Comment: Gun owners, we need to demand changes to firearm laws

Our support of the Second Amendment doesn’t keep us from protecting the rights of others to life and safety.

By Larry Simoneaux / For The Herald

I’ll probably lose a few friends for the following, but I’d hope that before the screaming starts, we could sit down across from each other, order up a cup of coffee, ask about each other’s families, remember the good times we’ve shared, and re-enforce in each other the idea that adults and friends can still have thoughtful, reasonable, intelligent, and even heated disagreements, but still come away from that table with a handshake, a smile, an arm around each other’s shoulders, and remain good friends.

That said:

I’m a firm believer in the Second Amendment and will remain so until the day I stand before a frowning Almighty while trying to explain the parts of my life that I’m least proud of.

The following is not intended to be boastful but, instead, is an attempt to establish the fact that even a firm believer in the Second Amendment can look around and say that the words “A well-regulated militia” also have meaning.

I was given my first rifle ( a .22 caliber single-shot) when I was 10. I was also told, in no uncertain terms, what would happen if I handled it in any manner wherein someone might be hurt.

I was the gunnery officer aboard a destroyer in Vietnam. If it went “Boom!” or “Bang!” I was both responsible and accountable for it. I was the weapons officer in a reserve unit with more weapons than you can likely imagine. I taught hunter education for 15-plus years. I was a designated a master funter in the state of Washington. I’ve also been a certified rifle instructor and a certified range safety officer.

I’ve been a hunter for more than 45 years. I own more than a few rifles and shotguns and can explain the use of each one. I reload my own ammunition. My firearms are securely stored and my ammunition is stored in a separate, locked location.

To the goblins out there, I also have the means to let you proceed on your eternal journey long before the police arrive. You get to guess how.

With all of that said, it’s time that we, the responsible firearm owners in this country, stand up to our elected officials and tell them that it’s time to do more. When the sale and use of fully automatic firearms back in the 1930s got out of hand, the ownership and use of such firearms became very stringently regulated.

In our time, responsible firearm owners have taken the time to attend and even teach safety courses. Where such courses were required to obtain hunting licenses, they were attended and we made sure our kids attended too.

We found ways to safely store our firearms and ammunition in such a manner that they were not easy for the young, the careless, the untrained, or the disturbed to gain access to them. In other words, we made sure that our right to own and use firearms did not infringe on another individual’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The last few years have shown us that there are definite problems in our society that need to be addressed and, also, that the easy access to firearms also needs to be dealt with in a thoughtful and meaningful manner. What we have now proves that we’re simply not doing either well.

In a nation of 332 million people, you’d think that the odds of being touched by the violence now prevalent had a very, very slim chance of ever happening to one of us. I was disabused of that notion as, recently, the wife and widow of a very good friend was gunned down at a church event by some demented individual who had easy access to a firearm.

It’s now personal to me. In the past, I’ve called, written to, and sat down with friends, fellow hunters, and even elected officials to offer some ideas. None has been adopted. Perhaps they weren’t the best, but they were far more useful than the “thoughts and prayers” response too often used as a way to avoid stronger action.

I support “red flag” laws. Raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm. Universal background checks. Limiting magazine capacity (I own a semi-auto and think that its 5-round capacity is plenty enough). Redesigning AR (ArmaLite Rifle) type firearms so that reloading them becomes a time-consuming proposition. Mandatory sentencing guidelines for crimes committed with firearms. Mandatory safety training to accompany the purchase of firearms. Re-introducing shooting teams in schools. Hiring trained individuals as security guards at schools.

Some of these ideas are already in place and being used in some states, but I know that there are individuals out there with good ideas that haven’t yet been tried or even mentioned, and it’s time that those who have them put them to paper.

We firearm owners who regard safety as — literally — a Commandment, have to become the loudest and most insistent individuals demanding that much, much more be done to protect others.

Thoughts and prayers have proven to be — and will continue to be — inadequate.

Larry Simoneaux is a former Edmonds resident and local columnist for The Daily Herald. He now lives with his wife in New Orleans, La.

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