I still remember when my older brother wrote to us from US Marine Corps bootcamp to tell us that he’d earned the expert rifleman badge for his firearm. We had been taught about guns at home — but also about responsibility
Twenty-four hours had not passed after a horrific terrorist attack by a white supremacist on innocent worshipping Muslims, and members of the New Zealand government announced that they were planning to ban semi-automatic assault rifles and introduce tighter gun control laws. While some might claim that this move will diminish New Zealanders’ sense of freedom and safety — but the data suggests the exact opposite.
My story about guns begins from my childhood, when my dad bought us a pellet gun. It wasn’t a lethal firearm — but it was a tool that helped us develop hunting skills and understand firearm safety. And as we spent our summers hunting rabbits, birds, and engaging in target practice with old Coca Cola cans on the five-acre former farm that was our home, we never suffered an injury as a result of firearm negligence.
I still remember when my older brother wrote to us from US Marine Corps bootcamp to tell us that he’d earned the expert rifleman badge for his firearm. It was the highest possible award that the Marines offered. He would go on to earn this award five times during his five-year active duty enlistment. He was thrilled and we were happy for him. Indeed, we felt like we were on the journey with him, because his expertise and training with guns had begun years before he enlisted in the Marine Corps, with the gifting of that pellet gun.
But nearly 30 years later, the gun conversation in America is very different. Including suicide deaths, over 40,000 Americans die each year due to guns. We can make many valid arguments about the need for better mental healthcare for veterans when 22 commit suicide a day, or even for combating gang violence in inner cities nationwide. These are undoubtedly very important issues. But what they have in common is the way in which they are exacerbated by the unrestricted availability of guns to criminals, domestic abusers, violent felons, and violent men in our country.
Those who oppose responsible gun legislation claim that gun laws won’t work because criminals will still find a way to get guns. By such logic we shouldn’t have any laws at all because, after all, criminals will break them. I’ll ask such critics to consider that no one law is perfect, however we can enact meaningful legislation to ensure criminals have a much more difficult time acquiring a gun — while the rest of us law-abiding citizens can still access them as the Constitution guarantees. Who can honestly claim that domestic abusers and violent felons deserve easy access to firearms?