I’ve really struggled with writing about this subject.
I am a dyed in the wool Gay, Liberal, Atheist, Tree Hugger.
And I own guns. Yes multiple guns. Also, I own a lot of ammo for said guns because a gun without ammo is just a club.
After each school shooting I’ve listened to debates pro and con about gun control. I have to say that I’d become a little numb to the news of it. Then this shooting happened. It shouldn’t have been different but this time the victims were able to articulate their views and feelings in a way that made me really look at the issue. And those victims could be my kid.
My son is about to enter high school. The thought of him running for his life from a shooter with a semi-automatic weapon wakes me up at night. The day of the Newtown massacre I left work early so we could pick him up early from elementary school. We weren’t the only parents hugging puzzled kids in the parking lot that day. But I still didn’t look at the gun control debate the same way the Florida school shooting has made me look at my part in it.
I have been personally reconsidering my own gun ownership. I am a responsible owner. And by responsible I mean that I have training that I maintain. I understand my weapons. I know how to fire them, clean them and store them safely. I do not conceal carry but I know I can have that ability. My multiple guns are stored in such a way that you can’t just stumble upon them. You have to be intentional in their retrieval.
I am mindful of the statistics that gun owners are more likely to die by their own gun than those that don’t own guns. I am mindful of the studies about accidental shootings. I am also mindful that the world is also less violent than at anytime in past history. I live in a very low crime neighborhood. Home invasion is not high on my list of emergencies to prepare for. I’ve taught my son to respect firearms and he knows how to handle them. I’ve done all the right things but right now I am seriously considering selling those guns and purchasing just one revolver for home protection. I don’t need the hand cannons I have now, as fun as they are to shoot.
I’m not gonna lie. I really enjoy shooting my guns. My guns are finely made machines that coupled with my skill and training give me great satisfaction in operating. Mastering the art of shooting is a skill that at one time was very necessary life skill. There is a connection to the history of the freedoms we enjoy that I derive from participating in practicing that skill.
There is also a comfort I derive from knowing that if necessary I have a way to kill from a distance. I am no great martial artist or action star with moves to karate chop my way out of danger. Fifty percent of my species on this planet is on average stronger than I am. I am also cognizant that my race and economic position mean I am less likely to encounter a violent situation that would require me to use deadly force than I am to get hit by someone who is driving while intoxicated.
I have depression and I know that having a gun in the house means I am more likely to commit suicide with that gun than if it wasn’t there. In fact I have a family member that committed suicide with a firearm. This elevates my risk level considerably so I’ve taken certain precautions that means I monitor my mental health proactively.
I was raised with guns being in the house. I knew about them. I knew to respect them. I understood the rules about their use. Hunting, trapping and fishing were things I understood were part of everyday life. I lived for a time in Montana where people would drive to school with their hunting rifles in the cab of their truck and park on school property so they could go hunting immediately after school. I have been exposed to that type of gun culture throughout my life and never felt at risk from fellow gun owners.
So what does being a responsible gun owner mean?
I think it means that with my knowledge and experience I have a right to say there are some guns that shouldn’t be available for the general public to own. I am not talking about banning those guns but I am talking about having a permitting process that allows levels of gun ownership depending on ability and need.
I liken it to driver’s licenses. Just about everyone can go to DMV pay their money and pass a test to show a basic level of proficiency with car to a qualified examiner and get a license that allows them to drive a vehicle on the streets with other people. We acknowledge as a society it’s in our best interests that there are laws and rules governing the use of those vehicles and that larger more complex vehicles require a greater level of skill. Those vehicles therefore require a different license endorsement with regular physical check ups and re-qualifications. Reckless behavior can result in the suspension or revocation of the license. People adjudicated mentally unstable can be denied licenses.
Look, we still have race cars. High end, top of the line, blow your doors off cars that need a lot of skill to drive that you can go and pay to receive lessons and get qualified to drive around a track at insane speeds. But we dont let everyone have those and drive them as their daily driver on the streets.
Now do people not licensed or whose licenses have been suspended or revoked still drive? Yes but they also face stiff penalties if caught. This kind of process doesn’t completely solve the problem of gun violence but I bet it would be a damn big step in the direction of reducing it.
And that’s another thing as a responsible gun owner I want science to back me up. I demand that congress get out of the fucking way and let the CDC actually study gun violence so we can do more than guess in the dark about the causes of school shootings and other gun violence! If I am going to argue that we as a society should have guns available to us I want facts and numbers to back me up. The only way to do that from the moral high ground is to have impartial scientific studies that are not funded by people with an agenda one way or the other.
One thing I come back to time and again while contemplating this subject is something one of the students from the Florida shooting said about the shooter.
“He wouldn’t have killed as many people with a knife.”
If you haven’t watched her speech I encourage you to. I will put the link below to the YouTube video. This is one of our United States Citizens that went through this horrific event. She has a right to demand action from us, from the responsible gun owners. We need to accept that with our 2nd Amendment right comes the responsibility to ensure that our weapons are not available to be used in a manner that harms this society that we love and cherish and which we purport to have these weapons to protect.