You can’t find a more heated or emotionally charged subject these days. Foreshadowing the ongoing debate about marriage equality. Knocking the United States’ looming financial issues from the headlines. Gun control has become THE topic to debate. Defend. Lobby for or against. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings I followed the lead of the many before me. I took to Facebook and Twitter and let my opinions on the subject be known. I posted my own updates. I commented on others. My stance? Our country already has enough laws on the books. The government already has enough control over our lives. More laws wont save any lives — after-all, the weapons in question are already out in the wild. Even weapons that have escaped the spotlight could still inflict mass carnage. Now, just a short month later, I’m not sure I feel the same way. What changed my mind? Gun owners.
Leaning towards an independent train of thought, I often find myself conflicted on topics. My loose political affiliations afford a unique perspective. I don’t have to walk party lines. I don’t care what my peers think. I have the ability to take a stance, hear out opposition, and adjust my position. Sometimes that means a complete reversal on position, as is the case with regard to gun control. How did gun owners influence my change from “Pro Gun Ownership” to “Pro Gun Control”? Over-reaction, mass hysteria, threatening rants, and irresponsible gun purchases. Following the Sandy Hook incident it became clear that some form of gun control was on it’s way. Then, just 10 days later in Webster NY, an ex-convict set fire to his house and shot first responders as they arrived to battle the blaze. Two firefighters were killed. Two seriously injured. One innocent bystander was injured by shrapnel. Seven houses burned to the ground. Here’s the kicker — both the Sandy Hook and Webster shooters used the same weapon. A Bushmaster .223 Assault Rifle. How did either shooter end up with the weapons? In the case of the Sandy Hook shootings, Adam Lanza, who had a history of mental illness, obtained the weapons from his mother (who he also killed) after being denied purchase of a gun. In the case of the Webster shootings, William Spengler, who was previously convicted of murder, had a third party purchase the weapons. The way these weapons were obtained rebutted my belief that responsible gun owners effectively and responsibly control access to their weapons. Even more troubling has been the response from gun enthusiasts. Mass purchases of potentially banned assault rifles, stockpiling ammunition, and threatening rants / a call to arms. That’s right. Gun enthusiasts attempted prove how responsible they are by further arming themselves and angrily ranting. Now I feel safe… We’ve just allowed angry bitter people to arm themselves with assault rifles while further angering them.
Some argue assault weapons have a legitimate use. I’m sure it’s fun to go target shooting with one. It must be a real charge. What other use could they possibly have? Not hunting. Experts reports these weapons border on animal cruelty because they lack the power to take down large game. They merely injure the animal. That’s probably why most hunters don’t own a Bushmaster. If the weapons in question are really necessary or appropriate for hunting no one would need to run out and purchase the weapons in the face of a ban. The weapons would already be in their possession.
I share my time between New York City and Rochester, NY. I’m not sure I could name someone in New York City that owns a gun. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to obtain a carry permit and it’s extremely inconvenient to own a rifle. Police response times are fast. There is nowhere to hunt. Law abiding citizens have no legitimate use for a gun. In Rochester (at least in the suburbs) the majority of households own a gun. Police response times in the ‘burbs are slow. People hunt regularly. In New York City criminals carry guns. In Rochester your neighbor might. It’s a very different culture but it’s one I’ve accepted — at least until recently. Prior to the discussion of increased gun control I’d hear occasional gun fire in the distance. Usually single shots — primarily during hunting season. What I heard last weekend was several groups of people rapidly firing what could only be assault rifles. If they were hunting they were shooting irresponsibly. If they were shooting targets they were doing nothing more than playing with a killing machine. For the first time I can remember I did not feel safe in my own home. Would one of these rapidly fired rounds pass through my living room? My bedroom? Would a stray take me down in my own yard? I had never heard as much random gun fire in all my years of living in the Rochester area. This was a demonstration of responsible ownership? I contemplated searching for the source(s) of the gun fire but decided not to. What would I do if I found those shooting? Ask the angry new owner to stop firing the weapon? Call the police and hope the shooter didn’t hold a grudge? I mean, I’d be calling the police on someone who bought an assault rifle because they might be banned and that angered them. I ended up spending most of the day far away from my home.
On Sunday evening I heard the plea’s of Governor Cuomo. He wanted to rapidly pass gun control legislation. He reinforced my concerns. Assault rifles were flying off the shelves. People were trying to get their hands on weapons that might soon be banned. He was alarmed at how many weapons were being sold. A month earlier I took the position that gun control wasn’t the answer. That evening I was happy the state was willing to step in to control a situation that was getting out of hand. I wanted to feel safe from the very people whose rights I was defending a month earlier. Their irrational and emotionally charged purchases made me feel uneasy. I no longer believed they were responsible. I no longer believed they were mentally stable. I no longer believed our nation had enough laws. After the passage of today’s gun control legislation, I was even more confident that I had come to the right decision. Many people on Facebook and Twitter commented on how happy they were to see the new legislation pass. Even more importantly, I saw comments from gun enthusiasts/owners that further bolstered my change in position. Angry, inflammatory, and threaten rants — comments equating restricted access to assault rifles to the rationing of oxygen. These weren’t the reactions of responsible and mature adults. These were the incoherent ramblings of a child. I believe in the constitution. I believe in the right to bear arms. This legislation does not infringe on an individual’s right to own a gun. It controls access to certain weapons that have the capacity to inflict mass casualties. It ties a persons mental state to their right to own a gun. Responsible law abiding gun owners should welcome these sensible regulations. If you believe that restricting access to these weapons has created a hardship in your life you are not in a healthy mental state. You should not have access to these weapons. You need help. Dare I say it — you did this to yourself.
One of those rare times when Iâ€™m proud of what our New York state government was able to do today! Progress!
— Cathy Clarke (@cclarke4) January 16, 2013