Thoughts from a ‘Gun Guy’ Following FL Tragedy

By TOM MEREDITH | Feb 28, 2018

Fear and anger – these two emotional states of mind, the by-product of the fight or flight reaction within all of us – are in full display as the debate over common sense gun control rages on in our country.

Spoiler alert: I am a “gun guy.” I am also a law abiding and, I believe, good citizen.

I have had a fascination with the mechanics, aesthetics, history and capability of firearms since I can remember.

The first thing I want to impress on everyone is that no firearm owner wants innocent people, much less children, to lose their lives because of indescribable acts of violence involving firearms.

At the root of our debate is the “assault rifle,” or AR. For those who do not know, assault rifle is a term created by the political lobby groups and media fighting against ownership rights. AR is actually an abbreviation of Armalite rifle. Armalite is the company that designed the first futuristic looking rifle in the 1950s that was eventually adopted by the U.S. Army as the M-16, replacing the M-1 Garand and M-14 as the standard rifle issued to troops.

This rifle, often referred to as the  “black rifle,” grew in popularity and evolved into many different looks, systems, calibers and uses, much as popular car models evolve, i.e. the Ford Mustang.

One of the many disgraceful pieces of U.S. history has become the mass shootings. We absolutely need to eliminate these from happening as best we can, like all acts of violence. If giving up my AR-15 will guarantee that, I am happy to comply. Unfortunately, it will not stop senseless murder to deprive me of something I own responsibly and legally. It only punishes me for someone else’s evil.

Our society has become wrapped up in the search for someone to blame when things go wrong at all levels of business, politics and justice rather than to look for solutions.

When 9/11 happened we were faced with the fact that to ensure safety and security for ourselves we would likely need to give up certain civil liberties. The balancing act is difficult.

The Second Amendment is a very important part of the Constitution and does guarantee citizens the right to keep and bear arms to defend themselves from tyranny. There is an overwhelming debate on this one which I will not get into other than to say citizens have a right to responsible gun ownership and we need common sense gun control to ensure the responsible piece.

Background checks, mental health checks and safety training are not unreasonable measures to be required by every state. Even periodic proficiency checks might be considered.

The banning of anything in a democratic society is an erosion of rights.

Should we have one set of controls and rules to gun ownership across the country? This then starts a states’ rights argument. How much is mental health involved in the question? Does that cross the lines of privacy and end up discouraging people from seeking mental health care when needed? Dare we ask what is going wrong with how children are being raised that they contemplate these horrific acts with increasing frequency?

The complexities are many in the question of common sense gun control. Our society is changing and adapting, often for the better, but not always. We need to think carefully of unintended consequences and what-happens-next concepts.

When a particular group of people who think alike on a subject such as cigarette smoking raises enough money, they can decide their way of thinking is right and someone else’s is wrong. They can then make it socially unacceptable to continue to participate in the behavior the group has designated as unacceptable: raise the cost, limit permissible areas, raise the volume of rhetoric. Yes, cigarette smoking is unhealthy, but isn’t that a personal choice with personal consequences? Secondhand smoke is still a very debatable threat to others.

We currently are reading a lot about Russian involvement in elections and other parts of the fabric making up our society, including articles about Russian financing of bot rooms to influence people through social media by starting and adding fuel to divisive conversations regarding political and newsworthy events. Public opinion can be influenced for political gain by anyone.

The recent tragedy in Parkland, Fla., where so many innocent high school students were injured and had their lives taken, is another stain on America to be sure. The response to it must not add to the problem.

Consider the troubled young man who has confessed to committing this unspeakable act. There were so many opportunities for social services, law enforcement and even friends to intercede in a way that might have prevented his actions. Some tightening of qualification to purchase firearms in Florida may have also helped, but would it have prevented the ultimate outcome he seems to have been committed to creating? He might have instead used a vehicle or a crude bomb to accomplish his goal or perhaps a more ingenious plan to create such damage.

I believe the answer to common sense gun control is just that: common sense on both sides of the debate. Political pandering does not bring effective solutions; arguing does not bring effective solutions. Starting from the point of protecting everyone’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, a thoughtful conversation without political motivations and ability of people to work together is the only answer.

Banning things and calling for abolishing amendments of our Constitution are just irresponsible when responsibility is the goal. Any time a government has taken away freedoms in history it has led to destabilization of that country and in some cases world war. We must be careful what we wish for and how to achieve it.

The first thing medical professionals are taught is do no harm. These are wise words to consider.

Tom Meredith lives in Little Egg Harbor.


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