The Gun Debate – Analysis

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Firearms of all shapes, sizes and varieties have played a significant role in my entire life.  I was brought up in a family that used guns for hunting, served in the military where weapons use is obvious, served many years as a police officer and private investigator and now – in my retirement years – take great comfort in knowing that my guns are there, if needed, to protect me and my family.

I don’t practice my shooting skills the way I did during my professional career, but I’m still quite confident in my ability to safely handle just about any rifle, shotgun or handgun – from my tiny derringer all the way up to fully automatic, military grade machineguns.

I’m very aware of what those weapons are capable of – especially in the wrong hands.

Obviously, I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment – the Right to keep and bear arms.

Not everyone agrees with me, and I believe I understand why.

Some background, so you understand my side of this debate:

I’m a country boy.  Born and raised in rural Vermont.  I grew up in a city of just 10,000 and have lived in even smaller towns most of my life.  90% of my schoolmates grew up exactly the same way.  We were far from rich and putting meat on the table was critical to survival.  Only the richest families; those who could afford to buy meat, didn’t hunt wild game.  It was vitally important to my folks that we supplied venison, rabbit and wild birds for food.  And we did.

Each year, Dad, my brothers and I would take to the woods and work diligently to stock the larder for the long winter months.  Try to remember that a steak dinner to us meant cube steak – not sirloin or porterhouse, and certainly never filet mignon.  Venison steaks, especially, were a special treat.

Firearms were expensive, even then, but the need for food made owning firearms a necessity.  Over time, that necessity has changed.  Each of us reached a level of financial security that allowed us to hunt and fish much more casually.  We could afford “store bought” meat and the failure to harvest wild game didn’t signal a meatless winter.

I was an Army Veteran and had served as an NRA certified firearms instructor for several years before the need to produce game for the table relaxed to the point where I – and my sons – were hunting and fishing more for sport than survival.  We were quite successful in taking wild game and never wasted an ounce of meat, but our survival didn’t depend on our success.

As that way of life drifted away, society and our culture changed, and with that change came a different “need” for firearms.  Each day I found myself strapping on a gunbelt and a .357 magnum as I embarked on another day of duty as a full time police officer.  Here, the need was unquestioned.  Bad guys did bad things and many of them used guns.  The only way to effectively offset their advantage was for the police to have guns, too!  For decades, 99.9% of us approved of law enforcement officers carrying loaded guns.

Now let’s jump ahead to 2013.  And notice, if you will, where the opposing sides reside in the great debate over guns in America.

Rural areas tend to be strong Second Amendment supporters, while urban areas tend to be strongly opposed.  Can you see part of the reason why?

Those of us brought up in rural areas had a basic need for firearms, but those born and raised in the metropolitan areas had no such need.  Not many youngsters who grew up in the Bronx were required to hunt and fish, and if they had been, they would have been forced to travel great distances just to do so.  Unless guns were being carried by police officers, to city folks they were of little use.  In the large urban areas only criminals and law enforcement carried guns.

Of course the population difference was – and still is – enormous.  Some share the air with millions of others, while those of us out in the sticks consider a ten acre property to be about average.    Out here, we’re far more comfortable needing to yell so the neighbors can hear us.
MP-15
The MP-15. Smith & Wesson Version Of The Much Maligned AR-15.  It Just Looks Evil.  A true military style M-16 looks quite similar, but just as a Nova and Corvette are both Chevrolets, comparing the two is ridiculous.

To test my theory, I took a ride to Burlington – Vermont’s largest city – and asked at least two dozen folks their opinion on the gun control debate.  Almost to the person, they spoke out in opposition to the Second Amendment Right to bear arms and nearly all of them were totally confused by the terminology currently used in opposition.  Every single one of them mentioned the AR-15 and called it an assault weapon.  When asked to define “assault weapon”, most said “you know, the kind the military uses”.  Several went so far as to suggest that the “AR” stood for “assault rifle”.  It was plainly obvious that the mainstream media’s concerted effort to distort the definitions had been a roaring success.

Most were surprised – some even embarrassed – to learn that the AR-15 rifle has been sold commercially in this country for 50 years!  That it’s not a machinegun and not even the preferred weapon for our military.  When I told them that “AR” stood for ArmaLite rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950s, most gave me a look of disbelief.

Nearly every single person I spoke to confused the AR-15 with the military version – the M-16 – which is capable of fully automatic fire.  The M-16 is an assault style weapon, the AR-15 is not.  Expensive federal permits are required to own a fully automatic weapon, and most all of us agree that kind of weapon isn’t included in the debate (although some do).

Several of the people I spoke with mentioned the Sandy Hook school shooting and as many suggested that an AR-15 was used to murder the 20 students and six adults.  This myth is constantly repeated in the media even though the highest ranking investigators say it’s not true.  An AR-15 was found in the trunk of the killer’s vehicle, but semi-automatic pistols were used exclusively in the murders.  When I pointed this out, two of the people I spoke with politely called me a liar, which only goes to show the power of the media in disseminating false information.

When I shifted gears to a discussion of handguns, most of them perked up.  In fact, a few of them admitted to owning a handgun of some light caliber and suggested it was there for home defense.  None of the folks I spoke with said they have ever carried a concealed handgun, even though it’s legal to do so in Vermont, except where prohibited by law – federal buildings, court houses, etc.

I asked one final question to them all; How do you feel about people carrying knives?  Not a single one voiced opposition, despite the fact that a skilled, knife-wielding person can cause nearly as much mayhem as a person with a gun.

With that mindset it’s very easy to see why some are almost violently opposed to
firearms.  I understand that fact.

I just wish those in opposition were better educated on the topic and perhaps basically trained in the use of firearms so that they could offer more intelligent debate.  Fear is their primary problem and fear can play horrible tricks on the mind.  Because of their urban upbringing, those same people would probably be afraid of heading out into the deep woods because of stories they’ve heard about how people get lost and die.

I used to have that same fear.  And then I celebrated my tenth birthday and was taught to never fear the unknown.  I learned as much as possible about my surroundings and that fear instantly disappeared.  I’ve taken a topographical map and professional compass on hunts deep into the woods of Maine and returned safely every time.  The ten year old urban youth learn exactly the opposite.  It’s an example of how “street smarts” are a good thing – to a point.

Perhaps all of us country boys and girls should live a year or two in an urban area just to better understand the culture, and those “city kids” should spend a year or two in rural Vermont to better understand our thinking.

We could each help the other and approach such issues better educated.

Your comments are encouraged.

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