Gun Responsibility Should Be Led By Gun Owners

Sales representative Jason Brown, right, shows Steve Levy, of Rolesville, North Carolina, an AR-15 assault rifle manufactured
Sales representative Jason Brown, right, shows Steve Levy, of Rolesville, North Carolina, an AR-15 assault rifle manufactured by Core15 Rifle Systems at Perry's Gun Shop in Wendell, N.C., on Tuesday, December 17, 2012. The weapon costs $2,384 and features an EoTech optical sighting system and a 30-round magazine capacity. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)

I'm a real-life gun guy. I own a gun shop and I have sold more than 15,000 guns, including at least 1,000 assault rifles. That's right. I'm not afraid to call what it is -- an assault rifle. I'm also a member of the NRA. In fact, I'm a NRA-certified firearms trainer and I have trained more than 1,000 men and women in different types of NRA-sanctioned courses.

I watched the Senate vote on Manchin-Toomey. A bunch of senators showed that backbones are in short supply. The NRA won because people like me, people who really know what guns can do when they are irresponsibly used, didn't have a way to make their voices heard.

I was in my shop on December 14. The news from Sandy Hook made me sick. But what as soon as the requisite "silence" ended, the children buried and everyone voiced their concern, as a gun guy I had no one with whom I could share my shame, no one who was willing to stand with me and say 'enough is enough.'

Why did the parents of these murdered children have to wait for the president to invite them to Washington to plead their case? Why didn't a bunch of gun owners chip in and send a plane up to Connecticut to bring those shattered parents down to DC? I'll tell you why we didn't. Because after the massacre Wayne LaPierre and all the pro-gun organizations rallied around the flag saying the problem wasn't guns. The problem was lack of school security, or lack of mental health facilities. It wasn't "us," it was "them." "We" didn't have to take responsibility because gun owners are responsible. But let's be honest. The truth is that what murdered those kids and their teachers was an emotionally-disturbed young man whose mother should never have given him access to her guns.

There are lots of gun guys and gals out there who feel as embarrassed and ashamed as I do because one of our own, a gun gal who broke no laws, behaved so badly with her guns. But we remain silent, we never put these thoughts into words. We let the NRA and other pro-gun groups speak for us even when they say things that simply aren't true. Gun violence isn't going to end because everyone walks around carrying a gun. It's going to end when gun owners show some leadership first by speaking the truth about guns.

Guns are dangerous. From the beginning they were designed to kill living things. So the real responsibility of guns owners is to make sure that everyone understands that gun violence is always a possibility, and when it occurs, to condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Gun owners should marginalize the members of our shooting fraternity who don't know how to behave, don't lock up their guns, don't exercise diligence in selling or giving a gun to someone else. I don't care what anyone says, there are effective laws that can protect our gun rights while, at the same time, penalize gun owners who commit irresponsible acts.

By self-regulating their own behavior, gun owners can also take the lead going after bad guys who use guns. We do need strong laws and good policing to catch and punish everyone who uses a gun to commit a crime, as well as those who supply the guns. I want gun owners to lead that effort too, and I want to lead it by reaching out to everyone, not just to people who own guns. The time is now to get together, recognize we have a common, not just individual responsibility to end gun violence and get it done.

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