I hear a lot from so-called responsible gun owners whenever a new gun control discussion begins. Shouldn’t they support reasonable measures?
I grew up in a family that owns guns. Some of my family members spent time — and in some cases their entire careers — serving in law enforcement. Others served in the various U.S. Armed Forces. I would have no problem labeling them responsible gun owners.
But this isn’t about gun ownership.
I don’t think owning a gun automatically makes someone “responsible.” In fact, I think there are too many people who do own guns but aren’t responsible enough.
Police make arrest in deadly Texas shooting
As I write this, authorities in Texas just captured a man accused of killing five members of a family. The term mass shooting, which we see too often, applies to a shooting of at least four people. This one qualifies.
From what we know from law enforcement, the victims were his next-door neighbors. Reports suggest the man gunned down these people after they asked him to stop firing a gun in his own yard.
That last line alone should lead to several questions. Firing a gun in his own yard? Is that legal where he lives? Maybe it is. Is he sure that there’s zero chance anyone could be injured? When my family wants to do target practice, they go to a gun range. They don’t fire their guns in their own yards. They have neighbors, too. Sometimes, bullets can ricochet. Even firing a gun in the air can result in bullets hurting someone; As the saying goes, what goes up must come down…somewhere.
You wouldn’t want to be liable for someone’s injury or damage to someone’s property. At least, you wouldn’t want that liability if you’re a responsible gun owner, right?
News reports suggest the reason the family asked him to stop shooting was because the gunfire was keeping their infant awake. It seems to me that if that were true, the responsible thing to do would have been to apologize and stop with the gunfire.
Maybe there had been other issues. We weren’t there, so we can’t know.
How do responsible gun owners act?
But the request and the reason for the request, based on the little we are hearing, seems perfectly reasonable to me.
The alleged shooter wouldn’t want his neighbors making a bunch of noise if it kept one of his family members awake. I’m sure he’d make a similar request in the same situation. Although, if the allegations here are true, the manner in which he’d make the request might be a concern.
Here, however, the response, based on what law enforcement tells us, was completely unreasonable no matter what other issues may have previously occurred. As the story goes, the man went to his neighbors home and shot five people. The victims included four adults and a child.
Is that the action of a responsible gun owner?
What about the myriad mass shootings we’ve seen over the past few weeks? A bank employee is accused of bringing a gun to his workplace and opens fire. A farmworker is accused of killing seven at mushroom farms in California. Six people face charges for firing a total of 89 rounds at a Sweet 16 party in Alabama.
The list goes on and on. PBS News Hour reported that 2023 is already on pace for a record number of mass shootings. We’re barely into May.
Are these the actions of gun owners anyone would brand as responsible?
If so, your definition seems to vary wildly from my own. That’s your right, of course, but I don’t see us agreeing on this.
Shouldn’t responsible gun owners favor stopping this insanity?
Let me attempt a little parallel here. I’ve been a pet owner for most of my life. In fact, my folks brought home my first dog, a Rough Collie puppy, the Christmas after I’d just turned a year old. Sure, it was the family dog. But she quickly bonded to me and inherently knew she was supposed to look after me. I grew up as if I were in a Lassie movie. (I was just smart enough never to have fallen in a well!)
As a pet owner, I see evidence of other pet owners not being responsible. We have laws across the country and here in Charleston, my home base, related to owning pets. If your pet commits a certain biological function, the law here requires pet owners to collect and dispose of that little gift. Pet owners are required to keep their pets on a leash. The law requires they keep their pets licensed and vaccinated.
They’re all reasonable expectations. As a responsible pet owner, I support those laws. I follow them because I believe they’re the right thing to do. I believe they keep me and those around me safer…not to mention my pet, too.
Even if there were a Constitutional amendment that was interpreted as giving me a right to own a pet, I would feel the same way. If a new problem came up with pets, something that threatened safety, I wouldn’t automatically oppose any new law meant to curb that threat. In fact, I’d support any reasonable discussion and any reasonable law designed to keep me, my pet and my neighbors safer.
That, to me, is a responsible pet owner.
Too many gun owners, however, many of whom label themselves as responsible, automatically oppose any discussions of gun control. The parallel between responsible pet owners and responsible gun owners doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.
It does to some of the law-abiding gun owners who value the Second Amendment, apparently, over human lives..
The stupidest argument about gun control
Too many gun owners too quickly drop one little counterargument on any talk of gun legislation. It goes something like this: “Gun laws don’t work because criminals don’t obey the law.”
On the surface, it might sound reasonable.
But these same people expect laws that protect their safety. If someone walks onto their property, they expect there to be a law allowing them to take action. They rely on laws to protect their money and their property from theft. If someone steals from them, they’ll certainly call the police and demand a fast response.
If they’re driving along and see someone driving recklessly, they’ll probably pick up their cell phone and call their highway patrol to report a potential drunk driver. They certainly shouldn’t ignore someone putting others at risk, right?
They won’t just shrug it off and say, “Well, what can I expect? Criminals don’t obey the law anyway.”
Does anyone believe that would be the responsible thing to do? Anyone?
The work needs to be done — sooner, not later
Sorry, but I don’t have the answer to stopping mass shootings. I wish I did.
But one thing that definitely keeps us from reaching that answer is responsible gun owners who ignore the fact that there are too many irresponsible gun owners who keep buying guns.
No one wants to take guns away from those who aren’t going out killing people for reasons that seem justified only to them.
But I don’t know how anyone can argue that there aren’t too many guns in the hands of people who have the wrong motives in mind. Seriously, I don’t know how anyone can believe that there are too many guns in the hands of too many bad actors.
I think of a pair of quotes by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which can apply to many, many issues in life. Both say a similar thing but in different ways.
Here’s the first:
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
And here’s the second:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Stopping the insanity and tragedy of gun control matters. There’s no one way to do it. Restricting guns through stricter gun control laws won’t do it alone. Increasing mental health treatment won’t do it alone.
It will take a combination of many factors before we get there.
But everyone has to be willing to stop being silent and stop blocking the sliver of the solution that scares them the most.
Until that happens, we’ll just see more of the same.
If we’re going to be responsible gun owners in this country, I think we need to be willing to have those conversations. More importantly, I think we need to embrace them. Too much is at stake to bury our heads in the sand.