Vail Daily letter: Constant loop of violence
Edwards, CO Colorado
When faced with a school bully my mother, who grew up during wartime, would encourage me to “hit him back.” This was her way of getting me to handle my own problems, a good trait but one that, with her interpretation and without the suggestion of a peaceful alternative, encouraged less than ideal solutions.
Written into our Constitution, we have our inalienable right to bear arms and to solve problems with force. Make My Day laws, and the like, make it entirely acceptable to use lethal force under certain circumstances, and violence becomes an acceptable solution to daily problems.
Looking back, there have been occasions in my life when I have come close to death. One such occasion was on the range at Sandhurst, the British Military Academy. We cadets had been in training for a while and were used to timed dismantling, re-assembly and firing of an assortment of handguns, assault weapons, tear-gas launchers, and anti-tank missiles. We were well versed in weapon handling, safety procedures and how short-barreled weapons such as hand-guns and sub-machine guns are less accurate than rifles and more likely to result in unintended accidents. These core infantry skills were likely vital to our survival for, in 1971, the chances were high that we would be on the streets of Northern Ireland ere long.
During the range practice, one of my fellow cadets, Fred, was sorting out some issue with his 9-millimeter Browning sub-machine gun. Unfortunately, Fred failed to follow all the rules and lost control of his weapon. He began spraying bullets in an arc away from the targets and towards those cadets who, like me, were to his right. The sergeant screamed a warning and we all hit the dirt. Luckily, nobody was hit. Fred was marched off and made to run around a barrack block with a rifle above his head and we all carried on with the practice.
That one incident taught me a lot: Automatic weapons can spew out an awful lot of bullets in a very short space of time, short-barreled weapons are less than predictable in where the bullets will end up, even in trained hands guns are dangerous and, most importantly, I needed to stay focused or I would end up like Fred (with a red face and sore arms) or worse (dead).
The recent events in Tucson have been dissected and analyzed and were seemingly the action of a madman. There has been a great deal of talk about whether such an individual should have been able to get his hands on a Glock with a magazine holding so many 9-millimeter cartridges. Some suggest revisiting what the 2nd Amendment means (they didn’t have automatic weapons in 1791), and some, anticipating that, are insisting that weapons do not kill, so we are just fine as we are.
I moved to Colorado a month after the Columbine High massacre, amid all the talk, memorial services, speeches and television specials that Columbine spawned. There have been many shootings in the U.S. since Columbine. Some 80 people die every day from gunshot wounds and the only other constant is the lack of any meaningful change. It is like the movie “Groundhog Day” with us all stuck in a constant loop of killings, memorial services, and calls for freer availability of weapons and hidden carry permits so we can defend ourselves against the boogie man, the nutter with a Glock, or whoever else is out there. Fear sells weapons, home security systems, newspapers, TV shows, movies, and a host of other things. It also gets votes and is useful in distracting us from other issues or encouraging us to support policies we would otherwise rebel against, including the invasion of countries. It underpins our “Groundhog Day” existence and eats us slowly, at a rate of 80 people a day.
This cancer is with us forever because the 2nd Amendment is not only enshrined in our Constitution but is at the very core of our being. We are fundamentally a violent people with a frontier, kill or be killed, mentality. We believe in meeting fire with fire. Like my mother we have “turn the other cheek” in our religious texts but would never dream of doing so as that would be wimpish. We live by “what would John Wayne do?” not WWJD even though we claim to be a God-fearing nation.
We must hope that when we are at some political meeting, and a madman pulls out a Glock, all those heroes to our left and right with hidden-carry machine pistols are less twitchy than Officer Cadet Fred was all those years ago. Tucson could have been a whole lot worse.