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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gun Control

There's a lot of ideology and politiking flying around since Monday, and quite honestly, I'm offended that all these people are jumping onto the political bandwagon to seek votes while the emotions are running high over the horrible slaughter at Virginia Tech.

Let me be very clear; the people who were killed and injured at Virginia Tech are not there to be poster children for politicians, and to make them out to be such is demeaning to the dignity and memory of them all, including the killer.

But since the topic is flying around, I am going to enter my own opinion, which actually has nothing to do with this event. I am "pro-gun" now and will likely remain so, but keep in mind that my position was tempered by the extensive training I have receivd.

I grew up in a household in which my mother was so terrified of guns that the very topic threw her into a complete tizzy. Her brother, my uncle, died in Korea, killed by a sniper, apparently while protecting a priest. I don't know the whole story, but we have visited his grave every year on Memorial Day to honor his memory and his sacrifice.

Imagine Mom's complete consternation when I announced I wanted to be a police officer! I think she nearly drove off the road; we were en route to visit the college I was considering for their Criminal Justice program, and her questions forced me to reveal the news although I would have chosen a safer occasion to do so.

That following summer, when I turned 18, my cousin, a part-time officer, welcomed me to his home and gave me a "dry-run" with several guns, gave me quite the involved primer on gun safety, and instilled the foundation for my education in this. He took me under his wing and really fed my career aspirations but with great cautions and of course, with great love.

Mom referred to him as a "gun nut". I wish all "gun nuts" were just like him, because if they were, the world would be a safer place. He was all about education and safety.

When we finally went out to the gravel pit, he brought along a bullet proof vest; he would not even allow me to enter the area without it, for fear of a ricochet. My cousin took his lessons very seriously and knew of my Mom's fears so he did his utmost to be sure I was returned to her in the same condition I had been when I left the house.

He taught me to shoot several types of guns, several styles, and on our third trip out, he was confidant enough in my ability to challenge my marksmanship with something he thought I might face someday; a gunman with a hostage.

He set up the cardboard cutouts with clothing to blur the lines, and set one in front of the other to mimic a gunman shielding himself with an innocent party...and he bid me to put one through this guy's head and "ruin his day."

I did as I was told, and I "ruined his day" in a major way with a Smith and Wesson .45 semi-automatic.

The primary lesson of all of this was not only experience and forcing me to face real-life situations, but when I shot the victim, he made sure I knew that, too, because the use of weapons in deadly force is not a joke. There are always consequences, and these consequences are deadly.

In skills training we spent a great deal of time at the range, and our instructor, while fond of humor, was deadly serious on the range. Even though we had heard the instructions a thousand times, he always bid us to "fire downrange!" before holstering our weapons. (.9mm glocks).

On the occasion of a night shoot at the training range, however, one individual chose to ignore his advice. He holstered his weapon, and as he did so, pulled the trigger...and the gun went off. It entered his pantleg, seared down his leg, and exited through his shoe.

He was unharmed, but for a black burn-mark down his leg, and the holes in his clothing.

He learned this lesson in a very scary way.

The school was also home to other bullet-marks in the walls, thanks to students who had disregarded classroom instruction and put everyone in a bad situation.

When I was hired as a Police Officer, I was given a Smith & Wesson .45 to carry, quite large for my hands and predictably, I had some difficulty qualifying. A few years prior I had purchased an HK .9mm, which I still own, so my duty weapon was very different and took some adjustment. The Range Instructor felt that I was a good shot, however the qualification took awhile and the department's standards were far higher than the school's standards. As it should be, for Police Officers are charged with making that ultimate decision; to take life or not to take life.

I was amazed by the ignorance of my friends (non-law enforcement) while I went through training, for they often offered the suggestion to "shoot to maim, not kill".

I have to be very clear on this issue; there is NEVER a reason to point a gun towards another human being unless you intend to kill him.

That is why the use of a gun in any situation constitutes "use of deadly force", which in the Minnesota State Statutes is Criminal Code 609.066.

Deadly force is a big deal, and the situation had better warrent such use. Someone may intend to shoot a leg or an arm, and strike the heart. A shooting situation involves a human being who may have run for blocks, may have leapt over fences, may be shaking with adrenalin...and that shot may not be true and kill the person they only want to stop. There is no such thing as "shoot to maim."

When I lived in Mexico, I became acquainted with a man who was an ex-cop. I had observed that, in Mexico, at museums, at tourist affairs, at government buildings, and literally everywhere we went, the cops were carrying sawed-off shotguns and fully-automatic weapons. I asked this man why, and he serenly replied, "It's for shooting into crowds so we can kill more people."

God. Bless. America.

We do not shoot into crowds here. As depraved as our society happens to be, we still hold, collectively, some shred of value for life.

I am no longer a cop nor do I ever plan to revisit that part of my life in any way other than through memory or writing of the lessons learned.

However, I am a woman, and I am a trained woman, and I fully believe in my right to own a weapon for the purpose of self-defense.

When I lived in south Minneapolis, I kept a loaded gun close by because I worked nights and I was well aware that most burglaries take place in the daytime. Because I had nowhere to go if someone were to enter our home, I planned to be prepared.

I still have my gun although I live in a more secure area now, however, if someone enters my home and comes up my stairs at 3 am, he gets one warning if he's lucky (if there's time), and then he will be entrusted to the Lord's Judgment. I reserve the right to defend my own honor because there is no one else to do it for me.

I have heard the arguments stemming from the wording of the Constitution with regard to the 2nd Amendment; that it pertains to a trained militia.

Fine. I'm a trained militia of one woman. Do not enter unbidden or I will consider it to be a hostile takeover and I. Will. Take. You. Out. Period.

In all seriousness, the concept about a "trained militia" having the only access is a great ideology and if our country and culture had developed differently, I would agree, but I must say that we live in the real world, not one that we would like to be real. Thus we must deal with this on real terms.

The reality is that guns are readily available in our culture and if they forbidden to the average citizen, the criminals would be empowered, forcing the good citizens into the black market to obtain weapons for themselves, for Americans are not going to be cowed by legislation that usurps their right to defend their families.

In other countries that have stringent gun laws, (ie the Netherlands)their murder rates are only slightly lower...for very little has to do with guns, but most has to do with premeditation for the murders are committed in closer quarters with knives and other weapons.

"Gun control" is not the solution to violence.

Respect for life IS a solution. Education in gun handling is a solution, and enabling the average citizen to learn to handle guns and the appropriate use of and consequences of them IS a solution.

Guns are a tool. They are inanimate metal and plastic; it takes intent to kill.

Where I live now, I am not so "dependent" upon my gun, and this is because I have other protective measures I did not have before. I see the gun as the last option, the option of absolute desperation for the purpose of defense only.

Yet there are extremists out there who seem to depend upon this as their answer to defense, which it is not. Then there are those who seem to depend upon legislation to deprive their neighbors from this legitimate option for defense.

The answer to violence has nothing to do with guns and everything to do with humanity and our flawed consciousness with respect to human life.

Yes, I am pro-gun and I'm willing to use the defense, if I am cornered, and consistent with my training.

But I'd far prefer never to have to think about it. I'd prefer that we live in a society that respects life and the reality behind the events of Virginia Tech. It was a man, not a gun, who killed the innocent in cold blood. It was a man, not a gun, who planned, plotted, and carried out this event. It was a man, not a gun, that was seriously mentally disturbed, displaying outright aggressive paranoia when he carried out his act.

If guns were not available to him, he would have found another way. The 9/11 terrorists didn't use guns to carry out their slaughter, did they?

Guns have never been the problem; don't make them the scapegoat. It's people who carry out the acts with whatever tool is available.

I am all for a waiting period, strict education, and other "controls", but do not ever take away my gun as long as I am a law-abiding citizen. I maintain the right to defend my life or that of another should the situation call for it.

I just pray that it might never be necessary and that this weapon will only be used to practice hand-eye coordination.

Let the flaming begin:


Warren said...

I am a Canadian. I believe Guns are for Cops to carry, and not the people on the street. I believe that it's better to remain unarmed and to live in a society that will not require me to carry arms.

I also see a moral conflict between being a Catholic, especially in my case, as a professed Secular Franciscan. In fact, I think it's prohibited by the Rule of my secular order, for me to carry a gun and be a secular franciscan. I wonder if there are any secular franciscans in the police forces, or in the army, maybe they get a special dispensation.

That being said, I do believe that the Catholic church does teach the moral legitimacy of an individual defending himself (herself) and his or her family, with a weapon, against real or threatened violence. If an army was coming through town, bent on killing us, and the police were not coming, it would not be morally wrong to use a gun to defend yourself. Fine.

My grandfather shot my grandmother in the foot, when he was angry and drunk. That gun should not have been in the house.

It's crazy to have an armed population. It's just crazy. Maybe they brainwash us Canadians,
but I can't understand americans who want to carry a gun, and who are not cops or soldiers.
Even more than healthcare, it's the difference in views on guns that make me as a Canadian doubtful that I could ever stand living in the USA.


Adoro said...

Thank for your comment, Ultra!

I've had many friends suggest that I get a permit to carry, and I always ask them "Why?"

They can never give a good answer for it.

I have no desire whatsoever to carry a weapon. None. I've been there, done that, and granted, while in a uniform. But as a civilian, I'm simply not interested, because I know the responsibility such a thing carries.

Some may argue I'm just the type of citizen who should carry, because of my attitude of detachment to it. Why carry a gun?

I do believe that we have a right to be armed, as citizens, under certain situations, and as I am not so familiar with how Canada's ideology developed, I can't comment on your position at all.

I will say this: in America, largely, "gun control" isn't much of an issue for the average person. It is of interest to me only due to my educational background and thus experience, but I am an anomoly, and I would prefer not to have the thing.

But my experience has also revealed a part of the world to me that has changed me and has taught me that, as a woman living alone, I am dependent upon myself. So my friend HK hang out together.

(Seriously...I have dogs, and they prevent me from having to truly worry about using my gun.)

Shooting is also a sport, and I enjoy the challenge of this, althoug admittedly when I go to the range, I buy silhouette targets so that my practice has a practical point I hope never to use. and background. I would advocate that most people just get into shooting using round targets.

The biggest lobby for guns in America really has to do with hunting (I also have a .30-.30 Winchester), so keep that in mind when you read a lot of the political arguments.

Guns aren't as much of an issue as the politicians like to make out, not for the average citizen.

On this topic, I'm not average, so please keep that in mind.

If things were different, I would likely feel as you do. I've also considered selling my gun, but then I think about how much fun it is to go to the range. And outshoot all the guys! :-)

Anonymous said...

where would one find stats on deaths by gun available? vs means other than health? for Canada. Just want to see a clearer picture of what you advocate.

Adoro said...

Oh...forgot to say that Catholics indeed have no conflict if they kill in legitimate self-defense.

I hate to do it, but if someone at VT happend to be armed and properly trained, they could have saved many lives. That's legitimate use of defense, a legitimate taking of a life.

There is a place for this in Catholic theology...but it's not a casual thing, and I do not mean to indicate in any way that this is casual for it is not.

Deacon Bill Burns said...

Catholics have an obligation to defend some people. For example, I have an obligation to defend my wife and children. I have the option of defending myself. There's a difference between the two. While I can choose to allow myself to die for a greater purpose, I have an obligation to defend those who are defenseless. That doesn't mean I have to kill intentionally, but I have to intend to stop someone from inflicting unjust harm on others.

That is a moral act, and it's a moral obligation for people who have taken on certain resonsibilities (father, husband, caretaker, police officer).

I own a 9 mm Ruger P89 that I do not keep loaded. In fact, I don't even keep ammunition for it in the house. It's not for close-quarters self defense. In my house, I'd be likely to shoot through walls and hit someone I love. The problem is that too many people see handguns as the only option. Adoro can choose that option because she knows what she's doing. Far too many people don't. That's a problem with education, not with tools. As I mentioned in a post on my blog about this subject, I would use something over which I have more control (like a wooden practice sword or a cane). Would I strike to maim? Maybe if I were that good, but that's an unrealistic expectation. As Adoro noted, all kinds of biological factors kick in that make fine motor skills like aiming at someone's left-hand pinkie finger ludicrous. Under duress, you're lucky if you can take one good shot without wetting yourself.

I agree that more gun control is not the solution. Enforcing existing laws would help a lot. Maybe some common sense in dealing with disturbed individuals would help even more.

Adoro said...

Theocoid ~

I have worked extensively in mental health, and my mother is bi-polar, so I agree completely with you.

This guy was off his rocker and has been so for a long time. Fr. Loyola (sp?) on Relevant Radio today was discussing how silent rage is the worst kind, and I agree. I've seen it over and over again.

Guns are only a tool, just as is a screwdriver, PVC pipe, duct tape, fishing line, an anvil, etc.

It is the intend of the person weilding the tool that makes it dangerous.

My brother nearly killed me with a chair when I was a baby. He wasn't a murderer...he was watching cartoons. Mom caught the chair mid-swing.

Should we ban chairs from children lest they get carried away?

The focus needs to be on the individual, not the tools. But, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, our politicians are largely the equivalent of "C" students who know how to get votes but not convince people how to solve real problems in the long term. Thus we get "gun control" instead of "self-responsibility" and "treatment for the sick."

Terry Nelson said...

Excellent post, I agree with you - but I should never have a gun.

Anyway - I meme'd you for favorite saints. Try to concentrate. :)

Warren said...

Uncle Jim,

Canada's violent crime rates (per capita) are actually higher in the less populous areas. Violent crime in Canada's large cities is lower than in any american city of the same size.

If I had the moral duty to kill, to save an innocent life, I would do so, even my franciscan vows would not stop me from saving a life. However, I feel the chances of that happening are very low, and that given this, it's better not to proliferate weaponry.

I don't doubt that Julie is exactly the kind of person I'd want to carry a gun, if anyone in our society (other than police) are to carry them, and I'm even happier that she doesn't want to, and doesn't.


Cathy said...

(I apologize in advance for rambling, and this comment has little to do with the tragic VT murders. I am quite aware that at different times in history, nutcases murder people, with guns and knives and Boeing 767s and grape Kool-Aid and there's not much we can do about it, really.)
In the era when EVERYONE owned a gun or starved (the American Old West), gun murders were rare.
It's not the guns that cause murder. It's society's complete moral breakdown, where we solve problems not with diplomacy (talking about our differences) or sacrifice (carrying an unintended baby to term and relinquishing him for adoption, instead of abortion) but by instant 'fixes'.
There are 200,000 gun laws on the books in this country, including one that PROHIBITS nutcases from owning weapons.
Looking at guns as the problem is pie-in-the-sky.
If only we could solve our murder problem with gun laws, I'd be on board.
We need to face the facts. We have raised (and been raised as) a generation of spoiled, reactionary, selfish, fatherless people who can't handle setbacks or insults or slights.
DC and NYC and Chicago (where I live) have the strictest gun laws in the country. In Chgo, it's ILLEGAL to own a handgun, for most people.
Still, we are the murder capital of the country, and DC and NYC are not far behind.
Do scumbag gangster crackheads get their guns legally? Um, no. Most of them are convicted felons, so no matter where they are in the country, they are unable to legally own a gun.
As for cops being the only ones to own guns, well, that's not the way the US Constitution works. "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
And anyone who says "They were talking about the National Guard" is delusional. "The right of the people." Our Founding Fathers were not so stupid as to think they needed to write into law the right of the military to keep arms.
Finally, the only people laws affect are people who obey the law.
If criminals respected the law, there would be no drunk driving fatalities, or crack overdoses, or child abuse.
Or gun murders.

Unknown said...

I have no problem with guns and can't see banning them.

But I do worry about men who feel they have to have them. And I particularly wonder about the value of a law that allows them to carry a concealed weapon? Wouldn't carrying a visible weapon be more of a deterrent?

I hunted as a boy, qualified as an "Expert" in the Army but have not owned one as an adult.

Pragmatically speaking, banning or requiring the registry of guns would just create another law that would be ignored by many.

FACT:In 2004 (the most recent year for which data is available), there were 29,569 gun deaths in the U.S:

* 16,750 suicides (56% of all U.S gun deaths),
* 11,624 homicides (40% of all U.S gun deaths),
* 649 unintentional shootings, 311 from legal intervention and 235 from undetermined intent (4% of all U.S gun deaths combined).

11,624 homicides is .004% of the population.
-Numbers obtained from CDC National Center for Health Statistics mortality report online, 2007.

There are far more deaths to to alcohol and motor vehicles than there are to guns. Why the obsession with guns?

Sanctus Belle said...

Diogenes at Catholic World New's Off the Record blog puts this entire issue in proper perspective available here:

Bearing arms is essential for a society which wants liberty. Every liberty is abused by a few. Having an armed populace may someday be the only thing which prevents totalitarianism. We have the right to defend ourselves and our families, period.

Entropy said...

Excellent post, Adoro. I was fully prepared for you to be on the other end of the spectrum and have to disagree with you! I've been avoiding posting and commenting on this because I was worried about being insensitive to the victims of the tragedy but now that it's out, I say AMEN.

If just one person were carrying, would the killer have hurt as many as he did? Carrying a weapon is an extreme responsibility but I firmly believe it should be available to those willing to shoulder it (and show proficiency and safety training).

Having armed citizens evens things out. When you make laws against carrying weapons in certain areas, say, a university, it makes that place--packed with unarmed people--an easy target.

Wow, I can't tell you how much I agree with this post! My dad always taught us not to ever point our gun at someone unless we were willing to use it [to kill]. It is not to be used as a threat but as a last resort.

Very good. Thank you!

Adoro said...

I'm actually surprised at the comments here. What a great group of people frequent my blog! Thank you!

entropy ~ I have to ask... where, exactly, did you expect me to be on the spectrum? I'm just the top of the post I claimed to be "pro-gun" - did you think that meant something different?

While my post, at the finale, is not about pro-or con-gun, but more about common sense about guns not being the issue, I still figured I'd get flamed by people who are as completely anti-gun as my Mom remains to this day.

Entropy said...

I know that you are an ex-cop. There are cops that think only cops should have the guns and cops that have a common sense approach to guns (of course, those categories apply to civilians as well as police officers). Since you titled your post 'Gun Control', I thought, "oh, we go."

But I'm happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. :)

Adoro said...

entropy ~ I actually happen to hold the opinion that if someone wants to carry, they should go through the same training I went through, but perhaps even more stringent because cops work under certain expectations and authorities that civilians do not...thus I would think a civilian needs even MORE training.

But there are a good number of people out there with good sense, and I would actually rather entrust them with a concealed weapon before I'd entrust that same responsibility to some cops I've known (Thank God, they are few and far between!).

Odysseus said...

I don't own a gun and have never fired one, and I am not really "pro-gun", but the Va. Tech massacre has nothing to do with the topic. How many people are killed by bad driving every year? Are we going to take cars away? Are we going to ban guns while doctors decapitate infants in the womb at the rate of 1,000,000+ a year?

There is a sort of satanic sense in seeing a nation that murders it's young begin a debate on gun ownership.

Let's get our priorities in order.

Adoro said...

Rob ~ AMEN! The people who are debating the need / not need for "gun control" is so off the topic. Every time there is a school shooting or a workplace shooting, all the nuts fall all over themselves to blame the tool that has nothing to do with the incident other than the fact it was used.

Getting priorities straight, as you said, is the thing to do!

And meanwhile, the court's upholding the partial-birth abortion ban is seen as a slam against women. Babies are slaughtered and they're talking about "rights" for themselves so they can be spare the inconvenience of living a moral life.

The Wanderer said...

There is a film that starred the late Marlon Brando, it is entitled:
The Missouri Breaks (1976)

In that movie one will learn what "regulated" meant to our Founding Fathers, for the gentlemen are REGULATORS, i.e. those who can shoot accurately at long distances. This is why the FFs stated that "a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state; the right of [b]the people[/b] to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The militia was defined as all abled-bodied males. So to have men ready to fire accurately at distance the people, and one can read the Bill of Rights and check whenever the term, "the people" is used and it is always an individual right, shall not have their right to keep and bear arms infringed.

Very simple but the anti-freedom, anti-Constitutionalist crowd who want victim disarmament are in the majority in the mainstream media and so they can twist and distort to effect the policies they want.

I have had a personal tragedy in the family due to restrictive gun laws preventing a loved one from having a pistol upon her person.
There was plenty of time and opportunity to have been able to defend herself against her several attackers but the government had disarmed her by statute. So they predators enjoyed their sport.

No one should be deprived of their God-given right to self defense.
It is immoral to make those who are most vulnerable in our society prey for the evil ones who stalk, without fear or any sense of conscience, our streets.

The website of the Saint Gabriel Possenti Society

"If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun."
The Dalai Lama, speaking at the "Educating Heart Summit" in Portland, Oregon, when asked by a girl how to react when a shooter takes aim at a classmate.
(May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times)