The first time I ever held a gun I was probably 11 years old. I will never forget that day. We were at the home of some elderly ladies that my mother used to visit. She would make their meals, clean up and help them with daily activities that they were no longer able to manage themselves. I remember they had a house guest staying with them for a short period of time, and like the nosy kid I was, one day found myself roaming through their old Victorian home in awe, staring at and touching everything in sight.
At one point I ended up in the guest room and saw a small hand gun lying on the dresser. I remember picking up thinking that it was heavy and cold to the touch. It wasn't even three seconds later that the guest yelled at me to put it down and to never touch it again. Now, I can't remember how I let it go, I just remember dropping it on the bed. I don't know if it was loaded or if there was a safety on it. I just remember it was heavy, cold and that it could cause major harm if in the wrong hands -- my hands.
Most people reading this are immediately going to say that it was irresponsible for an adult to leave a gun just lying around and that someone should have been paying closer attention to me. Yes, all those things are absolutely true, but they happen -- daily.
Kids are accidentally killed or injured far too often due to the carelessness of gun owners, but this isn't really the point I want to make. I want to talk about the respect we should have for guns.
I come from a long line of military vets and war heroes. I am no stranger to the concept of bearing arms, fighting for freedom or protecting property. What is strange to me is the fact that people do not seem to respect fire arms or their purpose.
People these days carry their gun(s) as a badge of honor, as an accessory. Everyone wants to be a hero, but outside of our military troops fighting an actual war with appropriate weapons, no one at home surfaces as a hero merely by shooting into the air or bragging about their magazine size.
In Arizona, where I live, I will admit it can be very intimidating to see some of the sheriff's volunteer posse armed with automatic weapons attempting to round up the "illegals" crossing the border. Waiting at the car wash next to someone who's got a gun strapped to their leg, it makes me wonder what they're overcompensating for, and worse, Arizona lawmakers waving their guns around the Capitol. At times it feels like a zoo. At times it feels like anarchy.
I question the respect, or lack thereof, that we have for the "right to bear arms." It seems that we've taken this freedom and liberty to a whole other level and are creating a mass paranoia that somehow gun reformers or President Obama and his administration are trying to take people's guns away. This isn't at all the case. It's about responsible gun ownership and respecting the process that should determine whether or not a person is capable or responsible enough to own a gun.
The fact that we do not have mandatory universal background checks performed on every individual who wants to own a gun is mind-boggling. The fact that we have so many unaccounted for guns in this country is mind-boggling.
Here's something to think about: The country of Japan has virtually eliminated all shooting deaths due to the regulation of guns and gun ownership. In 2008 Japan experienced only 11 deaths related to firearms compared to the U.S. at over 12,000.
Fast forward to the U.S.:
2009 Fort Hood: 13 dead
2010 University of Alabama shootings: three dead
2011 Tucson shooting: six dead
2012 Aurora shooting: 12 dead
2013 Sandy Hook Elementary: 26 dead
This doesn't even include the number injured. And, I think it's only right to acknowledge the 32 killed at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Is there a correlation between gun violence and the emphases of education in Japan versus the United States? Perhaps. The U.S. is ranked 17 out of 40 developing nations in the world for education, while Japan holds a solid ranking in the top 10 out of all nations in the areas of math, science and reading.
Of course, there are many cultural differences between the two countries that shape the belief system, tolerance and acceptance of firearms, and what constitutes breaking the law. Regardless, the reality is that in 2008, a nation with a population of over 127 million only saw 11 gun related deaths. This is something we should be talking about.
And Japan changed their laws in 1958, only 13 years after the end of WWII.
It should be an unacceptable that more than 62,000 firearms have gone missing from gun store inventories over the last three years. It should be unacceptable that gun dealers lose an average of 56 guns per day in this country. It should be unacceptable that states like Arizona do not require gun owners to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, that there are no limits on how many guns you can purchase and that you can sometimes take a gun into a bar.
I can already see the responses to the post -- "Second Amendment haters, liberals taking our guns!" I am curious then, what's the reasoning here? Are there that many people in this country -- the greatest country on the planet -- that live in fear and are protecting themselves from Armageddon? Are there that many people out there who think universal background checks are a waste, and that our God-given rights should be extended to individuals who may not have the mental capacity to own a lethal weapon?
No matter the number -- six, 11 or 32 -- how many lives must be lost before Congress or the people of the United States will act to make sure these tragedies are prevented? When will we take a step back and all agree that guns aren't out of control, we are?