Here we are again…

I think everyone has experienced one of those relationships, romantic or otherwise where the same issue comes up over and over again.  The same conflict argued round and round with no resolution in sight.  Each person believing wholeheartedly that their argument is so inherently virtuous that neither side is willing to give an inch.  Even new valid points are seen in old rags and no progress can be made.  These relationships are fought from fox holes, both sides entrenched and unmovable.

I feel like this is our nation’s state when it comes to the topic of gun control.  My Facebook newsfeed bares this out in meme after meme from both sides.  I find myself in no man’s land watching people I love; lob ideological thought bombs toward the other camp only trying to conquer the desolation in-between; no longer listening to reason, only waiting for the chance to fire back.

Meanwhile, children these days have active shooter training from elementary school on.  Unlike the nuclear drills of our parents’ generation these drills prepare for sad days that have proven to be inevitable.

The first time I shot a gun capable of killing I was probably seven or eight.  It was a big deal.  My dad and I met my grandpa at the shooting range and my firearms training began.  The first thing I was taught is that you NEVER point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill.  This meat you were ALWAYS aware of where the muzzle was pointed.  There were only three options, downrange, up at the sky and down and the ground.  Your gun should never point at a human for even a millisecond.

Anytime you picked up a firearm you checked the breach to confirm that it was unloaded no matter who handed it to you or what they told you.  All guns are always treated as if they are loaded and live.

The range we went to was policed by military vets, rules were stringently enforced.  During cease-fire times all guns had to be made safe (in a rack or on the bench, breaches open) everyone had to step back from the benches and you were no allowed to approach the area during these times for any reason.  A safety officer would go down the line and check each gun to verify all were unloaded.  Only then was the ‘all clear’ given for you to go forward and check, move or replace your targets.  After a trip to the range, each fire arm was taken apart, cleaned, oiled and put back together.  These things were nonnegotiable.

Trips to the range were frequent during my childhood and adolescence.  We owned a few guns of our own but often met up with friends who had other equipment we could use.  My dad insisted we only use iron sites, no scopes.  Both my sister and I became crack shots.  We were familiar with the troubleshooting (loading, unloading, clearing jams, breaking down, cleaning) and operation of a verity of makes and models including: 22 bolt action and semi auto, Smith & Wesson 45 cal. revolver, Glock 9mm, AK-47, AR-15, Rugger mini .14, Springfield .30-06, Winchester .30-.30 leaver action, Smith & Wesson .38 Magnum,  P1 (the one I am shooting in the title image,)  50 cal. muzzle loader, Cattleman’s black powdered revolver 44 cal. and more.

I am a gun owner.  I have been since I was twelve and my dad gifted my sister and I a .22 for Christmas.

The first time I went to a gun range on the East Coast I was shocked.  Not only were we enclosed in a small room with others with no cease-fire times but no one was watching the range.  Twice I looked over to see someone haphazardly pointing their gun towards others.  Adding to my anxiety was the fact that anyone could pay to rent a Desert Eagle, anyone with $50.  I have a lot of experience with large caliber handguns and the thought of someone who may never have fired anything just being able to pick one out point and shoot seemed a complete lapse in safety and sanity.  It was an inescapable example of how our nation’s attitude towards guns is flippant and entitled.  Putting “boom” first and safety second.

My opinion in the matter is informed and furthermore, I ENJOY shooting.  Marksmanship and the primal fun of blowing things up is not lost on me but I feel the conversation on the topic has lost perspective.  All firearms are forces of deadly destruction.  There is no chance that a gun will be used to create anything other than carnage and annihilation.  They are not tools that build or heal.  Guns are meant to put huge holes in whatever you aim them at.  There are many types of guns that were developed strictly for the purpose of killing humans as quickly and easily as possible, like assault riffles.

The deranged, mentally ill and motivated will try to find other ways to kill mass amounts of people but as an impassioned Florida student pointed out in her speech “we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife.”  Why is it such an affront to require strict and in-depth training before access to these things is granted?  Why are there no competency tests to pass?  Children undergo more standardized testing in one day of school test weeks than is needed to purchase a machine that can mow down a room full of students.

There is not a person in the world who actually NEEDS a fire arm instantly.  If you are in such a situation you need the authorities.  Guns can be used in self defense but as Caleb Keeter, a guitarist with Josh Abbott Band who was preforming in Vegas when the concert became a massacre stated:  “I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd Amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.  We actually have members of our crew with CHL licenses,” or concealed handgun licenses, “and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless.”

The logistics of being a responsible gun owner often negate their usefulness in home defense.   You should never keep a weapon loaded and within easy reach and that is the only way to assure it’s usefulness in a home invasion.  According to the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Report in 2012: “there were 259 justifiable homicides, in the same year, 8,342 criminal homicides using guns, 20,666 suicides with guns, and 548 fatal unintentional shootings. The ratio for 2012, per the Violence Policy Center, was one justifiable killing for every 32 murders, suicides or accidental deaths (the ratio increases to 38-1 over the five-year period ending in 2012).”

The more I look at this objectively I can not justify the system as it is.    I take some solace in the reality that change will come.  These children that have grown up with active shooter drills from the time they were 6 will not see guns as the fun afternoon pastime that they were for me in my youth.  For them, they are the devices that took the lives of friends and filled their nightmares.  A stressful school dream for me was one in which I forgot my homework or didn’t study for the big test, for this generation dreams of bad days at school consists of hiding in closets trying not to sob or breath audibly while classmates are gunned down in hallways.

Change will come, the only question is how many more will die before it does.  In this last year I have posted less about trivial homesteading matters out of necessity for my sanity.   For those of you that followed me for those things I make no apologies.  I will return to fun and frivolities but it would be shallow of me to focus on crafts, art and critters while the nation writhes in self-inflicted pain and interacted conflict.  I will not commit such a trespass and be silent while blood is spilled on gym floors every week.  I must be the change I want to see in the world and support the causes of those who have inherited a system that does not protect them.   The right to bare arms is one I am more than willing to prove I deserve so that 6 year olds can go back to remembering the rules of hop scotch not where and how best to hide in case of a shooter.

The problem is more involved than gun control, it is bound in special interest groups funding politics, mental health, masculinity and societal norms of violence but common sense gun regulations are a concrete place to start making the changes we need.  I will continue to support those who may not know how to say what needs to be said.  Populations who give to the whole only asking for understanding and protection in return.  It is not a matter of someone coming to “take my guns” but of me proving that I can demonstrate the skill and discretion to poses objects of deadly force, it is a fair trade for an afternoon of making tin cans dance.

Be well.