Calm Down and Clean Your Guns
By RU Contributor Antonio Aguilar
I have a confession to make. In 2004 I murdered a clearing barrel. Yes, you heard me right. I stuck the muzzle of my assault weapon in the open mouth of a poor, innocent clearing barrel and I shot it at point blank range. Now, in my defense, wasn’t that was the clearing barrels were there for in Iraq? But, I’ll be the first to say it. I was careless and fully deserved the vicious thrashing I got after.
Why do I dig up this dirt from my past? Because with the aftermath of the recent gun violence, and the increasing talk about gun control, there was been some, in my mind, equally careless rhetoric and actions from people among the pro-gun lobby. Me, I’m about as pro-gun as they come and I’m not above posting or sharing the occasional piece of political propaganda on Facebook, but I’m also trying to stick close to the lessons the Army taught me (sometimes in very painful ways) about guns. They aren’t toys, they are weapons designed to kill and if handled correctly by the correct people they will only kill those who need killing. They certainly aren’t political props meant for making statements.
What am I talking about here? Well, look at David Gregory. One idiot shows up on national TV, possibly violating the law in the process, in order to hold up a “high capacity” magazine (in the military or law enforcement sense, a completely standard and normal sized magazine) in an attempt to embarrass the NRA. But, on the other side of the aisle, there have been a few cases I can think of recently of pro-gun people doing equally foolish things; such as taking their guns out and walking around public streets where they know full well people will call the police, in an attempt to make a political statement. Is open carrying allowed? In some states, yes. Is it smart? Not always. What is so hard, if you have a CHL, of simply carrying concealed? You’re still exercising your rights, and you’re not freaking people out and pushing those in the middle over to the left? You’re also not instigating a potentially violent situation. Police officers open carry in uniform, or in plain clothes with a badge showing, but you will not see a professional officer pulling a gun out and showing it off. Guns are not toys, or props. They are weapons to be handled with respect and caution.
This is where I think the pro-gun camp is shooting themselves in the foot, rhetorically speaking. If you’ve been in the military, think about it like this. Remember in Basic (or OSUT for my fellow combat arms guys out there), how there was usually one scared and sheltered kid who never fired a gun before in his life? Remember how he was on the M16 range? There’s usually one in every training cycle, hardly wanting to touch the weapon out of sheer terror, and they have to be eased into it; taught that it won’t hurt them or anyone they don’t intend to hurt if they handle it right. Many people who are on the fence on the gun control issue are like that. What will convince them to support the 2nd Amendment more; finding out that the quiet, calm, and sober person they’ve been friends with for years is a gun owner through a normal and rational conversation; or seeing someone striding down the road brandishing a gun and yelling out that they dare the government to come and take it from them?
The 2nd Amendment didn’t just say that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, it also stated something else. The very first line of that critical portion of the Constitution mentions “a well regulated militia”. Get those two critical words there, “well regulated”? While the two portions are somewhat separate, I think they were included together as well for a reason. Private gun ownership is addressed in the second part, and the formation of the militia (today’s National Guard and State Guard) in the first, but I believe that the founding fathers grouped both together into the same Amendment for a reason. The implication is there that if you are going to have a gun, you need to have some discipline too.
I think that self discipline and reasonable laws are the key here. The expression, “that’s why we can’t have nice things” comes to mind. Any time someone misuses guns we get the kind of knee jerk reaction that we’re seeing these days, but misusing them even more afterward certainly doesn’t help the situation either. Any time the average American sees a group of private “militia” types ranting about the evil government, they picture David Koresh and his Branch Davidians. You might disagree with the way the Federal Government handled that particular situation but what most people will remember are the kids he raped the FBI agents his people murdered. When people protest background checks, others will think about incidents where criminals have been able to circumvent background checks and obtain guns they later use in crimes. If you ask the average American if they think a convicted felon should be allowed to own a gun or not, most will agree they should not; and yet many people who are pro-gun would like to see those laws rolled back. Put yourself in the shoes of the father who worries about his family living across the street from a group of thugs? Which politician is he going to vote for? The one who promises to keep guns out of those people’s hands or the one who says anyone and everyone should have unlimited access to guns?
So what am I proposing here? A little common sense is a good start. If you want to be able to own 30 round magazines, don’t claim that the government will have to pry your “cold, dead hands” off the ones you already own. That implies that you not only think that everyone in the government is out to take your weapons (even though most police and military personnel are actually pro-gun) but also that you intend to kill them rather than give up your 30 round magazine in exchange for a 10 or 20 round one. If you don’t think the rhetoric hasn’t gotten that bad, just take a quick tour through Facebook and other social network sites and see how many mentions of violence you see. Teddy Roosevelt’s advice is good here, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick”. He didn’t say scream at the top of your lungs and shake your stick at everyone. Let’s use some common sense, and see how many people in the middle of the aisle we can win over in favor of the 2nd Amendment.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that convicted felons can’t own guns. They’ll still get them on the black market, but police will continue to arrest them for those ones they obtain, hopefully before they can use them. It’s also not unreasonable to run a background check on everyone who wants to buy a gun. If you don’t have any felonies or homicidal intentions to hide then you shouldn’t mind having your background checked.
On the same note, it’s not unreasonable to say that the average, law abiding citizen can own a semi-auto AR-15 and some 30 round magazines. It’s not unreasonable to say that the average, law abiding citizen can take a class, have another quick background check done, and get a license to carry a handgun concealed anywhere in the U.S. I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to say that the current background check process needs to be streamlined and improved, making it quicker for anyone with a clean record (as in no felonies, no convictions for violent crime, no internet rants about wanting to commit mass murder) to purchase a gun.
Does your local militia really need an M240B mounted to the back of their pickup for their weekend illegal alien hunt? Hell no! Does the drug dealer down the street need a new 9mm to protect his stash? Hell no to that as well! But does the average, law abiding citizen need to be able to purchase and reasonably carry a gun to protect himself from the previous mentioned people? Absolutely, and the Constitution states that he or she can. Guns do not kill people but they make it easier for their owner’s to do so, and with that power comes responsibility. The sad fact is, many in the pro-gun lobby have not been acting so responsible. We need to bring that back if we hope to convince people, once again, that guns are a good thing if handled correctly and are an integral part of our society, written into the very document that makes America what it is.