I am a gun owner.
I have a Massachusetts Class A Concealed Carry License. I own three semi-automatic guns: two 22-caliber rifles and a 22 caliber target pistol.
Why do I own guns? I have always been interested in knowing how to handle a firearm. My son has a strong interest in firearms as well. I decided that the best way for him to know how to safely handle firearms was to learn take the firearms safety course and practice with them. Actually, even before we applied for permits (my son has a Class B Firearms Identification card a.k.a FID), he knew a lot about firearms already and when he was a counselor in training at Scout Camp two years ago, he assisted in teaching at the rifle range.
My son and I manage to find time to go to the range at a local sporting club about once a month.
I don’t think I am unusual here. Several of the fathers in my son’s Scout Troop also have Class A Licenses and take their sons shooting.
I do not have my guns for home defense. It is against Massachusetts law to have a loaded firearm in the house unless it is under the direct control of the licensed gun owner so unless I am going to walk around my house with my target pistol holstered to my hip 24/7, it’s not going to do me much good. The only way I would carry a loaded gun outside of the firing range would be in the event of the zombie apocalypse or in the unlikely event of a complete breakdown of civil order.
I have read that even trained police officers, wakened from a deep sleep, had lousy accuracy trying to fire a gun in an emergency situation. If trained police officers are not likely to shoot straight at a night prowler, what chance do I have?
I also consider that studies have shown that in most cases, if you have a gun you are more likely to have it used against you than against an assailant. For example:
“In a first-of-its-kind study, epidemiologists at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine found that, on average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. The study estimated that people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.”
The idea of arming teachers and school administrators as a deterrent against crazed gunmen is ludicrous because unless these people are put through rigorous training and refresher courses like SWAT police officers, putting a gun in the hands of a school teacher is going to do more harm than good. I have fired 9mm handguns in the past. It takes a lot of practice to shoot those accurately at a gun range. In a crowded hall full of panicky kids against an assailant wearing body armor when you are struggling with fight-or-flight response? You have got to be kidding me.
I also do not see anything wrong with regulating the ownership and use of firearms. The Second Amendment of the Constitution says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. It says nothing about regulating how those arms are borne.
We regulate driving. No one thinks twice about taking driver’s education classes, wearing seatbelts, getting their cars inspected, or renewing driver’s licenses. Certain types of cars are not permitted on the roads, such as Indy Racers or alcohol-fueled Funny Car drag racers.
Likewise, I see no reason for anyone to own a semi-automatic rifle capable of firing high-powered ammunition. The Bushmaster rifle used by the Newtown shooter was, for all intents and purposes, a military grade weapon. Its .223 caliber ammunition is just about the same as the 5.56 mm NATO standard used in the M-16 and M-4 combat rifles.
Wikipedia describes .223 ammo like this: “When loaded with a bullet that expands, tumbles, or fragments in tissue, this cartridge is capable of delivering devastating terminal performance.” The article on 5.56mm NATO rounds has this statement: “It is derived from, but not identical to, the .223 Remington cartridge. When the bullet impacts at high velocity and yaws in tissue, fragmentation creates a rapid transfer of energy which can result in dramatic wounding effects.”
This ammunition is also used in bolt-action hunting rifles but when combined with a 30-round clip and a rapid firing weapon, the combination is nothing less than a machine designed for military combat, period, end of story. No one I know uses these kinds of rifles for deer or varmint hunting.
To me, this is the same as comparing an Indy Car to a Honda Accord or even a Chevy Camaro. Overkill.
Can my small caliber rimfire rifles and pistol kill people? Absolutely. Are these practical weapons for killing people in job lots? No.
To get back to my original point, I see no reason why firearms sales and use cannot be regulated. I have no problem getting my firearms license renewed on a more frequent basis than the 6-year interval required by Massachusetts law. I see no problem with requiring background checks of anyone buying a firearm from any place and at any time. I see no problem making high capacity clips illegal. I see no problem limiting the types of firearms available that can use high-powered ammunition. None of these restrictions would prohibit people from hunting or engaging in shooting sports.
The issues that lead to the Newtown massacre were no doubt, complex. The shooter was severely mentally ill, was trained in how to use a very deadly weapon and had access to said weapon. We will never know the entire story here, but if Adam Lanza had gotten psychiatric help, if he did not know how to use the rifle, if his mother did not have the rifle and the high capacity magazines, this particular event would not have happened. Could Lanza have found another way to cause suicidal mayhem? Sure, but it would have been a lot harder.
We have a gun problem in this country that has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. Among first-world nations, we have the highest homicide rate by firearms, by up to one to three orders of magnitude (see illustration) greater than other first world nations. The Newtown tragedy aside, states with stricter regulations on firearms have a lower death rate from firearms. Crime may not decrease, but deaths from shootings decreases.
We have had many mass shootings, more than any other country in the world but these are still low probability events when you compare them to other things that can happen to the average person during their lifetime. But even one of these awful tragedies is one too many and the number of them can be decreased as far as I am concerned.
Having armed guards or police in every school in America as the NRA suggests, arming teachers or buying your kid a Kevlar backpack is just dealing with the symptoms. To deal with the problem start with firearms regulation, better firearms and criminal information data sharing among federal agencies and state and local police departments, and better funding of and community access to help for mentally unstable people.
Enough is enough.