Guns in America

If we really cared as much as we say about our police officers, we would be speaking out and doing something about controlling firearms in our country.

Let’s face it, the proliferation of firearms (unregistered and those designed as military weapons with high-capacity magazines) is making the job of a police officer today more difficult, stressful, and dangerous.

Why does America have a gun problem? In order to answer this question, we need to take a good look at our history, culture, traditions, and racism, along with our nation’s periods of fear and alienation. All of these contribute to the problem.

As a young police officer, I was always puzzled by why more of my colleagues were not in favor of gun control. As I saw it, guns were killing us. If we really cared as much as we say about our police officers, we would be speaking out and doing something about controlling firearms in our country.

But the proliferation of guns in our society create an incredibly stressful work atmosphere for our police – always on guard, always looking for the next weapon, and hearing shots fired around them on a nightly basis. Undergoing daily stress like this can kill, it just takes longer. The gun situation in America isn’t a healthy environment for any of us — especially our police.

Less than a year ago, the Pew Research Center found that police in America are more supportive of gun rights than the public! I am sure this attitude is more than just about hunting. Most of the cops I have worked with were hunters (as I was for many years). After all, hunters are well aware of control measures – licensing, magazine capacities, types of weapons, and many rules and restrictions as to where, when and how.

In many European countries, the government not only requires a license, but also a demonstration of gun safety knowledge and, in some places, a marksmanship test!

What is it, then, in which we all can agree? Background checks on all sales and transfers (including private sales and gun shows)? Limiting gun technologies such as “bump stocks” which were used in the recent massacre in Las Vegas and other mechanisms that can turn a rifle into a machine gun? Limiting igh-capacity magazines? Prohibiting Teflon bullets which are able to pierce police body armor? Keeping guns away from persons mentally ill? Those on the Homeland Security “watch list”? Can we agree on some of these?

Where we split nationally is on this concept: a Pew Research Center survey taken in June found that 51 percent of respondents said it is more important to control gun ownership, whereas 47 percent said it’s more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns. Can these two extreme positions find some agreement in the center?

The topic of guns is a highly emotional topic in our country. I carried a gun for four years as a Marine and another 30+ years as a cop. I know guns don’t kill people, people do (the exception to this, of course, is when foolish people leave loaded, unsecure guns in places where children have access).

But something must be done! (Haven’t you heard this before? I have — after President’s Kennedy and Reagan were shot, then after Sen. Bobby Kennedy’s death, then Dr. King, the Texas Tower shooting, Nickel Mine, Sandy Hook, Zion Church, Las Vegas…)

Do we have the will and the mercy and compassion to do something effective? I wonder.

But, yet again, something needs to be done.