On the way to school last week, my daughter causally mentioned that one of her friend’s father’s carries his hunting gun with him wherever he goes. In querying how she learned this, my daughter said “because she told us at lunch.” My third-grade daughter continued that he has a piece of paper that says he can. I told her that piece of paper is called a concealed weapons permit. As we pulled up to the school entrance, I asked why he would need to carry a hunting weapon with him at all times. She said, “I don’t know. Love you. Bye,” and hopped of the car and skipped into her school.
On my way home, I mulled two thoughts. “Do more people having guns make me feel safer?” And: “Do I want my daughter going to her friend’s home for a play date knowing that father is possibly wearing his gun in the home?”
I carried a gun, actually several. They were tools of my job, the profession of arms. As a former Army military police Officer, I packed both an assault rifle and a pistol. I trained and qualified with them regularly. I know what they are capable of. Assault weapons are designed for one purpose, killing quickly. High capacity magazines are manufactured to unleash a barrage of bullets rapidly. Armor-piercing bullets are made to penetrate protective plates of vehicles and to kill the occupants efficiently.
Despite 30,000 guns deaths annually, and living in the most heavily armed nation — 304 million people and 200 million registered weapons — the NRA remains steadfast in its proclamation that more guns make us safer. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!” defiantly stated Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president in the week following the brutal massacre of 26 elementary school children and educators in Newton, Conn.
The preferred safety recommendation offered by the NRA advocates is placing armed guards in schools. It offers a frightening scenario in two ways and continues to ignore the public safety that assault gun ownership threatens. First it turns our nation’s schools into armed camps. Second, no one knows how that armed guard will react when confronted with a weapon wielding assailant intent on mass murder.
A recent incident in August in front of the Empire State Building in New York City is instructive. Police officers — professionals trained in the use of guns against armed assailants — confronted an armed man after he shot and killed a co-worker. A gun battle ensued just as visitors to the city queued up to ascend the iconic New York skyscraper in one of Manhattan’s busiest neighborhoods. The gunman was killed and bullet fragments hitting other objects wounded several bystanders.
Gun control, which as been part of our history, even here in the West, has been hijacked by gun lobbyists, most notably the NRA, and demonized into gun confiscation, something that it is not. The 2nd Amendment was ratified at a time when it took an average of 60 seconds to load a musket with one bullet.
In its entirety, the 2nd Amendment states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arm, shall not be infringed.” Now through the advances of technology, 222 years later, it takes 60 seconds to unload a rifle with a clip of 140 bullets. Do you truly believe that our founding fathers intended this amendment to be carte blanche for individuals to build personal arsenals and for gun manufacturers to sell combat assault weapons and high capacity magazine at will for profit?
The NRA’s absolutist position, war chest of hundreds of millions of dollars, and tactics that exploit the emotions of rational gun owners and intimidated politicians have resulted in the situation we have today.
In the 2012 election cycle alone, political spending at the federal level by gun rights groups topped $3.13 million dollars. That is 786 times more than the $4,036 spent by gun control groups. Add in the amount spent and classified as independent expenditures — ”expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate” — the total approaches $41.5 million dollars.
Those innocent victims of the Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo., Newton, Conn., shootings and the many others did not die in vain. Their violent deaths individually and collectively have removed the debate from the sole spin of the NRA’s death grip.
For years and with millions of dollars, the NRA has beaten consistently the war drum state that more guns in more people’s hands increases public safety. Think about that for a moment, and then ask yourself this question: Are we safer today than we were 20 years ago?
Donna McAleer is a former congressional candidate for Utah’s 1st Congressional District, Army veteran, author and mother.