Torn over the thorny gun issue


Like many people, I watched a few of the news reports on the March for our Lives for school safety in cities across the U.S. over the weekend and I’m torn. Unlike many of the supposed experts on both sides of the gun issue, I don’t have answers. I have more questions.

On one hand, I remember the first time I shot a gun. I was 12-years-old with my father out in the middle of the woods, getting ready for my first hunting season. On my father’s direction, I pulled his rifle up to my shoulder and took aim. It felt heavy and cold in my hands. With my father leaning-in close, I could smell the strong musky smell of his Aqua Velva after shave lotion.

I pulled the trigger back and fired. And of course, I completely missed my target. I couldn’t have taken a worst first shot if I tried. I missed by a good foot or two. My father laughed and told me to try again.

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I shot again and this time my aim was better, but the kick of the 30:30 pushed back hard on my shoulder, surprising me and giving me a small bruise. We spent the rest of the day walking the woods. My father used the hike to repeat many of the lessons I had learned in a day-long hunter safety course:

  • You never point the gun in anger.
  • You never walk with the gun the loaded, you keep it unloaded until you are ready to use it.
  • Before you shoot, you look left, you look right and left and right again to make sure nothing else will get hit. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
  • You always clean and lock up your gun when you’re done.

Fathers, grandfathers, guardians and friends replay that scene every year, helping to educate new hunters to the right way and wrong way to carry firearms, but this obviously isn’t the problem today.

We’re not talking about the dangers in the woods, we’re talking about mass shootings with high capacity weapons in schools and public places from Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada to Florida.

A problem that’s not going away

On the other hand, I remember the few times I’ve had to pick up my kids sick at school. I would get the call, short on details, but clear in one bit of direction: they needed to be picked-up immediately.  In those instances, I’ve had to drop whatever I was doing and run to take them out of school. I can only imagine the fear multiplied by 12 million in getting seeing on television or getting a call that a shooting has taken place at one of my kid’s schools.

question-mark-2123969_640I’ve seen enough interviews with the parents of children injured or killed in school shootings to empathize with them and imagine the terror and cold sweat that I would feel, so I take the concerns of the Stoneman Douglas High School students and others that presented over the weekend seriously. They’re kids asking for help.

I value the constitution. It’s foundation to everything that we hold dear. The founding fathers put in certain protections to protect us from an out-of-control government and even ourselves. James Madison played a key role in ensuring the inclusion of “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

But we also live in a world quite different from what the founding fathers could have ever envisioned. I suspect the debate over the gun issue will grow and deepen. We have to come up with better solutions. Our kids deserve it.

Simple questions, hard answers

Unfortunately, I seem to have more questions than answers. For example:

–The Conservative Right likes to say that it’s a people issue, not a gun issue. I agree that more needs to be done in this area, but I have to question why they keep taking money away from mental health concerns? That makes no sense to me.

–I hear the latest call to arm teachers and being the spouse of a teacher, I have to ask a very simple question: where might this funding come from?  I know that my wife’s school certainly doesn’t pass along basic funding for pencils and paper, forget about a new Glock, training, and proper insurance to boot, and that’s the case for many, many other schools too. So, let’s stop trying to pass the buck to teachers, who deserve our respect and resources, not extra responsibilities.

–If this were any other type of outbreak or health issue, the president would reach out to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies for solutions. However, research in the U.S. on gun-related issues has been at a standstill since the mid 90s when Congress threatened to stop funding the CDC unless it stopped funding research into firearm injuries and deaths. They were reacting to National Rifle Association accusations that the CDC promoted gun control. I know that this is a hot button issue for the right and left, but the CDC can’t become a political football, otherwise, we’ll never come up with solutions to our health issues.

–Where was the FBI? In the weeks leading up to the Stoneman Douglas shooting, a number of people reported concerns about the shooter, but law enforcement officials failed to act.

–The first amendment gives us free speech, but I’ll get arrested, and rightfully so, if I incite a riot or falsely shout fire in a crowded theater. I’m not a gun expert and I don’t proclaim to be one. I won’t go into detail on the differences on semi-automatic and automatic firearms, because I know it can be easy to get the details wrong, but why the challenge to common sense stipulations and requirements? The background checks that we have today are obviously not doing the job.

–I could go on and on with questions, but my biggest question of all remains: what actually works in reducing gun violence?

Some will read this and say I’m a gun apologist, others will say I’m a gun control zealot. I suspect I fall somewhere in the middle. I really don’t want anyone’s guns. I just think that we owe the students in Florida and students everywhere, real solutions that will make a difference and not the pointless rhetoric that politicians and organizations on both sides of the aisle continue to fall back on and send out immediately following the latest shooting.

Our kids deserve better, we deserve better.

 

 

 

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