Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Matter of Responsibility

By Matthew Schafer

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

I'm a stanch supporter of the Second Amendment. I believe that it was the intention of our founding fathers that everyone in this country should have access to firearms in order to protect themselves, and that the people should have the ability to form armed militias in order to protect themselves from their government. Our founding fathers saw first hand what happens when the people are left unarmed, defenseless, and at the mercy of corrupt rulers. The people should have the ability to hold the government accountable for their actions and I think that that starts with having the freedom of speech, an open forum for discussion, and the strength and confidence that comes with being armed.

Having access to firearms and the right to privately own them is something that I believe goes hand in hand with being an American. Most people are surprised to learn that in many countries it is actually illegal to own a gun. It is illegal to privately own a gun in Australia, England, and several other European countries. The privilege of access and ownership of firearms by its citizens is something that truly makes American special. In fact, I know several people who came to this country primarily because owning firearms was illegal in their country and they equated private ownership of firearms with freedom.

While I firmly believe that the right to own firearms is essential to freedom and the survival of this country, I think that there are certain people that shouldn't be allowed to own them or have access to them. In my opinion ownership of firearms should be denied to people who committed violent crimes, used a firearm in the commission of a crime, have mental illnesses, physical handicaps that would inhibit the person's ability to effectively use a firearm, and minors. Firearms are great tools but they are also a great responsibility and these people don't have the ability to responsibly and effectively use them.

Guns are greatly demonized in this country and people like to blame them for violence. How stupid and asinine is this? Blaming a death on a gun is like blaming a pencil for spelling errors. Guns are not and never will be the problem. The problem is that 1.) People don't have the training to effectively handle and use guns, and 2.) People are violent by nature.

Back in the 1940's and 1950's gun handling and marksmanship was actually taught in many schools. A lot of schools had shooting clubs and small gun ranges in their basement where students would learn how to fire .22 caliber rifles. I seriously wish that schools would start this again. The number one reason that kids shoot each other with their parent's guns isn't because the guns were evil, it’s because the parent's failed to teach their kids how to treat and handle guns. Parents want to keep guns from children and it's in this ignorance about guns that kids get hurt when they come upon one.

A few months back I was babysitting my 8 year old niece and we ran out of things to do so I spent about an hour teaching her gun safety. We talked about guns, what they do, what they're for, and what she should do if she ever finds one. I got out a couple pistols and showed them to her and answered her questions about them. I told her that if she ever finds a gun she should leave it alone and go find an adult and that she should only touch a gun if she absolutely has to. I recognized that there may be times when she might have to touch a gun, for example, maybe she comes upon a gun in a park and she cannot leave it there with smaller kids running around so she has to hide it someplace while she fetches an adult. Therefore, while unloaded, I let her handle the guns and I showed her how to properly handle them. We went over always keeping them pointed in a safe direction, never touching the trigger, never playing with them, assuming that they're loaded, and places that they can put guns for safe keeping while they fetch an adult. We never fired a gun and her finger never touched the trigger, the hour was spent learning what to do if she ever finds a gun and how to safely handle a gun if she has to.

We also talked quite a bit about distinguishing between toy guns and real guns. A major problem is that toy guns are everywhere to the extent that when a kid finds a gun they often think it's a toy. I watched an episode of 20/20 and they did a report on guns where they put a bunch of unloaded and disabled guns in a room full of children’s toys and let a bunch of preschoolers play in it. Parents where shocked when their children pulled the guns out of the plastic tubs and pretended to shoot each other, but what did they expect? If you put a gun in a brightly colored plastic pale with a bunch of toys then guess what...the kids aren't going to know that it isn't a toy!! Being able to tell the difference between a toy gun and a real gun is one of the first things that kids should learn about guns.

I wish my father had done the same for me when I was young and that other parents would do the same but that is wishful thinking. Actually the next day my sister called me in a rage because my niece told her that I taught her about gun safety. My sister was furious because not only did I talk about guns with her but because I let her touch a gun. While in hindsight perhaps I should have discussed it with her before we did it, but I won't apologize for teaching my niece something her parents should have taught her long ago. I'm thoroughly confident that if my niece came upon a gun she would leave it alone, find an adult, and only touch it if she had to. I'm also thoroughly confident that if I hadn't gone over gun safety with her and she came across a gun in a park or at a friend's house that she might think it was a toy and shoot herself or someone else with it.

We all recognize that a child might have to cross a road so we make sure we teach them how to do is safely; we all recognize that a child might have to confront an angry dog, or be offered a cigarette, or use kitchen knives, or do a thousand other things so we make sure that we teach them how to do those things safety. So, why not realize that our children might come across a gun and might just have to handle that gun and teach them to do is safely so they don't kill themselves?

People don't seem to understand that guns don't jump up and kill people. Guns only fire if they're loaded and someone pulls the trigger. The reason why so many people accidentally get shot with guns is that the people handling them don't know what their doing. Christ, most people that carry guns for a living don't really know how to safety handle them let alone effectively use them.

Next you have the fact that people are inherently violent. People are violent and they like to kill, period. Violence has NOTHING to do with guns. Right now people do their killing with guns because it is easy and they have one, but if you take away their guns then they'll do their killing with knives, bows and arrows, poisons, or explosives; take those away and they'll do their killing with sticks, take their sticks away and they'll do their killing with rocks. Some people think that if you take the guns away then the killings will stop, but that's not only wrong, it’s also not addressing the real problem. If you go to a crime filled city and take away all the guns, the only thing that will really change is that they'll be a dramatic rise in the number of stabbings. Some people just want to kill, and if you take away weapon "A" then they'll just grab weapon "B".

Look at Africa. In Africa you can buy an AK-47 for the equivalent of $2. People over there use those AK-47's to massacre each other all the time. What happens when they run out of ammunition? What happens when for whatever reason those rifles aren't available? Does the killing stop? NO! They grab machetes, they grab knives, they grab rocks and the killing continues without missing a beat.

Violence is human nature and to blame guns is just stupid. The truth is that it’s easy to blame guns for violence but its a lot more difficult to address the real problem. Politicians blame guns because its the easy way out, because to address the actual problems with society will offend certain people and god forbid someone gets offended. In this society to offend someone is the greatest crime you can commit.

I'm a supporter of gun control to a certain extent. Like I stated above I think that there are certain people that shouldn't be allowed to own guns because they lack the ability to responsibly and effectively use them; I also think that you shouldn't be allowed to own a gun until you complete a rigorous training course. You should have to take a course that thoroughly addresses the law, safe handling of guns, shooting, and defensive/combat use of the weapon. You should have to at least 30 hours of actual shooting before you're allowed to own a gun.

The thing that we need in this country isn't necessarily gun control, its education. People need to be taught how to handle, fire, and use guns and if everyone had that training you wouldn't see all these accidental shootings, you probably would even see a severe reduction in gun violence.

The last thing I'll say about this subject is that criminals will have guns, period. There is nothing that we can do to keep criminals from getting guns, just like there was nothing we could do to keep people from drinking alcohol. If we don't allow law abiding citizens to own and carry guns then the only people who will have guns will be criminals.