IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT GUNS

I visited the courthouse a few days ago to pick up my concealed carry permit renewal. The permit must be renewed every 5 years. Here in Wild and Wonderful, that is a $100.00-dollar process. It’s $75.00 for the background check and our county sheriff charges an additional $25.00 when the card is issued. The Sherriff’s fee may differ from county to county. In the state of West Virginia, a permit is no longer required to carry a concealed weapon, neither is certification of any firearms training. There are age restrictions. Open carry of handguns and long guns without permit has always been legal. I keep the permit current to comply with the reciprocity rules of other states.

When I entered the office to pick-up my permit, there was quite a long line of people in the concealed carry permit line. Most of them were initial applicants. When I finally made my way up to the clerk, I commented that the last time I was there, 5 years ago, I was the only person in line. She told me that anytime there is a shooting incident there is a surge of concealed carry applications. Better late than never.

That did not surprise me. Americans are fortunate to have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. It is fortunate we have the means to defend ourselves if we choose. We’ve seen time and again damage is done before the police can get there. In a self-defense situation calling the police is generally not an option. That is not a knock on the police. It is reality. Regardless of response time, which in most cases is only minutes, a marginally trained person with any type of semi-automatic firearm can do much damage to defenseless people before help arrives. Unfortunately, first responders too often arrive postmortem. Reality dictates that unless they are on scene when an attack starts or their action is preemptive, unprotected people are going to die.

Our world changed. It changed with the spread of international and home-grown terrorism. Both of which are likely here to stay. It changed culturally through abandonment of Judeo-Christian values and rejection of any moral authority or moral boundaries. It changed when both parents went to work and Johnny and Jane were left to raise themselves on a steady diet of graphically violent video games. It changed with a total societal immersion into social media turned social direction, turned social control and privacy thief with evil players to draw in the simple minded who may be prodded and groomed into doing the unthinkable. Johnny walks the school hallway and his delusional mind sees a video game.

Frankly, I think every adult American should seek firearms training and should arm themselves for protection. Background checks should be as thorough as possible, but I am concerned about mingling mental health records with criminal background checks. If you hear the words “Universal Background Check” that is a precursor to a national gun registry that is needed to track every firearms sale. This makes gun confiscation possible should any government ever believe that’s a good idea. With recent shooting incidents, mental illness has become an issue. I guess I don’t know how a background check might distinguish the severely mentally ill from someone who may have had a single episode. Is a variance in degree of mental illness considered? It is a complicated question. Certainly, severely mentally disabled people should not have access to firearms and for that matter any type of weapon if a formal psychiatric examination determines they are a danger to harm themselves or others. In work experience I’ve reviewed countless such examinations. I assure you different psychiatrists and psychologists frequently arrive at dissimilar conclusions for the same patient. Resolving this is not as simple as it is made to sound by politicians and media types and it will become more complicated when the mental health issues become intertwined with the legal issues surrounding privacy and access to a person’s health records. The problem for our country and our safety is a Congress that’s shown it cannot agree on any legislation to solve this or any other problem.

Trying to decipher any government report is akin to gouging your eyes out with a stick. So, you don’t have to endure the agony, I looked over a report prepared by the Congressional Research Service on Gun Control Legislation. The report said by the end of 2009, there were approximately 310 million firearms available to sale to civilians in the United States: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, and 86 million shotguns. By that 2009 report, more guns are available than we have people. Those are firearms we profess to know about. Weapons for sale but not in the hands of people.

The report does not tell us how many firearms are actually in the hands of law abiding American citizens nor does it know how many weapons are illegally obtained and in the hands of criminals and gangs. Eric Holder, however, can tell you how many he fast and furiously exported to the Mexican drug cartels. The report did state a 1994 survey showed “44 million people, approximately 35% of households, owned 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns.” Any way you slice it, there are many legally owned firearms in the hands of law abiding American citizens who would never forfeit their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. An unarmed and defenseless citizenry becomes North Korea. That amendment was placed into our Constitution as a citizen check against tyrannical government. It also reinforces our natural right to self-defense. It is not the deer hunting or target shooting amendment.

Another myth is that “Assault Rifles” are in the hands of American citizens. It is a myth or in many cases and outright lie perpetrated by anti-gun organizations and politicians. Common belief is that “AR” means assault rifle. AR is short for Armalite Rifle, makers of the original AR-15. AR 15’s are semi-automatic rifles cosmetically modified to look like military rifles. They are no more lethal than any other semi-automatic rifle. A military rifle would have either the capability to fire a three-round burst of ammunition or fire full automatic. Banning rifles because they are cosmetically modified to look like military weapons is not going to make anyone or any unprotected place safer. Besides, according to the FBI, blunt objects, knives and handguns are by far the weapons of choice for homicides. Rifles are well down the list.

Banned or not, do you think criminals will not be able to get these weapons? They are now able to get illegal automatic weapons or illegally modified weapons. Do you believe firearms manufacturers will stop producing magazine fed semi-automatic rifles capable of firing NATO 5.56 ammunition? They’ll just make them look docile by removing the scary military cosmetics. People will continue to buy them and continue to add their own modifications. Banning cosmetically modified semi-automatic rifles does not address the issue of gun free zones and soft targets like our schools. Terrorists and murderers of the type we’ve witnessed whether in our schools, theaters or night clubs are only going to go after soft targets. Soft targets are called that because there is no resistance and no one is likely to shoot back. These people are not going to attack a police station.

Gun control, gun banning, gun confiscation, and almost any other gun control law you can imagine is not going to stop incidents of deranged and delusional people from walking into gun free zones and committing atrocities. These laws or any other are not going to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. People who cannot pass the most vigorous background check will still be able to illegally acquire firearms if they are determined to do so. It is hard to cure homicidal maniacs so we must quit the hysterical politics and figure out a way stop them from hurting people either through intelligence and preemption or direct action.

On April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado, two high school seniors murdered 12 people and injured 21 others before committing suicide. For the record, they did not use AR-15s. They used Tec-9 semi-automatic pistols, a pump shotgun, a Hi-Point 995 Carbine, a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun, and explosives. Multiple school shootings later, not including other instances of mass shootings not related to schools, right up to Mary Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida February 14, 2018 where 17 students and teachers were murdered we’ve done nothing. As a nation, we have squabbled hysterically about gun control, beat the NRA senseless, but have never had the wherewithal to address the real issue – the security of our schools and public areas and the elimination of gun free zone soft targets. Nor have we ventured to discuss our cultural shortcomings.

Security is not simple and active shooter training is not enough when the shooter is going to pull a fire alarm and wait for people to enter the kill zone before shooting. Each facility requires a thorough professional threat assessment.

I am hearing advocates for placing armed retired police officers and military Veterans in our schools. That is fine for as far as it goes. But no one should be placed in a school and charged with the responsibility of protecting students and teachers without first completing a thorough training course on engaging armed assailants in a close combat environment with the potential of injuring many non-combatants. Local police SWAT could easily conduct such a training program.

I am also hearing let’s arm teachers. My first year retired from the Army was spent in a public High School. I am not an advocate of arming teachers with expectation they will primarily engage combatants. Teachers are the people whose priority must be safely securing and evacuating students. It’s something they must practice with urgency as often as they do fire drills. I am not opposed to teachers carrying concealed weapons if they are professionally trained in security and as last resort actively engaging a combatant. They also require periodic range time and refresher training with cost borne by local governments before trusting them with weapons in a school environment.

How bad can it be? On September 1, 2004 Chechen Islamic terrorists arrived in a police van to a school in Beslan, North Ossetia of the Russian Federation and took 1100 people hostage. At the end of the three-day siege, 334 people were dead including 186 children. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School enrollment is 2,972 with 129 full-time teachers. Our schools are soft targets. Suicidal terrorists likely already in our country know it.

© 2018 J. D. Pendry

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