Photo Credit: wallpaperup.com

 
As I try to keep my head above water in the ever-cresting tide of gun violence, I posted a simple observation about guns on Facebook this week:

Despite the strange popularity of handguns and assault rifles, I can’t recall hearing any uplifting, feel-good stories about them — just murders, suicides, avoidable accidents, and other tragedies. I can’t wrap my little brain around the fascination with devices designed specifically to kill humans.

Within minutes of posting this, “friends” I haven’t heard from in years were coming out of the woodwork in defense of the sacred and beloved Second Amendment. One or two comments were a reasonable attempt to defend this Almighty Right, but most were basically calling me an unpatriotic idiot. One family member even commented that I shouldn’t post such “nonsense,” and that my dad would be upset with me. I laughed out loud at this one. Oh, is my daddy going to be upset? (By the way, he’s not.)

If you read my post again you’ll notice that I never mentioned anything about gun control or the Second Amendment, yet that is where so many gun supporters — gun lovers — took it. So this got me thinking about both the Constitution and safety, as well as the current state of our nation.

First, let’s talk about the Constitution. The Second Amendment is a hot topic. Most who support the right to bear arms claim that we must never give up this right. I, like most people in favor of gun control, do not want to see this right given up or have all guns confiscated. But let’s look beyond the term “gun control” for a moment, and focus on the Constitution. When the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 our country had been independent from England for only eight years. Militias were still in regular use, despite being somewhat frowned upon by some (including George Washington). The army and navy, both established in 1775, were still in their infancy. Guns were regularly used for hunting as a source of food, and were typically very long (and difficult to hide), single shot muskets that had to be slowly loaded through the muzzle.

When I process all of this information, the right to bear arms in 1791 makes perfect sense. We weren’t packing semi-automatic handguns in our pants or carrying assault rifles that can spray hundreds of bullets per minute. But hey, maybe our incredibly wise founding fathers, the framers of our Constitution, would have been okay with the average farmer or blacksmith owning these types of weapons, too.

I’m sure that gun-lusters — wait, that’s not fair, Constitutionalists is a better term — are also familiar with and in favor of all the other amendments. I have to assume that they think all amendments are equally important and relevant today. Like the Third Amendment, which limits the government’s ability to use our homes to house soldiers during wartime without the consent of the owner (FYI, this practice is completely forbidden during times of peace). This doesn’t seem very relevant today, but I guess you never know when we might be at war, and a law could (legally) be passed to force us to let soldiers occupy our homes. Completely irrelevant today — and wrong, yet widely accepted by our all-knowing founding fathers — is the exclusion of rights for minorities and women in the Constitution. In fact, many of these enlightened men owned slaves. Oddly, this is rarely mentioned by those supporting the Second Amendment and/or Constitution today. When brought up, some will remark that, “It’s just how things were back then.” I have to chuckle when I hear this because it only supports my point. It’s also strange how modern gunslingers, while using the rights of the Constitution and the Second Amendment as their defense against gun control, simultaneously bash those using their First Amendment right to express opinions in favor of it.

*Quick side note: the First Amendment also covers freedom of religion. Is it just me or are many pistol-packers also very religious Christians? I mean, what’s up with that? Doesn’t God have their backs?

The term”gun control” almost always refers to an effort to make guns and gun ownership safer, in turn making our country a safer place to live freely. It should not be associated with banning all guns, as many jump to conclude. I seriously ask what is wrong with increasing safety measures? Why should it be easier to buy a gun than to buy a car, or even get a license to drive? Why can someone on a terrorist watch list purchase a gun legally? Why should any dude — with no training and potentially no good judgement or common sense — be able to buy an assault rifle that trained military personnel have accidents with? What’s wrong with increased safety?

For example, no right-minded person says:

Henry Ford, our brilliant forefather in the automobile industry, didn’t have life-saving seat belts in his cars. And that’s why we shouldn’t have them today. It’s just that simple. By the way, the laws of the road are infringing on my freedom. Before you know it the government is just going to take away our cars. 

Football used to be played without helmets or pads. That’s how it should be today. Batting helmets, catchers’ gear, and gloves in baseball…stupid. Sports today are too safe and that’s why no one wants to play or watch them. Pretty soon the government is just going to ban sports. 

Don’t even get me started on the absurdity of things like building and fire codes…it’s all just the government taking away my right to get hurt. I refuse to give up my rights!

I suppose it’s true that bad guys, not guns, purposely kill people. Guns just make it much easier for them to kill more people. Potentially many more. If you are one of the gun supporters who say a bad guy will use a baseball bat if he doesn’t have a gun, my response is simple — I’ll take my chances with the bat, and bats don’t make good weapons for mass-murders. Bats do create some great feel-good stories in baseball, however. Handguns and assault rifles serve a purpose in the military and for police — even though sometimes these service-people are bad people who abuse their power. I personally see no reason for any civilian to own any weapon capable of literally shredding a body in seconds, however I am willing to listen to respectful, intelligent arguments to the contrary. Most in favor of these assault weapons chastise Democrats for their disapproving stance, yet many Republicans, including Ronald Reagan, have also openly opposed them. There is no reason for this to be a Republican or Democrat issue. Violence is an American problem.

Good guys have handguns and sometimes protect themselves from bad guys. Good guys use rifles for hunting and feeding their families. Children and adults are regularly involved in deadly yet avoidable accidents involving guns that good, responsible people own. In these cases, I would argue that guns — not just bad guys — do in fact kill people. Guns also make suicide much easier, although I will concede that people who want to end their lives will find a way without guns.

Here’s the deal, guns are made for one purpose — to kill. Sometimes this killing is for protection or food. Sometimes it’s not. I stand by my original Facebook post. I simply can’t comprehend the fascination with devices used to end human life. Why do so many people find guns to be so cool? Why do so many people immediately get defensive — no, downright angry — at the mere mention of changing gun laws? We live in a scary, messed-up world. Guns will never go away, but if we can’t unite as Americans and at least have a dialogue about making guns and gun ownership safer, we are going to have a much bigger problem on our hands. Progress only happens with change. I hope it’s not already too late.

  
I’m not a veteran. Like many life-long civilians, who haven’t had any close ties to the military, I don’t think about our servicemen and women very often. This is a shame, I know, but when I do really think about them, it’s hard for me to comprehend. It’s more than I really want to consider.

I think about the people who join the military today. They are typically kids — often still in high school. They come from all walks of life. Some are following the footsteps (or expectations) of past generations. Some are needing a way to get into college or learn a trade. Many may be unsure of themselves and in search of some purpose and direction. A few could be running away and looking for a fresh start. Whatever the reason, these kids are volunteering to put their lives at stake for their country. That’s quite a commitment. One that they may not even fully understand or appreciate when they sign on the dotted line. I’d like to think I could do it, but I’m honestly not sure.

Today I find myself thinking about being deployed. I try to imagine just driving down a road in the Middle East today. The searing heat, the scorching sun, the dust everywhere, covering me and the vehicle. Would I constantly be flinching, just waiting to hit an IED? Would I ever be able to relax, knowing I could be ambushed at any time?

My mind wanders to the horrors that one might experience on the battlefield. Blood everywhere, detached limbs, piercing screams, people who have become not only your allies, but your best and only friends, dying in your arms. There isn’t a single thing you can do to help, other than make them feel as comfortable as possible, and maybe say goodbye.

The shockingly sickening sights, sounds and…the smell. I know it’s impossible to accurately imagine. I’m quite certain I can picture the most gruesome thoughts in my mind, without even scratching the surface of the reality some of our American brothers and sisters face on a daily basis. Do they ever become immune? Do they just block it out and push on?

They come home to little or no fanfare. It seems our people in uniform have become boring to the media. Some don’t have anyone on American soil to offer emotional, physical, or financial support. Their old friends have moved on, their new friends may not have come home with them — if they came home at all.

Some veterans struggle to cope when they get out of the service. Others go on to do great things. Regardless, I have to guess that even those who are most successful — however that is defined — are never truly liberated from their experiences and memories. Once a soldier, always a soldier…

But who am I to say that. Do I even deserve to think it? I’m just a guy who relies on a holiday as a reminder to be thankful for all our servicemen and women — both past and current — do for me and my country.

This needs to change. Our attitude as a nation needs to change. Regardless of our personal beliefs, these men and women are true heroes. Without their sacrifices, our personal beliefs may not matter. They deserve so many things, most of which you and I may not be able to provide. However, if nothing else, we can all say hello and thank them for their service. We civilians have no idea what these people have been through or are currently going through. A simple kind word might go a long way. This shouldn’t just happen on Veterans Day, but it seems like a fitting day to start.