Another tragedy involving someone killing innocent people with guns. Another national third-grade level dialogue about guns, violence, society, mental illness, concealed carry laws, gun-free zones…
My first time shooing a gun other than my dad’s BB gun was at scout camp. I can still hear the Rangemaster’s voice urging us to “Sqeeeeeeeze the trigger” shortly after bellowing out “Ready on the left, ready on the right, ready on the firing line.”
Years later I had a job where I had to carry a gun for protection. Not a taser, not pepper spray, not even a handgun. I had to qualify and then carry a .375 rifle, capable of taking down a charging brown bear. For three summers, one of the four of us on the trail crew had to carry it. The only time we ever fired it was during our testing. The test involved firing one shot into each of three successively closer targets and being in a vital zone on the bear outline. Within 10 seconds.
Sometimes we would walk into a work site and a few hours later see bear prints on top of our own tracks. We worked on a bridge while a young bear fished the rapids below us. We still considered carrying that rifle a nuisance.
A few years after that I bought my first gun. It was surreal and I wondered if what I was doing was illegal. I was in the seller’s dining room as he set the rifle in front of me. It had a nice Leupold scope and cushioned butt. I didn’t have to show any ID. There was no waiting period. My name wasn’t written down anywhere as part of the transaction (that I know of). He asked if I’d like a few boxes of ammo. Sure. As he went to what I hoped was a very secure safe, I looked out of his dining room window at the elementary school across the street. Kids were playing on the playground that drizzly Saturday afternoon. I walked out to my car with a rifle in a soft case and a grocery bag with a few boxes of ammunition. I still wondered if I had done something illegal. But surely the seller would not have done something illegal — he was the Chief of Police.
Years later, having perhaps shot all of those rounds at the target range and carried the rifle a few times on fruitless (meatless?) deer and moose hunting trips, I sold the rifle back to him. I didn’t want a gun in the house. Even though I had a lock on the gun and had hidden the key so well I needed to use bolt cutters to cut the lock off before selling it, I didn’t want a firearm in the house when my family would soon include a 10 year old boy. The Police Chief asked me what I wanted to buy to replace it. I told him I didn’t want anything. He was incredulous. “What will you do to protect yourself?” he pleaded. Stunned to have a law enforcement officer ask how I would protect myself, I just said I would call the police.
It is sad that I know people that have committed suicide by gun. I know kids that have died accidentally while hunting. I know someone that is now in prison after drinking and threatening police with his assault rifle. Accidents happen. People make bad decisions. I don’t want to politicize the deaths, I learned from them and want to share that. However, I don’t know anyone that has used a firearm to defend themselves. I have friends that carry firearms at all times. But statistically (the numbers really do support this) and anecdotally they are more likely to hurt themselves or someone they care for than someone intending them harm.
Going back to my time of carrying a gun in the woods, the only person I personally know that has been attacked by a bear was hunting them. Though bears attack people that are not injuring them or up to their elbows in moose entrails.
Here are the facts.
- Gun and ammo sales surge after mass shootings. The mass shootings are good for business for weapon manufacturers and the NRA.
- The NRA spent 32 million dollars lobbying and on federal campaigns in 2014 alone.
- Annual homicides (by any cause) in the US are at their lowest since 1965. Statistically you have not been safer from someone killing you in the last 50 years.
- There is no correlation between violent acts and violent video games and movies.
- Almost twice as many people kill themselves with guns annually compared to those killed by others.
- Guns are used for intimidation far more often than in actual self defense, and that intimidation is often either illegal (it isn’t self defense if you pull a gun on someone in an argument — no matter how heated) or done against a spouse.
We need to stop being passive and act. This isn’t about the few shooters going for a high body count. This is about tens of thousands of preventable injuries and deaths each year because of the easy access to firearms.