To the NRA,
I am a lifetime member of the NRA. I grew up on a small ranch in East Texas, in a society where gun ownership, hunting and gun sports were part of everyday life. I have hunted throughout most of my life, in several states, and enjoyed the hunt of a lifetime when I took my two sons to South Africa to hunt with me. The entire family went on that trip, as well as two of my hunting buddies and their wives. I have owned and operated virtually every category of sporting and self-defense weapon available to civilians, and have spent many, many days at the range pursuing target sports, especially the shotgun sports, although I’m a good shot with the rifle and better than average with a semi-automatic pistol when I’m in practice. I know how to shop for and operate all modern weapons of self-defense, and what ammunition to use to maximize protection while minimizing negative side-effects like recoil and shoot-through. I spent a great deal of time teaching gun safety to my sons, and I believe they would tell you I am a safety fanatic, because the consequences of a single small mistake with a firearm are often so out of proportion in their ghastly, and often permanent, effects.
For all these reasons, I hope you will listen to my voice when I beg you, and your leadership, to please, please support and promote some common-sense adjustments to our Country’s firearms policies. We are losing thousands of lives every year to gun violence, far more than advanced countries with similarly violent media images and poverty levels. We absolutely must consider the well-being of others as well as our own rights and desires. No one familiar with guns would ever say that a shooter should refuse to practice basic firearms safety procedures. Yet our national policy on guns is more in keeping with a shooter who claims a constitutional right to carry a loaded weapon with the safety off, or leave a weapon with a loaded chamber in a public place frequented by children. We even have gun rights advocates, who invoke the name of the NRA, who promote carrying loaded firearms in bars. In bars, when everyone knows that alcohol and firearms don’t mix. I’ve even heard people advocating attending Christian church services while carrying a loaded firearm!
How did we ever go from defending a citizen’s right to self-defense to advocating guns in bars and churches? How can we continue to ignore the fact that our society is losing tens of thousands of citizens every year to impulse shootings and suicide? How can we ignore the fact that our policies make it easy for drug gangs and potential terrorists all over the world to arm themselves with virtually unlimited numbers of weapons that can easily be converted to full military capability?
Doesn’t a responsible sportsman have an obligation to his or her society as well as to his or her sport or safety? Most of us would be appalled at a person who demanded the right to keep a man-portable surface to air missile launcher for self-defense. We would never argue that the Founding Fathers contended that individuals had an inalienable right to shoot down aircraft. They never considered those things because such technology was unthinkable at the time, just as the current availability of affordable weapons capable of firing a hundred high-powered rifle rounds was unthinkable at the time. The Founders lived in a time when a shooter had to carefully load each shot by hand, and only an excellent marksman could shoot a man in the head at 100 yards. They could not be expected to imagine all the technological marvels we enjoy today. They would be equally amazed by a cell phone or a .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle capable of shooting through armor plate at ranges up to a mile. They were also living in a time when a new country had to depend on farmers and tradesmen to bring their own personal weapons to military service. They could never comprehend the military capability of today’s large metropolitan police force, let alone the awesome might of the U.S. Military Establishment. What would General Washington think of an aircraft carrier? A Stealth bomber? A drone equipped with Hellfire missiles? A Marine combat platoon equipped for a day’s fighting in Fallujah could have annihilated every British soldier at Bunker Hill and destroyed the vessels they arrived in in less time than it has taken to compose and write this message. Technology changes the world, and policies in a modern world must reflect those changes.
We as gun users must acknowledge that there is a middle ground between complete citizen disarmament and rational limits on the number and capability of weapons available to anyone with the money to purchase them. The arguments in favor of background checks don’t wash; they only apply to the original buyer, and are far too vulnerable to fraud and willful noncompliance. The internet has made the controls intended by background checks obsolete, and those controls had far too many loopholes to begin with.
When we choose to purchase and operate killing tools, we must, must accept the social obligations inherent in the power of those tools. We can no longer pretend that our needs are the only ones worthy of consideration. We are doing responsible gun owners no favors by pretending that tens of thousands of avoidable deaths have nothing to do with us or our activities.
Gun advocates have made many, many demands over the last 30 years. It’s past time for us to show our society that we can be counted on to care about something other than ourselves once in a while.
Thank you for considering these words. I wish to live in peace, in a more peaceful world, and I don’t believe I have to give up any of my Constitutional rights in order to do so.
Fort Worth, TX
From K.C. Mead — A special thank you to Michael Brewer for sharing a well-reasoned and deeply important argument as well as for the beautiful writing.