Today we have once again witnessed the tragedy of mass violence in America. A 24 year old man, armed with a handgun and 5.56mm (.223) caliber rifle, walked into a Connecticut elementary school, and killed at least 27 people, including 18 children. We are not sure how many were wounded.
As I write these words, filled with anger and sadness, I feel I must explain why I converted from a gun enthusiast to a gun control advocate. I have owned many, many firearms in my life and still own several. I have fired tens of thousands of rounds. I have attended countless gun shows and ‘machine gun shoots.’ I have been very much a part of America’s gun culture so let me speak from experience: America’s gun culture is completely out of control.
The gun culture subscribes to a peculiar mythology: complete with it’s own historical narrative. Go to any gun show and you’ll hear an earful if you ask around. Listen to right wing talk radio on a day like today and you’ll hear the same myths. In this world of mythology, the only thing holding back our nation from the Fourth Reich is individual gun owners. Did you know that the first thing Hitler did was disarm Germany? No? That’s because its not true, but in the gun world it’s gospel. In the gun world, the federal government is the enemy, always looking to take away our rights and freedoms. Gun owners stand between tyranny and freedom.
To be sure, nearly none of these people are criminals. They are actually responsible gun owners, sold a story by the NRA and talk radio. The reason my focus is on them is not that they commit crimes, but that they are the reason why serious gun control is not even a debatable topic. They are one-issue voters: guns are the only thing that matters, thanks to the mythology.
Freedom is not anarchy. Freedom is responsibility. Why should free people have to create fortresses stocked with arsenals to maintain their freedom? Why must we be patted down, searched, and forced to walk through metal detectors to go into a school or movie theater? When does the freedom to own firearms start to infringe upon our other freedoms? Where does this end? When will freedom loving people figure out that the prevalence of firearms in our culture is reducing our freedom instead of expanding it?
I for one cannot support anarchy any longer. We need to have a real conversation about gun control. It does not have to be this way; there are other advanced nations with 1/10th the murder rate of our own.
I’ll simply end on a personal note: I live 4 miles from the Aurora Mall theater. I nearly went to that show. It was sold out when I checked for tickets. A madman was able to purchase an M4 with a 100 round mag, and no one batted an eye. That’s because these purchases are common, and because the government is the enemy, the gun culture is hesitant to report suspicious activities.
I was a part of the gun culture, so please don’t insult me by saying I don’t know what I’m talking about. I know the devastating power of weapons. I’m calling for a conversation, not a shouting match. We cannot pretend that, “this is the price of freedom,” is an acceptable answer any longer.