Thursday, January 17, 2013

Episode 1: Thoughts as a gun owner

If you haven't read the Introduction you should do so before reading below.
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 “I got bodies here.”
- 911 Recording, December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sandy Hook, Connecticut

I live in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Being a member of this deeply wounded community has given me a lot to think about. The role of firearms in my life and in the society in which I live is never far from my thoughts.

My dad shot competitively when I was growing up and I learned to shoot firearms when I was very young. I continue to be a gun owner. I hunt. I was a police officer. I have taught my wife and boys responsible gun handling. One of the few family activities that I can get everyone to agree upon is shooting a round of clays. While not a central feature in our existence, firearms are a part of our life.

I know many gun owners. I am not aware of any of them committing a crime with their weapons. I cannot think of one that I would not trust with a weapon.

I am no longer a member of the National Rifle Association.

I believe that all citizens of this country have a right to own firearms as granted by the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution and supported by subsequent court rulings. I believe that the second amendment is an individual right. I support the right for the lawful carrying of concealed weapons.

However, I do believe that reasonable controls and limitations on the ownership of firearms are warranted; they have always been warranted.

Since the passing of the National Firearms Act in 1934 we as a country have recognized that it is in the public interest for some firearms to be either illegal or highly regulated. This position has also been supported by the courts. Those limitations have been expanded over time as society has progressed, our views on the role of firearms has changed, and as the technology has evolved.

I do not own an assault rifle.

I've considered buying an assault rifle in the past but could not justify its role in my personal collection. When I examined it, the only reason I wanted one was because I could have one. Simply put, it would be cool to have a military firearm decked out with all the trimmings. And that wasn't enough in my mind to warrant the purchase or clearing a space in my gun safe. There is no practical purpose for this weapon.

The focus on assault rifles in our dialog about firearms is warranted. These weapons are different, to argue otherwise both denies the reality of why they were created and also, frankly, common sense.

Assault rifles were designed for the express purpose of making those in the military more effective at killing people. There's a reason that our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen carry AR-15 variants instead of Winchester Model 70s. The Model 70 is lethal, no doubt. But in battle, the relative lethality of a weapon configured like the AR-15 is much higher than other long arms. That's why few of our forces carry bolt action rifles.

I know that assault rifles are rarely used in crimes. Most rarely make it out of the closet or gun safe. But when legally purchased assault weapons are wielded by criminals the effects are devastating because these weapons are designed to be so.

I'm one good guy who is willing to give up my right to own certain types of weapons to reduce the likelihood of bad guys getting them. I don't know what those restrictions should be though it should probably look something like the assault weapons ban. I'm willing to hear some well measured proposals. I bet many fellow gun owners feel the same. If you're one of them, you need to make your voice heard.

I support reasonable restrictions on the ownership of weapons, especially those specifically designed for our military.

Our communities should not be forts nor should they be armed like them.

Read the next post in the series

32 comments:

  1. APPLAUSE! I feel that there are many gun owners that are of a similar mind and no one is listening to them. Not every gun owner is member of the NRA - I am not, nor will I be. The NRA does not speak for me nor every gun owner in our country. How to change peoples perceptions of gun owners in general is the hard part.

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    1. Thanks, Gretchen. Gun owners and non-owners need to speak for themselves. Allowing these pro and anti organizations to create polar positions has not worked in the past and will not work in the future.

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  2. I went into a Gander Mountain Gun World a few weeks ago and I couldn't believe some of the weapons I saw in the "Tactical Sporting" section. Who needs a .50 caliber sniper rifle? Those aren't guns, those are weapons. I own a couple of guns. My dad even owns some assault weapons, nothing fully auto or no large capacity magazines though, and most of them are bolt action WWII era rifles which I'd consider good hunting rifles. I think large capacity magazines are what make the gun a weapon more than anything else.

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    1. I think we need to think about guns as a weapon system. There are weapon systems designed for target shooting, hunting, personal protection and war. The combination of the assault rifle and a high capacity magazine, while it can be used for other things, is a weapon system designed for maximum lethality. If a manufacturer wants to create one of those systems, there are plenty of countries that need them for their army.

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  3. As a gun-owning sportsman, I completely agree. I own a shotgun, a .22 and 30.06--all for the sole purpose of hunting game. I don't own a handgun. I don't carry a gun in my car, or hidden under my jacket. I don't have a concealed carry permit, and I don't know that I believe them necessary. My guns are safely secluded in my house.

    Like you, Steve, I see no practical purpose for owning a weapon designed to kill people, as law-abiding citizens in this country should have no need for such a tool. I would go one step further--who needs a handgun--or any gun--that can hold 30 rounds? Outside of a police SWAT unit, I don't see the practicality, but I do see the devastating consequences when these weapons find their way into the wrong hands.

    That's where the NRA loses me, and I would hope the bulk of the sporting community who recognizes that reasonable controls on the kinds of weapons that should be available to the public are just that ... reasonable.

    I also think that most middle-of-the-road Americans fall pretty close to this position on guns. I believe those on the extremes (both left and right) are controlled by fear, and manipulated by those who prey on those who are afraid.

    Thank you for addressing this issue. As a fellow sportsman, I'm grateful to see a reasoned approach to the application of the Second Amendment in today's world.

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    1. If the middle sits quietly we will make no progress. We need the middle to speak. I appreciate you being one of those voices. I hope you'll engage others you know in the middle to help move forward reasonable change.

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  4. Steve, I also live in CT. I would like to see the state act as swiftly as NY in enacting laws to stem the flow of military-style weapons and accessories into our communities. A good first step would be to regulate the sale of guns at gun shows. If a background check is needed in a store, it should be needed anywhere a gun transaction occurs. I believe that this needs to be addressed immediately. In regard to the middle speaking up, I feel that it's time for the middle to stand up to the NRA and its mouth-piece congressman, particular NRA members that don't agree with the nonsense that the organization presently expresses. Lastly, in regard to the 2nd amendment mania, the first amendment is not absolute (e.g. we can't yell fire in a movie theater for fun) and we seem to survive as a nation. I think that we'll be ok as a nation with some rational limitations of the second amendment as well.

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    1. R - Good sensible stuff. I think you'll enjoy Episode 5 of this series.

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  5. Steve- this has been on my mind all day, with my own piece in progress. The fevered extreme rhetoric does not reflect the views of most gun owners, and I feel you have very eloquently expressed a moderate and balanced viewpoint. Thank you for sharing this. Every person in this country needs to read this piece and reflect on it.

    Personally I feel the NRA is a lobby for gun manufacturers, but what do I know?

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    1. Thanks for sharing the essay and for your support.

      I think you are right about the NRA.

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  6. Great piece, Steve. With me as your audience you are preaching to the choir, although I am certainly no choir boy. I've hunted and owned guns for that purpose for decades. I have 2 big game rifles, a muzzleloader, 4 or 5 shotguns and a handgun. I don't carry on a daily basis, though I have had a CPL over the years and will renew it so that I can legally carry concealed when in the woods. I quit supporting the NRA years ago when I felt they went too far, although I understand where hardcore gun zealots are coming from as far as refusing to give up any ground for fear of losing more. Also, I do think people need to fully understand what the term "assault weapon" means before they blindly jump on board that bandwagon, but I am a moderate with regard to this whole issue. I also agree with your assessment that there are certain firearms we just don't need in today's world. The problem with the world (and our country) is that we are divided without a middle ground. Too many special interests unwilling to concede at all. And now I am starting to ramble so I'll stop.

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    1. More folks need to stand in the middle, that's for sure. Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Here in Illinois we have our own gun control legislation going on. I put something up about it a couple of weeks ago. I ended it like this:

    "The anti gun control crowd is organizing and contacting every one that needs to be contacted in order to defeat this gun control legislation.

    If they succeed it will only be because everyone else sat on their hands and did nothing."

    I personally think that the NRA should be taken out of the discussion altogether. They can come back when they're willing to have a rational discussion. So far I would call nothing they've said or done rational.

    Looking forward to the rest of them Steve.

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    1. Reminds me about that Burke quote about good men doing nothing. Thanks Ken.

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  8. Bravo one and all. There is sense in the world, after all. The job is very difficult, because we are requiring a shift from polar politics that have become the mainstream. My own State Senator recently proposed legislation to ban all but single-shot guns, and in so dong sent the vast majority of sportsmen and women in this region diving for cover. I wrote to him to make the point that is well made here, and which I heard on NPR recently: that this issue will remain beyond us if sportsmen and women are further disenfranchised from speaking about the stark differences between sporting guns and weapons of war. It is really heartening to see other sports here and elsewhere willing to make this obvious and important distinction. If we do not, we are less likely to see progressive legislation passed, and will only add to the convenient perception perpetuated by the NRA that we are at one with the lunatic fringe.

    This 3 minute article speaks for me very well. Give it a listen, and write to your politicians accordingly. http://www.npr.org/2012/12/19/167545676/time-for-gun-owners-to-be-good-sports-about-gun-restrictions

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  9. More so than the "arms" stated in the Constitution, is the unstated sway a well funded and organized minority that can strong arm our government into bending its knee in subservience. If there was a way to remove the money that feeds this beast - gun sanity and many other actions that government should take on our behave would be possible.

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    1. Money - from campaign finance to lobbing - is the lifeblood of our current political system. In my opinion, it is the source of much of the extremism in the political dialogue.

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  10. Steve,
    I'm really glad to see you writing about this and bringing some sanity to the discussion. The past couple of weeks has been an onslaught of ridiculousness about guns on Facebook and TV. All of my gun toting Facebook friends (few of which I would call sportsmen) have expressed their extremely biased and narrow-minded opinions, and I come home to watch the evening news here in Alabama to see that one of the big local gun shops, that proudly wears the name "Hoover Tactical Firearms," is pretty well sold out of anything that could be called an "assault rifle" because the government fearing idiots want to get 'em before it's too late.
    Truly sad to watch... especially knowing that it's happening right down the street from my home. What a way to pay tribute to the victims of mass shootings involving assault weapons... go buy your own. I can't help but think, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" is somewhere in their philosophy.
    To me it's simple. Assault rifles are military defense weapons- no different than a tank, a fighter plane, an attack helicopter, or an aircraft carrier. None of things are legal for average citizens to own.
    We (as a nation and a people) made a decision a long time ago to put faith in a government military as well as state and municipal law enforcement. When we made the collective decision for that to be how we would maintain our safety, we gave away our rights to arm ourselves at the same level. Doing so would suggest we are challenging the military or law enforcement for authority. I for one would much rather have a military and law enforcement in place to provide protection and order than have to protect myself in a lawless vigilante society.
    Sorry for rambling on, but I commend you for taking this on, and look forward to the rest.

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    1. Your points on arming ourselves equivalent to the military are well taken. Not a problem with the ramble. This topic tends to scramble the thoughts. It's complex.

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  11. "I have taught my wife and boys responsible gun handling" I think this is a key point in our failure, unfortunatly we can't federally mandate good parenting! I was taught proper use of firearms very young, I can also remember holding the first squirrel I shot in my hand and being told how the actions I used with that firearm caused the lose of life in that creation, and later as we ate that animal know that was a cost to be paid, I am a firearm owner I hunt, I shoot, and yes I legally carry,(both on duty and off) but I am fully aware of the responsibility with the actions I am willing to take. Side note I've never felt the need to shoot 30 plus squirrels in rapid repeat or have I had to try to protect myself and my family from 30 plus bums that are trying to rob me by my car, but my rifle and my back up pistol have served just fine for that.

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    1. Yeah, the whole high capacity magazine thing is just a mystery to me. If it only takes a second to reload, which is what I heard the NRA say in defense of high capacity magazine, then it surely isn't a problem for legal gun owners to take a second to reload a low capacity magazine.

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  12. "reasonable restrictions on the ownership of weapons" seems reasonable to me ... We can't own RPG's so why really do we need to own another military "level" weapon? I really look forward to this discussion.

    JI

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    1. Thanks J. Yeah, the whole argument really is where to draw the line between what civilians get and what the military/law enforcement gets. My argument is that the line has to shift.

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  13. I do believe that there should be a limitation to carry any firearms and high authorities should kept an eye on gun owners too.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Sarah. Registration of firearms and limitations on the unlicensed transfer of firearms is an important change that must be considered. I think we have to be very careful about the right to privacy. For example, I don't agree with the publishing of names and addresses of licensed gun owners. I would also like to see law enforcement access for any such data restricted in some manner.

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  14. I came upon this via Cam Mortensons' Fiberglass Manifesto, he recommended your blog as regards this issue on FB. I am so glad I did. I am in complete agreement with you and am extremely grateful that you are taking the time to share these very important ideas. Thank you, I will be following the rest of your comments.

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    1. Cam's a good guy. Thanks for stopping by James.

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  15. Bravo from me as well. This is the most encouraging thing I have seen in a while. I will be following closely.

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    1. Thanks, James. I hope you find the rest of this interesting.

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  16. Absolutely agree, Steve, with your thoughts and writing on this matter. Everyone I know needs to at least read this series from you, and, give serious reflection on what needs to be done for the safety of all of us who believe in freedom.

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