a gun was used, I ask myself, “Would those same people do themselves harm or others with or without a gun?” The answer I keep coming up with is yes — bad people are bad people with ill intents.
The objects they use may be more or less effective, but the behavior is unchanged. I also remember 9/11 when nothing but some effective planning and a box cutter took down our airliners and the largest buildings in the world, leaving our high-tech military scrambling and thousands dead. What stopped the behavior (at least in one instance) were some brave Americans armed with nothing but a food cart and a determination not to tolerate evil people.
Being a well-educated firearms owner and having been around guns my entire life I can tell you that there is a great deal of stigma and fear around them that is largely due to misinformation. There is no denying or arguing that a gun is an effective killing and protection tool. Then again, so is a bow and arrow. The difference is that a gun can reach farther, is much louder, shoots faster and can be much more precise.
The results if shot, however, are the same. If shot with a bow or a gun you will most likely die or be seriously injured so they are objects to be respected and handled carefully. Same with a knife – I wouldn’t let a child run around with a sharp kitchen knife. They have the potential for serious injury or death, thus require respect and proper handling.
As it relates to “assault weapons” and now “high-capacity magazines,” once again there is misinformation and lack of proper education. Guns are classified in several categories:
• Automatic –
Hold down the trigger and the gun keeps firing until out of ammo
• Semi-Auto –
Press the trigger to shoot, release the trigger to reset, pull again to shoot
• Double Action-
Pull the trigger to set hammer and release hammer to fire
• Single Action-
Pull hammer to set trigger, pull trigger to shoot
Pull forearm of action to set trigger. Pull trigger to shoot.
Automatic and semi-auto chamber the next round via spring-loaded magazines and the gas from the bullet releasing its energy. Magazines can be changed out in less than a second, thus one 30 round high capacity magazine is virtually the same as three ten round magazines. They can be fired just as quickly. There are hundreds of gun “styles” that use the semi-auto technology (and yes it’s a technology). My daughter’s pink .22lr rifle uses the same technology (semi-auto) and can rattle off 22 rounds as fast as she can pull the trigger and rest it.
When I think about a ban on semi-auto “assault” rifles and “high capacity” magazines, it makes no logical sense. The killer in Newtown would have been just as effective with any semi-auto gun or even a double action revolver that now holds ten rounds. We as a society are reacting to the “style” of gun and not the technology. The AR15 is what’s known as a “platform.” It simply has a design that is lightweight and mimics the look of a military rifle.
While my daughter’s pink .22lr is not as menacing looking, it can cause the same carnage as the AR15 if in the wrong hands. Anyone can change out the ten round clip faster than you could yell, “STOP!” This ongoing debate over assault rifles and high capacity magazines is not productive nor will it change the behaviors of sick and twisted individuals.
They will simply choose the next weapon.
Then what? Ban that one? On top of this, you will be creating an underground society where high capacity magazines and AR15 style weapons will still be sold and made. In an effort to get a quick fix the opposite will happen, much like we are seeing now with AR15’s flying off the shelves at record rates along with ammo.
The 2nd Amendment Argument.
I don’t know that our founding fathers could have predicted the type of technology that would be around hundreds of years later. So much has changed in the world that a case could be made for all of our amendments being outdated.
However, like the Bible I still believe they are good guidelines to follow. Do we have to worry about the U.S. military taking us over? I doubt it, as many of the U.S. military have brothers, sisters, children, parents and friends that they would never turn on — even under the strictest of orders. The likelihood is very, very low.
That said, our founding fathers may have also not been able to predict how many lunatics there would be out in the world and how grotesque and evil they could be. We now live in a very unpredictable world and, to some degree, a very unsafe world. Home invasions, child abductions, school shootings, gangs, etc., have made American life quite different. In fact, when I was a kid (and this was only 35 years ago) my parents and other parents would let their kids at very young ages walk to school, ride their bikes day and night all over, and didn’t give it a second thought. Now, I couldn’t imagine letting my 10-year-old daughter ride her bike alone in the dark, even in my own neighborhood.
I think about the argument to the 2nd Amendment and say yes, it may not be our military that’s out there to do us harm; instead, it’s a new type of criminal that we have to protect ourselves from. And the criminals today would like to see nothing more than our 2nd Amendment rights taken away with a ban on guns. You see, that gives them a further edge because they don’t think rules, laws and amendments apply to them. They do what they want, when they want, with whatever and whomever they want.
Universal background checks are something that should be done, and should have been done a while ago. Of course, ALL of us want to mitigate the risk of innocent people and children getting killed. That is a camp we are all in. The rub right now is the worry over new laws and how they impact the law-abiding citizens. We all know background checks are the right thing to do, but when politicians and law makers start talking about seizing guns from people’s homes (like what is going on in California), then the fight moves from a law to mitigate risk, to a discussion on how much government infringement do you want in your home. Where does this all stop?
There are other fundamental questions we are not asking. How much control are we as Americans willing to accept for the safety of our society? And if we did make those decisions would they have an impact or change the way people are behaving, or simply open up a whole new set of problems?
You see, criminals prey on the vulnerable. They look for opportunity. With each successful, devastating event it breeds more ideas and more attempts.
Think about this hypothetical: If a guy came armed to a school intending on shooting children and was immediately killed BEFORE he could commit his heinous crime, and then later again that year another shooter tried the same thing and again is mowed down, how many other criminals would attempt this same thing? Our schools and our children are targets because they are vulnerable and defenseless.
Our world has changed and with it we need to change to protect those we love. We don’t want our schools to become a fortress, but if criminals insist on attacking schools and continue to succeed in doing so, well, then we will have to change the way we conduct our business at schools.
We all want the same thing (gun owners and non-gun owners): less killing and more safety in our society.
Derick White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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