Today is a special day for me, as it is my birthday. However, it is also the Sandy Hook anniversary. On a day that should be celebratory, it is but one of reflection where my thoughts oscillate between intellectual and pragmatic. What have I learned over the past year, and what can I do to positively impact our world?
I think about my five year career at Google in technical support, and my current career as a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops. I used to help fix Gmail, but now I travel the country competing in shooting competitions, attending conventions and trade shows, and speaking about our Second Amendment rights. Simply put, they are worlds apart, but in both jobs I have always kept a “people first” mentality and focus.
After the Aurora and Newtown shootings, I took notice of the deep, visceral nature of our national gun debate. For many Americans, guns are a key part of their core identity, as much as one’s job, title, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion is to others. Guns represent strength, security, and safety, so imagine what happens to the gun owner’s psyche when talk of gun control ramps up.
To elucidate, many law abiding gun owners feel unjustly singled out, and threatened by gun control legislation. “Why should I be punished for something a crazy person did?” is a common thought that runs through the gun owner’s mind, as well as “my locked-up guns aren’t a danger to the general public.” The problem with gun control legislation is that like a fishing drag net, it often co-mingles the good and the bad. For every bad person impacted by gun control, there is a disproportionate number of law abiding citizens who are negatively affected. This disproportionality is a core problem that is often reflected in gun control proposals.
Many gun owners fear that a key part of their identity, and their natural born rights, are being infringed by the government, and their detractors fear that unless we restrict the Second Amendment, we are doomed to see another mass shooting.
To address a question that is often asked in this debate: Why would anyone need an AR-15 or 30-round magazines? There are many valid and legal reasons, one of which is self-defense. My introduction to the self-defense argument goes back to 1992, where images of Korean storekeepers protecting lives and livelihoods with AR-15s are seared into memory. Buildings were burning, looting was rampant, and local police were unable to handle the mayhem and chaos that erupted for three days. However, this did not take place in Seoul, but rather in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots.
In the gun documentary Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire, Korean American attorney David Kim recalls that “civilization as we knew it broke down pretty quickly.” Distraught Korean Americans called upon the L.A.P.D. to protect their stores and homes from the approaching rioters and gangs. However, the police were woefully unprepared and overwhelmed, and so the L.A.P.D. essentially told the Korean Americans that they were on their own. When the police tell you that they cannot protect you and your loved ones during a major riot, that’s a pretty good reason to have AR-15s and 30-round magazines.
While civilization breaking down is rare, it does happen. And if history is any indication, it will happen again.
So how do we balance the fact that guns are used to both protect and take lives, both guilty and innocent?
That is the challenge our country faces, and it is my hope that we reach an understanding that there are two sides of the coin. I believe a stronger focus on mental health is essential to solving this problem. Behind each crime is a person making a decision to use a firearm for evil, and the causes of this decision-making process must be addressed if we want to address the root of the problem.
Guns have a prominent, and permanent place in American culture, and are a contrast of freedom and oppression, life and death, security and mayhem. It is up to us to figure out how to preserve our firearm freedoms, while preventing madmen from doing harm.