Shortly after the horrendous shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, much discussion ensued about the root cause(s) of the tragedy. While guns and the availability of high-capacity magazines were included in the banter, so too was the apparent lack of access to appropriate mental health care and the influence of pervasive violence in movies and video games in contributing to such crimes.
As days passed the narrative about Newtown changed, narrowing upon only one area—guns. The Sandy Hook shootings have once again ignited the debate about violence and guns in America, only this time, the tone and passion of the debate is elevated as never before because twenty of the twenty-seven victims were innocent, young children.
Within hours of the shooting, President Obama pledged to do all he could to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again, acting almost immediately by appointing Vice President Joe Biden to head an “Anti Gun Violence Task Force.” The task force, comprised of Cabinet officials and government agency chiefs, including Attorney General Holder, Secretary of Education Duncan, Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius, city and state officials, as well as NRA, sportsmen groups and firearm industry representatives, was charged by the President to make specific recommendations on the best ways to prevent gun violence. Only one month after the December 14th tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the task force completed its mission and delivered its recommendations to President Obama.
Just two days later, on January 16, 2013, sounding determined to solve our nation’s gun violence “problem,” President Obama announced his pro-active campaign against gun violence, signing an Executive Order containing twenty-three specific actions aimed at fulfilling his stated goals.
Of the twenty-three actions, four concern mental health. The remaining nineteen concern gun “control.”
“All I know is, more guns isn’t the answer.”
When NRA Executive Vice President, Wayne La Pierre, recommended that retired or active police officers be assigned to guard schools, his words fell upon deaf ears. Members of the media labeled La Pierre a “kook,” saying he was out-of-touch with mainstream America. His ideas were summarily dismissed without serious consideration. Similar ideas were also presented by some members of the Biden task force, but they were also promptly rejected without regard.
Rejecting the notion of protecting children with armed guards, civic leaders like Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have echoed a mantra of sorts that “more guns is not the answer.”
The “solution” they say is tighter gun controls, with bans on “assault weapons,” high capacity magazines or clips, stringent background checks and registration for all guns and gun owners. In a recent speech, Governor Cuomo stated that, “no one needs ten bullets to kill a deer,” as he has implemented that gun magazines in New York hold no more than seven rounds.
Governor Malloy of Connecticut said that “everybody with a right mind agrees that we don’t need thirty round clips,” and referring to the Sandy Hook tragedy said, “This is a wake-up call about who we are and what we are.” Also recommending a ban on assault weapons, he said that “these instruments are for killing.” When asked if armed guards might have helped protect the children at Sandy Hook, he replied that “more guns is not the answer.”
And so it is that after what was supposed to be an open and thorough examination by the President’s task force that could have sought fact-based solutions based upon logic and geared toward an effective way to protect our children, instead the President chose to take another route, an easier route—a politically motivated route—to do what he felt he could best “sell” to the American people. As evidenced by the President’s twenty-three executive actions, he has concluded that the root cause of the Sandy Hook shootings, and indeed, all gun-related violence is…guns. According to the President and others, the only way to prevent the type of terrible crime that occurred in Newtown is to further regulate and restrict law-abiding citizens’ use of guns. .
What’s the Problem?
I am not a hunter but I have hunted. When I was 14 my brother-in law offered to take me pheasant hunting. Before going I had to take a “NRA Hunter’s Safety Course” and learn the basics of handling firearms. Sometime later I hunted for the first time and had my first experience of firing a gun. It was a 20 gauge shotgun and I immediately learned that guns are powerful, potentially dangerous things that must be respected. I hunted for pheasant and ducks a few more times and then a friend introduced me to handguns where I learned to shoot with a pair of .22 caliber Colt revolvers (cowboy–style six-shooters).
While I enjoyed the experience of shooting guns, every mentor and teacher impressed upon me that guns were not toys, they were serious tools to be cared for and respected because their misuse could lead to tragedy and careless handling could end life—even your own. Owning or using a gun is in many ways like owning or driving a car—both require that the user be responsible, both demand respect, and both can be very dangerous if used incorrectly.
Beyond those early years, much of my familiarity with firearms and the need of them came by way of family and friends who worked in law enforcement. My brother in law was a police officer and later Sheriff, my younger brother was a Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security and another close friend is a retired police officer.
My wife grew up around guns. Her father, Horton, was a competitive marksman who made and shot his own black powder, muzzle-loader rifles. As a young girl, she would accompany her father to the shooting range and to black-powder events. Hort’s muskets are works of art and the framed dual targets that we own, each with five, dead-center bulls-eye shots from 50 yards, bear witness to his exceptional skill.
Today, my son and I enjoy shooting and collecting firearms of all types, be it pistols or rifles, and we are both comfortable around them, as is my wife. And while my wife is not a gun enthusiast, per se, she knows how to shoot and re-load and at 25 yards can put the lead of a .357 magnum on paper as well as anyone.
My point in telling you about my family’s familiarity with guns is this: It is my observation that people with little or no gun experience tend to fear guns. Because they fear guns, they have no knowledge about firearms and are ignorant when it comes to their use and purpose. Then, as an extension of that fear and ignorance, they are uninformed or misinformed about the laws regarding guns and are especially so when it comes to their understanding of the purpose of the Second Amendment to our Constitution.
This fear and ignorance problem applies both to ordinary citizens and to political leaders, and because of that, average citizens often make assumptions and judgments about important matters concerning guns, based upon erroneous information provided by ignorant and fearful politicians.
The Second Amendment:
“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.”
Debates about the efficacy or applicability of the Second Amendment arise whenever some madman uses a gun for evil. Some claim that the right to bear arms applies only to members of an organized militia. Some claim that it is an outdated, unnecessary part of the US Constitution that should be repealed. Others, and those slightly less “progressive” explain that the right to bear arms, while guaranteed by the Constitution, is acceptable only so long as it allows individuals the ability to protect themselves (within certain limitations of force), or to hunt wildlife. Even the most recent Supreme Court decisions concerning the right to bear arms reflect the idea that the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is for personal protection.
But none of these are accurate. The Second Amendment was included in the Constitution as a logical extension of, and intended as the ultimate guarantor of, everything else contained within the Constitution. The men who crafted our Constitution did so with their recent experience in mind of having cast off, by force of arms, what they considered a tyrannical government.
While the personal protection of each individual is contained within its meaning, the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure that the American people shall always have the means to resist, and yes, even overthrow if necessary, a government that has become oppressive or unjust. In fact, by their own words, the framers thought it not only a right that American citizens bear arms, but a duty:
“The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that… it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.” –Thomas Jefferson
The only way that a “well regulated Militia” can form is when armed citizens are available to form it. The founding fathers clearly understood that they were not granting us the right to keep and bear arms, they were affirming that as free people, Americans already had that right, and the federal government must recognize and respect it.
“The Founding Fathers only had muskets, not semi-automatic rifles. We don’t need weapons of war on our streets.”
I have heard it said that because the framers only used flintlock or percussion, single shot muskets, that the Second Amendment does not apply to semi-automatic or automatic weapons. But it is precisely because our founding fathers only describe arms in general terms that we know their intention was to forever ensure that Americans would have the right to keep and bear appropriate arms required of the day; arms with adequate and proportional force required to combat any that might be used by an oppressive or tyrannical government. In other words, whatever arms the government has, so too to the people also have the right to keep and bear.
Government shall maintain order and determine who shall be free?
I find it troubling, and so should every American, that the same elected representatives who seem ever tempted to ignore that portion of the Second Amendment that states “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,” feel justified in levying taxes from those same people, in order to arm “rebels” in other nations. While many in elected office, including our President, seem to have reservations about trusting American citizens with semi-automatic weapons, they felt it appropriate that rebel forces in Libya be armed with all manner of fully automatic and other lethal weapons in order to overthrow Gaddafi. From South America to Afghanistan, our current and past Presidents have, on many occasions, justified funding or directly arming rag-tag bands of “freedom fighters,” in the name of, “protecting America’s interests,” while at the same time distrusting their own citizens with an assumption that they can disregard that portion of the Constitution intended, in part, to moderate the power of the Federal Government.
History is replete with governments having instituted gun control in order to ensure “safety” for their citizens. The Soviet Union, Germany, China, Cambodia, Uganda, Turkey and others have all enacted various gun control measures during periods of the 20th Century. The result? Over 50 million people were exterminated and countless millions more were, or are still, oppressed or enslaved. Tyrants are tyrants and even they know that their greatest opposition comes from an armed citizenry.
The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so. Indeed I would go so far as to say that the underdog is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or police. German troops alone will bear the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order. – Adolf Hitler, April 11, 1942
Our founders warned us about the delicate balance between liberty and security, and about the necessity of maintaining a solid counterbalance to hold in check any power that sought to dominate or rule by force.
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. –Benjamin Franklin
Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. – James Madison
The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms. – Samuel Adams
What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.”—Thomas Jefferson
To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them. – Richard Henry Lee
To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them. – George Mason
“You have nothing to fear. We will never confiscate your guns.”
Many Americans believe this—mostly those who do not own guns.
In recent speeches, President Obama claims that he supports the right of individuals to own guns for sport or personal protection (of course you may not protect your family with automatic, high-capacity weapons while his family is surrounded by them).Even before he became President, he espoused his views about limitations (infringement) of the Second Amendment:
As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can’t constrain the exercise of that right.–Barack Obama, April 16, 2008, Democratic Primary Debate, Philadelphia
It is important to note the qualification and limitation in his statement. There is never a mention (for fear of suggestion, perhaps?) that citizens be armed in order to be able to form a militia. Obama clearly believes that the government has the power and authority to severely regulate the conditions under which citizens may be armed.
Most Americans believe that government officials would never dare confiscate individual’s firearms, but they would be wrong in that belief. It has already happened in recent times and can easily happen again, given the “severity” of the crisis at hand.
On September 8, 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass issued a city-wide order to local police, National Guard soldiers, and Deputy U.S. Marshals to confiscate all civilian-held firearms. “No one will be able to be armed,” Compass said. “Guns will be taken. Only law enforcement will be allowed to have guns.” Individual’s firearms were seized without warrant and by force. Homes were raided and in some cases, excessive force was used to take guns, with no compensation offered to the gun’s owners. The rights of New Orleans’ citizens were violated by the government for fifteen days, until September 23, 2005.
Military Style Assault Weapons & Firearm Facts
President Obama, California Senator Diane Feinstein and others have called for a renewal of the ban on “Assault Weapons” that was law for ten years; from 1994 until 2004. To support their efforts, the gun-ignorant media is fond of showing images of ominous-looking, black rifles described as “military style assault weapons.” We are told that the only purpose for these weapons is offensive use—to attack and kill human beings. Really? Our police and military have these types of weapons. It has always been my understanding that the role of our police is to “serve and protect;” and that the role of our men and women in uniform is to “defend” our nation. The same politicians that claim these weapons only to be useful to attack others are guarded by them around the clock.
The fact is, until and unless a weapon is used to assault others, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon” other than by name alone. There is no characteristic of any firearm that makes it more “aggressive” than another; it is the user that determines whether a weapon is to be used for assault or defense. Any gun, knife, baseball bat or automobile—even a book of matches—can become a weapon used to assault other human beings. In 1995 Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people including 19 children using bags of fertilizer. In 2001, 3,000 people died because a handful of fanatics first used box cutters as “assault weapons.”
Fully automatic weapons (machine guns) fire bullets continuously as the trigger is held down. It has been illegal for citizens to own this type of gun since 1934.
Semi-automatic weapons are guns that fire a single bullet each time the trigger is pulled. They automatically eject the empty cartridge shell and chamber (load) another round from the gun’s clip or magazine. The gun can fire one round (bullet) after another with each pull of the trigger, until the magazine is empty. It is legal in the United States for citizens to own most models of semi-automatic pistols and rifles, but some states, like California, impose various restrictions upon them.
Weapons used by members of the armed forces and most police departments include semi-automatic pistols and rifles and fully automatic rifles.
In 1994 when the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) was passed, in order to enact some form of gun control, Senator Feinstein and other politicians ‘concerned with our safety,’ had to somehow differentiate “assault rifles” from other rifles. The main difference was that if a semiautomatic rifle had a detachable magazine, it could not also have a pistol grip and telescoping or adjustable stock. The law was later amended to include a ban on specific models of firearms, like AK-47s and AR-15s. Other restrictions involving things like bayonet attachments and grenade launchers was also part of the AWB, but I don’t believe these have ever been points of concern for proponents or opponents of Second Amendment rights.
Today in California, many of the same restrictions on assault weapons are still in place. You can own an AK-47 or AR-15 in California with a rifle stock and a detachable magazine, or one with a pistol grip if equipped with a magazine that requires a special tool in order to be detached (fixed). California gun owners are also currently limited to magazines that hold no more than 10 rounds.
When magazine capacity is limited, again the only individuals harmed are law abiding citizens. You are much less able to defend yourself with a low capacity clip. It is often difficult to hit a target, even under the most controlled conditions (at the shooting range for example). Imagine having to shoot at a moving target while under attack! This is why 99.99% of police offers no longer carry six shot revolvers, but 10 to 12 round semi-automatic pistols.
The media and many politicians are also fond of making inaccurate statements akin to, “responsible gun owners and sportsmen don’t need these types of ‘high powered’ weapons.”
The fact is, the cartridge size used in an AR-15 is a .223 caliber—one of the lightest of any rifle. The reason shooters like the .223 round is that because it is light, it is accurate at long range for hunting and target shooting. The AK-47 shoots a 7.62 x 39 round which is larger but heavier and less accurate at longer ranges. Basically, a .223 caliber is the bullet size used in a firearm with a barrel bore diameter of .223 inches. A 7.62 x 39 is a bullet that is 7.62 mm in diameter held within a cartridge 39 mm long.
There are many traditional style rifles, not even suggested for control by legislators that are much more powerful than those using .223 or 7.62 x 39 rounds. For example, many rifles commonly fire.30, .303 and .323 caliber bullets. I have fired a lever-action rifle that fires a .45-70 round. It is easily three times the size and weight of the .223 and powerful enough to drop any animal alive on the North American continent with a single shot.
Amongst handguns, the most common are those that fire either 9 mm, .22 .38, .357, .40, and .45 caliber.
In all the mass shootings that occurred between 1982 and 2012, the killers used a total of 142 firearms. Of that number, 68 were semi-automatic pistols, 20 were revolvers, 19 were shotguns. Only 35 were considered “assault rifles.” There were a total of nearly 8,000 deaths attributed to firearms in 2010, of which only 358 were caused by rifles of any kind, including so-called “assault weapons.”
There is nothing that makes an AR-15 or an AK-47, or any other rifle or pistol for that matter, an “assault weapon,” other than how it is used.
Fantasy and Hypocrisy or Reality and Responsibility
Do we really want our children surrounded by armed guards? Do we want our schools to be like prisons? Isn’t it time to draw the line and ban “military style assault weapons,” if only to save just one life?
All of these questions sound sincere and noble. The problem is, they assume a world not as it is but as we might like it to be. These words are used by people living in a world of fantasy; by those fearful and ignorant about firearms, or by hypocrites who either employ or who are assigned armed security for their protection (politicians, celebrities and the very wealthy), yet who feel somehow justified in denying you the same level of protection.
For example, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is both a hypocrite and ignorant. He is a hypocrite because he enjoys 24 hour security by men carrying not only semi-automatic but high-capacity, fully automatic weapons. And I know he is ignorant about firearms because if he had ever fired a handgun in trying to hit a target at 25 yards, he would know that a seven round ammunition clip is wholly inadequate for personal protection.
It is estimated that there are at least 310 million guns in the possession of private citizens in the United States. Pandora’s Box was opened long ago so it is pointless and irresponsible to talk about “banning” guns. They are here to stay, and unfortunately, there are bad people in the world who would harm you and/or the members of your family, given the opportunity.
Every off duty or retired law enforcement officers I know own and carry, or have close at hand, at least one loaded firearm. Why do you think that is? They well know the reality of our society and assume responsibility for their own safety and that of their family’s. Most also feel it their duty to protect their neighbors and fellow citizens.
Do I think it appropriate to scare children or make them feel insecure? Not at all. Do I believe bad guys are hiding behind every tree and that we should live in fear? No, I am simply aware that while the odds are against ever needing to use a firearm to protect my family, it is my responsibility to do so if need be. It is precisely because I refuse to live in fear that I own firearms. It is every parent’s responsibility to do whatever is within their power to protect their children. When a crime occurs in America—be it a home invasion, rape or a child abduction—in 99% of cases, the police arrive after the crime has occurred. The statement La Pierre made that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” may be an unfortunate reality, but it is the unabashed truth in any case.
With millions guns of all types in existence, any criminal who intends to have one can get one, along with ammunition magazines of any capacity desired, regardless of existing or proposed laws. Whenever a new law is passed intended to restrict or “control” guns, the only people affected are the wrong people—law-abiding citizens who then become more likely to become victims of gun-wielding criminals.
“Imagine a world without guns,” some say. But that is a world that, for the foreseeable future, cannot exist. And while you may choose not to protect your own family from possible danger, it is not your right or the government’s to determine what level of protection I may choose to provide for my family.
“If more guns are the answer, then why aren’t mass murders ever stopped by citizens carrying guns?”
Proponents of more gun control are quick to point out that there have been 62 mass shootings (defined as when four or more people are shot) in America since 1982, including 25 since 2006 and seven taking place in 2012. “If more guns could prevent these crimes,” they say, “then why weren’t these killers stopped by ordinary citizens carrying guns?”
The answer should be obvious, but again because of the pre-determined assumption that guns are the problem, most fail to comprehend it. The fact is, armed citizens have stopped thousands of criminals before they could commit crimes in the first place. Murderers were stopped before they could kill four or more people, so we can never know exactly how many mass murders may have been thwarted.
In one study by the Cato Institute, between October 2003 and November 2011, over 5,000 incidents were reported whereby armed citizens stopped criminals. Of that number, 488 involved home burglaries along with another 1,227 incidents where intruders fled when confronted by armed inhabitants. Thirty-four concerned delivery drivers defending themselves, along with 172 animal attacks. In 227 incidents the intended victim disarmed his attacker. Twenty-five rapes were avoided by armed victims Two hundred and one attacks were stopped by armed senior citizens over 65 years of age.
Had there been one or two individuals in the front row of the theatre in Aurora Colorado with .40 or .45 semi-automatic handguns, it is likely that James Holmes would have been stopped before killing 12 and injuring 58 others. Even though he was wearing body armor, at the very least, the impact would have knocked him down or perhaps even rendered him unconscious.
Statistics support the fact that in areas where concealed carry and open carry of firearms in public is legal, crime rates are lower. The fact is, the best way deter or stop criminals from committing crimes is for more law abiding citizens to be armed.
The real reasons for the Sandy Hook Tragedy
Guns are easy scapegoats but they do not come close to the real answer for why Adam Lanza acted as he did. While I have heard some discussion about mental health, I have heard nothing about the effects of homes broken by divorce. I have heard nothing about our young people being raised in a time when society is confused about what values are important; where virtuous character amongst our leaders is rare and where the value of life itself is “debated” and used as a political device. What do our actions teach young people about commitment? About honesty and fidelity? How important is one’s spiritual foundation and belief? Did anyone know or even care what Adam believed?
We will never know all of the answers as to why a young man gave up on life, or why he felt so desperate that he allowed evil to infect his soul so much that he was able to commit such a terrible act. I do know that even if Adam Lanza had some form of mental illness, it also likely that he had no real foundation on which to base his life. He had nothing to hold on to, so he let go of his life that he considered empty, and he took the innocent lives of 27 other with him.
Had it not been with an AR-15, it is likely that he would have used several pistols, or a bomb, or a five gallon can of gasoline. The reason for his violent act was in nothing he had or used, it was in what he had become as a person.
I own a number of firearms for several reasons. The first and least important reason is for sport; I like target shooting and I enjoy collecting guns. My second reason for owning firearms is that I believe it is my responsibility, as a prepared citizen, to do so. Should the need ever arise, however unlikely, that I would have to defend my liberty or the liberty of my fellow citizens, I have an obligation and duty to do so.
Many years ago, my wife and I were held against our will by a group of bikers. We were out in the country, far away from any possible aid. I was thrown backward into the bed of a pick-up truck by one man who was flanked by several others holding rifles and shotguns. I was told that “you can leave when we tell you you can leave.” We were forced to wait for over eight hours as they drank and partied. We wanted to try and run, but were warned by one of the group, “I know you’re thinking about taking off, but don’t try it. These guys will come after you and kill you both.” Luckily, they were all eventually so inebriated, we were able to leave, unharmed.
That was over twenty years ago, but I still remember feeling utterly helpless. Everything could have turned out differently of course, as both our lives were at the mercy of a band of drunken, stoned, heavily armed thugs.
The final and most important reason I own firearms is that I vow never to allow my wife or myself to be in that situation again. I, alone, am ultimately responsible for my own safely and for the safety of my wife and son. I own firearms because I love my family and I will do whatever is required to keep them safe.