I have a good history with guns.
I grew up in a family where guns were commonplace – my grandfather loved being a sportsman and hunted regularly. Since the age of 12, my father and I have hunted birds together. It’s a social activity where you can walk around and talk, rather than sit in the cold like a ninja in a deer blind, waiting for some unassuming animal to walk into your line of fire.
Just this past weekend, I went to a pheasant resort in mid-Michigan and had fun taking six birds and eating them with my family the next day. I walked more than eight miles with 30 pounds of gear, which can only be described as a good cardiovascular workout.
I am a gun owner. I own rifles, pistols, and shotguns, all of which are securely and responsibly stored in a high quality gun safe to which only I know the combination.
For the past six years, I also have been a concealed pistol license (CPL) holder in the state of Michigan. In 2010, I attended a very well-managed National Rifle Association endorsed training session in the Capitol area, and obtained my CPL shortly thereafter. I regularly shoot on pistol ranges to hone my skills to be as safe as I can be with a handgun.
But with all of my training and family background, I don’t carry a weapon.
Why would I go to all of that trouble to become a CPL holder and yet not carry a concealed weapon? Because I strongly feel I do not have enough day to day familiarity with a handgun to be useful in a gunfight. It’s more likely I would do more harm than good with a firearm, as my once-a-month range time is still not sufficient to be accurate in pressure situations.
Police officers spend far more time with their duty weapons than I ever could and they are the first people to tell you that handguns are drawn only as a last resort. They pay attention to the background behind the target, only shooting when they have a clear shot. It’s not like the movies – the vast majority of officers would prefer never to use a weapon. And when they draw their gun, officers are trained to shoot center mass – the heart of their target. Again, only in Hollywood does the sheriff shoot the pistol out of a bandit’s hand. It just doesn’t happen.
As a civilian, I’m not completely convinced that – at the moment of truth – I could take a human life. Given all of those variables, it’s inconceivable to me how guns fall into the hands of children. Or how people at Home Depot shoot at potential shoplifters. Or how the United States leads every other country – nearly combined – in the number of its citizens killed by firearms annually.
Guns scare me. And they should scare you, too.
Time and time again, the NRA attempts to convince the public of the following mantra – “Only a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun.” They always forget to add “well-trained” to the good guy description, but hey, let’s gloss over that.
Despite admiring some aspects of the NRA, including their very well done training programs – their efforts to lobby federal and state lawmakers to lessen regulations for gun owners sicken me. I’m not an NRA member, and will never be one.
Mass shootings have become so commonplace in this country that you know the names. Columbine. Newtown. Colorado Springs. San Bernardino. Our real problem isn’t America's crumbling mental health system or stringent requirements we put in place for weapons-free zones or the way the Second Amendment is written – it’s unfettered access to firearms for everyone.
Later this week, President Obama plans to announce some much needed gun reform regulations – enhanced background checks and closing gun show loopholes will probably be among them and they can’t come fast enough. If you ever went to your local gun show and tried to put a number on the people who probably shouldn’t be there, you’d run out of numbers.
Before the tinfoil hat crowd blames President Obama for a wide ranging conspiracy designed to take their guns away, let’s be clear – in United States v. Miller (1939), the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government and the states could limit any weapon types “not having a reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.”
That’s something the NRA fails to mention while making its “guns for everyone” arguments – well-regulated. It should be more difficult to obtain a firearm than to get your driver’s license, and getting permission to drive a vehicle isn’t a picnic. Ask any 16-year-old.
My grandfather didn’t carry a gun. My dad doesn’t. And despite the law allowing me to do so, I don’t either. We need more commonsense approaches to gun regulation in America – a big step would be simply following the Second Amendment and ensuring that gun owners base their desire to own a gun in the tenets of the law they claim to hold so dear, rather than stockpiling weapons to fight some imagined apocalypse.