“The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try and take it.” Thomas Jefferson perfectly encapsulates the truly American notion of bearing arms, saluting the indomitable spirit of the people and their will to defend what is rightfully theirs: guns. Our forefathers, most notably Thomas Jefferson, scoffed at the idea of depriving the new states of weapons; a country forged with the white hot fervor of minute men, mountain men, and enlisted soldiers alike could not be deprived of their arms. Many of those fighting for the far off idea of victory over the British lugged their personal muskets into combat, risking life, limb, and property for independence. The colonies weren’t the only part of America founded in part by black powder and a musket ball. Men and women seeking new fortunes blazed paths through the frontier, wild and unforgiving. How did they make it across thousands of miles of plains, mountains, and scrubs lands? With sheer determination and the gut pacifying knowledge that any challenger, man or beast, would be met with hot lead and fire. Today, however, radical anti-gun groups are calling for an end to firearm tradition. The consequences of increased gun control in the wake of the Tucson, Arizona, shootings could be catastrophic for law-abiding gun owners and gun culture.
On January 8, 2011, at 10:10 A.M, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during a rally in front of a Safeway grocery store. He sprayed 33 bullets from an extended magazine before being tackled and subdued by two men and a woman. Six perished in the tragedy and 13 were injured, included Giffords, who was struck in the head. Loughner used a Glock 19 pistol and ammunition from a local Wal-Mart, both acquired through legal means. Loughner’s act of unthinkable wanton violence marks a significantly tragic episode in American society; it also throws gasoline onto anti-gun activists’ fires. The debate over gun control in California has already begun; Assemblyman Anthony Portantino(D- Pasadena) has introduced a bill to California legislators that would eliminate the right to carry a concealed handgun. This attempted limitation on concealed carry licenses presents a potential hazard, both adulterating the notion of ‘rights’ in our government and terminating a personal defense method. In his attack on concealed weapon permits, Portantino directly contradicts the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. His proposed limitation circumscribes this constitutionally given right, and represents the deprivation of personal protection. It is tantamount to the South circumventing the 15th Amendment during reconstruction, bullying freed slaves from polling places, blatantly disregarding constitutional rights. The Brady Campaign, another staunch supporter of stricter gun control in California, has gone so far as to issue “name & shame lists,” lists intending to deter customers from engaging with those operating “socially irresponsible businesses.” The absurdity of this list is profound; the boycotting of “socially irresponsible” businesses marks the radical and often delusional demands of anti- gun forces. One restaurant, staunch in its resistance, is Starbucks, refusing to allow bullying anti-gun activists to intimidate them into compliance. California is on the front lines of firearm restriction legislation; in a state with highly concentrated urban populations that are surrounded by rural areas, the urban anti-gun advocates often overshadow their pro-2nd amendment counterparts in rural districts. However, in states with a much higher rural population, gun control appears to be trending in the opposite direction of California. Unlike California, Texas can potentially make a great stride in gun freedoms, even in the wake of the Tucson Tragedy. Pending state legislation would allow employees to possess concealed firearms in their vehicles while the vehicle is on their employer’s property. This bill would ensure that law abiding Texans can carry concealed weapons in their vehicles only. Current state laws mandate that a concealed weapon, without proper certification, can be carried only in a vehicle that is ‘traveling,’ meaning that a concealed weapons permit is not needed if the gun accompanies an owner during vehicular travel. It is not uncommon for a Texan to carry a gun in his/her vehicle; before Texas was a state, it battled for its independence from Mexico in 1836. The men that fought, descendents of Stephen F. Austin’s original settlers, the Mexican- Texans called Tejanos, and the famous volunteers from Tennessee, were all skilled hunters, and had to be to survive Texas. Their will to live, to hunt, to fight enriched the new nation, and eventually the new state, with gun culture.
Gun culture: what is it you ask? It’s shooting your first gun with your dad at age 5. It’s shooting a BB gun at empty cans on a hot summer day. It’s waking up at 4 A.M. in the freezing cold to shoot ducks. It’s harvesting a buck with the old rifle your dad gave you. It’s the knowledge that in a family defense situation, a bullet never lies; it says exactly what you want it to say. These are but a few examples of the gun culture I have grown up with; guns surround me. Growing up the son of a country boy from Marshall, Texas, I cannot remember a year when I did not hold a gun in my hands at some point. Being an avid outdoorsman, I am frequently asked “why?” by outsiders of gun culture. Why do I feel the need to take up arms and harvest an animal when I could drive down to the grocery store and buy killed and cut meat? Why do I feel the need to own a multiplicity of guns, ranging in size, color, capacity, caliber, brand, and gauge? Why do I feel the need to defend every law- abiding citizen’s right to purchase, own, and use a gun? It is simple. An intangible bond brings people, most frequently sons and fathers, together when guns are present: I get more excited for the opening day of dove season, an opportunity to hunt with my dad and relish my time with him, than I do for Christmas or my birthday. Also, shooting guns is just plain fun: recently some friends and I purchased ammunition, drove to a public shooting range, and shot clay targets until we could not shoot anymore. We laughed, talked, and had a great time, all in the presence of our guns, and in it, our gun culture. I cannot fathom a time when savoring dove season with my father would be outlawed; I cannot imagine a time when it would be illegal to spend an afternoon with my friends, casually shooting clays, bonding, relaxing. It cannot happen; a culture such as this cannot be a casualty of modern day liberalism. This culture makes men, well-rounded, strong men; the gun, the mechanical monster or magician, purveyor of defense or death, instills a statute within me and my gun bearing brethren. The gravity we hold in our hands speaks to us; we know the statute for fun with respect, for adventure with caution, for defense with safety. Some gun owners may not be as cautious as my friends or I; they could even be downright careless, disrespectful to the power that comes in brass casings. Even if tragedy strikes, it should not be a catalyst to deprive another of their Constitutional rights.
Understand the cold and callous reality, the harsh truth of what guns are capable of, what evil can be spat forth from barrels: guns, whether used for harmless fun or wanton cruelty, can kill. This is no surprise; the nature of guns makes them targets for activists. But the gun cannot be solely to blame; what is a gun without somebody to pull the trigger? It is a piece of metal, cold and lifeless. The analysis of a gun should not deem it illegal to purchase, own, or fire; the culpability of gun violence lies solely with the man. Jared Loughner broke no laws purchasing the gun he used to fire into a crowd. He did not rob anybody to pay for it. He did not steal the ammunition. He was just a man, exercising his right to bear arms. The harm came when he chose to use his powerful machine to kill his fellow man. The tragedy that came of Loughner’s acquisition of arms and subsequent act can elicit wrenched cries for a gun ban, but an emotional jerk reaction will not solve the problem. For every Jared Loughner, there are 80 million other gun owners within the United States. This statistic does not take into account the millions of illegal firearms circulating within gangs and other nefarious groups. 80 million people legally purchased, owned, and used their firearms; the only nation with more guns per capita is Switzerland. But President Obama expressed his wish for “making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent.” In 1994, Sen. Diane Feinstein created a list of guns that were eventually going to be banned; however, her staffers, making the list from a gun catalogue, chose guns under aesthetic pretenses, not taking into account any actual fire rate or fire power. The results were a joke: her list included many semi-automatic weapons, none more dangerous than a hunting rifle or a shotgun, chosen because of their ominous looks. Pistol grips, flash suppressors, and folding stocks were among the cosmetic appendages to guns that were made illegal, in hopes of curbing the presence of assault rifles in the streets. But no such end came, leading to the means being scrutinized. The 1994 ban failed, and any future ban will fail because of this: criminals, for the most part, do not purchase their guns legally. The majority of guns involved in violent crimes are stolen or purchased from illegitimate gun dealers. By setting up laws against guns, a division between law- abiding owners and criminals is furthered, giving illicit gun owners an advantage by disowning the populace they prey upon. Norfolk Crime Examiner Dave Gibson said, “The Columbine High School shootings, the D.C. area sniper attacks, and 9/11 all have one thing in common–they all took place while the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was in place.” These were all tragedies of immense magnitude, but gun laws did not stop them from happening.
Guns made America, so Americans made guns as much of our culture as Thanksgiving or baseball. Like it or not, it is a lasting part of our culture. Sadly though, when tragedy hits, such as in Tucson, somebody or something has to take the blame; this time it is guns. Yet, if the gun makes the man, such as leftist logic goes, then what of my father? Jared Loughner bought a Glock 19; my father owns the very same pistol, but like so many other Americans, he acquired it legally. He uses it for fun, for home defense, and for protection while hunting, nothing extraordinary. But I worry when I see the disdain for the gun, for the people who own weapons; I probably don’t have to reach far to say many anti- gun proponents have never shot a gun, never gone hunting, or never shared stories of hunts past over a camp fire. I cannot say they are missing anything; it is their choice to abstain from the lifestyle I choose, but I cannot stand idly by while they accost something they know nothing about. They come with lawyers, bans, legislation, anything that will curb my right to own guns, and I am ready for them. Every gun owner should join the Nation Rifle Association. Not only are they committed to preserving gun rights, but they also work on membership benefits such as gun insurance. It is our duty to support this organization, working to protect what so many Americans hold dear.