The conversation facing our country on “gun control” is a losing one.
It is a losing one because both sides are deeply entrenched in their beliefs, often closed off to listening to the other side. Some of the stupidest things people say often occur while discussing firearms. I will try my best not to add to that sentiment during this article.
I have often been accused of sounding cold on this issue, which is more of a byproduct of past careers than any emotional disconnect. Rest assured, this issue has touched me very personally, yet years of training taught me to look at issues such as this with discipline and rational focus. The matter of guns in America is one of those discussions where emotions get the better of the facts, which often leads to incoherent chatter.
People are killed and injured by guns every day, just as they are in car accidents, swimming mishaps and freak misfortunes. Sometimes, through careless mishandling or by deliberate (yet legal) action, and other times through malice, people die. No matter how many laws, regulations or “impassioned” speeches, the actions, or inaction, of others will always be the deciding factor of tragedy. This is the harsh reality ever present in our lives. Cold I know, but not any less true.
Like many of you I woke up on June 12, 2016, to the horrific news of the terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Many things swirled around in my head. Both the emotional and methodical parts of my mind asked the same question: “Why?” As I listened to the reports and saw the images flash across my screen, I made one commitment at that point: I would try to avoid publicly discussing the events for 24 hours. No Facebook, no Twitter. Silence. I also decided my column the following week would be as far removed from this tragedy as possible. How I wish others would have made the same commitment.
Immediately after the incident, the media and the Internet lit up. As the day progressed, the more distant we got from understanding. Islamic, mass shooting, assault weapon, gun control, gay night club, commonsense gun legislation, terrorist watch list, sit-in, homophobic, Tea Party wackos, “No Fly-No Buy,” LGBT, heartless Republicans, gun-grabbing liberals. Most, if not all, political posturing; none helpful for the grieving families. Spoken mostly by people with a political agenda or a firm belief that they are right, and the other side is evil. And there it is, the great divide. Far too many believe if you disagree with them on this topic, you are a fool or evil. Fools, maybe. But there was only one evil actor in this story.
After reading Robert Azzi’s article on June 19 (http://tinyurl.com/hmc4k4k), I was struck by one of his lines – “Please, God, don’t let it be a Muslim.” Regardless of whether you agree with Azzi, I could not help but be touched by that honest prayer. Putting aside our differences, there was, and still is only one evil person solely responsible for this attack, Omar Mateen. Mateen is the alpha and the omega of this brutal slaughter. Mateen’s soul was infected by an ideology that neither Azzi nor I agree with or can understand, but to divert the conversation away from this fact only serves to pollute the truth.
I can quote statistics in defense of safe gun ownership, as I am sure some can submit to counter that point. I can logically address the media’s misuse of the term assault weapon, AR-15 (which does not stand for assault rifle), and blatant mischaracterization of gun owners. I can explain there are actual “loop-holes” regarding private firearms sales, and that despite our best intentions, bad people get guns and use them to do bad things.
I can debate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Art. 2a of the N.H. Constitution from a position of intellectual certainty. I can have a rational discussion how the “No-Fly List” is rife with mistakes, open to abuse and most likely a violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments. I could remind people that none of the current provisions being fought over would have done anything to stop Orlando. I could call people names, accuse them of nefarious intent, or say things like “guns don’t kill people, just like forks don’t cause diabetes.”
Most likely the only people who would listen are those who agree with me or the very few people who have not formed a position on this topic. Unlike most people, however, I have a unique perspective.
I own a gun. I have spent my entire life around guns. I am not a member of the NRA, nor have I ever been. In fact, I have never belonged to any gun advocacy group (pro or anti). I was permitted to carry a gun on foreign soil while serving in the U.S. Army. I also openly carried a gun in public as a police officer. In the past I have had careers that put my life in peril, and I have carried the responsibility of protecting others as part of those careers. Having seen violence from many angles, I can say to you without equivocation, your personal safety is almost entirely your sole responsibility. That is a burden too many people in this country either are reluctant to accept or too blind to see.
I take my responsibility for protecting myself and my family very seriously. The very harsh reality everyone needs to know is that government is under no obligation to protect or defend you, which has been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court (Warren v. District of Columbia – as well as other cases). A sad lesson we are learning from Orlando.
However, I have also stood over the bodies of people killed by firearms (and other weapons), and consoled the families of those lost to tragedy. I have held crying mothers and children in my arms. Nothing in my training prepared me for that pain. I do not consider my vantage point a blessing, but a curse.
I grieve for those lost in Orlando, and mourn with their families. I wish we could have a rational conversation about preventing another Orlando. But evil is not rational. It is cruel, without conscience, and only manifests itself in one place; the corrupted heart in the likes of people like Omar Mateen. When we forget this fact, or divert away from this fact, we do a disservice to the victims.