When my daughter was three she walked up to me and said, "I know where you keep your fire." My wife and I were puzzled - and a little disturbed . . . Fire? Turns out she was talking about the long red lighter we use to start the grill. It was hidden on the top shelf in the kitchen cabinet, behind all of our bills. She was two feet tall. We found a new hiding spot for our "fire."
I came home from work the other day to find my wife working in the garden, my daughter playing outside with her friends and my son playing with his NintendoDS under his covers in his bedroom. "It's nice out - why don't you go outside and play." "No, I wanna play my DS," he said. "Put it away and get outside," I told him. "Fine," he grumbled back as he stomped into the kitchen, dragged a chair across the room to the fridge, climbed up both and buried his DS way into the bottom of the towel basket that sits on top of the fridge. "What are you doing?" I asked him. "Mom hid it there because I was naughty."
My grandfather always kept a gun in the house - in his bedroom closet behind Grandma's red winter coat. I knew where the bullets for that rifle were too - in a discarded checking account box in his underwear drawer . . . I came across these when I was about 8 years old. What was I doing? I was snooping around for Christmas presents - a pretty normal thing for a kid to do I think. Grandpa had no idea that I knew where he kept that weapon.
So if you own a gun and think that your children either don't know about it, or don't know where it is or how to get at it - you are likely very wrong.
A few facts about guns, kids and America:
- Americans own more than 200 million firearms
- 35 percent of homes contain at least one gun
- 1.7 million children live in homes with loaded and unlocked guns
- 39 percent of kids knew where their parents' guns were stored
- 22 percent said that they had handled the weapons despite adults' warnings to stay away.
- More than 500 children die annually from accidental gunshots
- 88 out of every 100 gun-owners in the world are American
- The US has 8 times the gun fatality rate of any other economically-comparable country in the world.
see study here
My grandpa, an army veteran, instilled in me an attitude of fear and apprehension - not towards other people, but of that rifle. "I don't ever want to see you handling any guns - ever . . . do you understand? You could accidentally shoot somebody. When you're old enough I'll teach you how to use one," Grandpa had told me.
Luckily for me the older I got, the more my interest in guns waned. By the time I was old enough to be taught how to handle a gun I was more interested in firing fastballs past opposing hitters than firing guns at animals or targets.
These little anecdotes were easy to share, but there is another piece of my life that is much more personal - one that only my closest family members and friends know all the details of. Out of respect for the people involved, I won't share much, but I will tell you that as someone who has seen first-hand what a gun can do to a human body, as someone who has checked another human being for a pulse and not found one, as someone who has found a shooting victim still alive and suffering and as someone who has tried to comfort that victim - I want NOTHING to do with guns.
You won't find a gun, real or fake, anywhere in my home. This is not an invitation to come steal my TV, but my lack of gun-ownership is something that I am proud of. If you want to steal my TV, take it - it is not worth the loss of a human life, yours or mine. Personally, I think guns are for cowards. Guns are for people who live in fear and paranoia. I don't want to live like that. And assault weapons are for the military and police only, not my neighborhood block watch guy.
I have neighbors right in my safe little suburban Village of Greendale that drive around with a bumper sticker that reads, "You keep the change, I'll keep my guns, my money and my freedom." I understand about the money part, but the fact that you think owning a gun is freedom is disturbing. The fact that you think you have to walk around Pick N' Save with a holster containing a concealed weapon does not sound like "freedom" to me, it sounds like paranoia. My idea of freedom is walking around in flip flops and swimming trunks containing a swimming pool pass in my pocket and nothing else sounds like freedom to me.
As a country, the prevailing attitude is that the best mode of self-defense against ignorant, senseless acts of violence is to arm ourselves to the teeth . . . When the best defense against ignorance and violence is an educated, tolerant and accepting society.
The recent shooting in Oak Creek was the end product of a life fueled by ignorance and bigotry. The suspect, who was being monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center for his involvement with hate groups, and who was kicked out of the army, was able to waltz into a local West Allis store and buy a semi-automatic killing machine. The owner of The Shooters Shop told the news, "He seemed normal." If a skinhead covered in Neo-Nazi tattoos who wants to buy a killing machine seems normal, then our new normal is quite scary.
The suspect in the Colorado movie theatre shootings placed a $306 internet order for a combat vest, magazine holders and a knife, and payed extra for expedited two-day shipping to his apartment just days before his rampage - and this was AFTER buying thousands of rounds of ammunition online for his legally purchased automatic weapon . . . and nobody, not even the FBI noticed.
In a country where 200 million handguns float around freely, but only 131 million votes were cast during the last Presidential election, something has to change.
Something is wrong when politicians create laws making it is easier to purchase an automatic assault weapon and 1,000 rounds of ammunition off the web simply because you have a current driver's license, then turn around and write legislation that makes it impossible to walk into a polling place and cast your ballot without the proper ID.
Voting and gun-ownership are both constitutional rights, but we seem to value bearing arms over casting ballots.
I do not disagree with the fact that it is our constitutional right to bear arms - or do I?
Let's look at the actual text of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution as ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
I understand this amendment as the right to keep a weapon in order to be called to join the all volunteer militia. We had no real organized army with a stockpile of weapons during the 1780's. We were also still fighting the British, Native Americans and protecting our back 40. It was a wild frontier and a new nation. It was a different time. Our founding fathers could have never imagined automatic weapons that spewed hundreds of rounds in minutes.
I understand and respect the right to own a gun for hunting and even for defense, but NEVER an automatic weapon - which is only good for hunting a mass of people.
But even owning a single gun shows that you have made yourself and your family more susceptible to gun violence, not peace. The most recent data collected by Gallop and the Pew Research Center show that gun owners have 2.7 times the homicide rate and 4.8 times the suicide rate of non gun-owners.
But despite all of these pesky little things known as facts, I still do not advocate taking away anyone's guns, but I do advocate banning the sale of any more automatic weapons, deeper background checks and stricter testing, written and physical before the purchase of any gun can be complete.
Even conservative hero and gun rights activist Ronald Reagan went against the powerful NRA and put his support behind the Brady Bill in the 80's, clearing the way for other conservatives to vote for the bill that restricted gun-ownership.
It should not take an assassination attempt of a conservative President however to force Republicans to stand up to the NRA, and it should not take another mass shooting with a legally-purchased weapon for the Democrats to stop their knee-shaking and propose a bill that eliminates the sale of all automatic weapons and requires written, mental and physical testing in order to obtain a gun permit.
I have to take a written and a physical test to obtain a driver's license because if used incorrectly an automobile can kill someone - so why not put the same requirements on the ultimate killing machines, guns?
It will take a bold and brave individual to author such a bill or proposal either at the state or national level. My local State Rep. Jeff Stone of Greendale is not that kind of person. I recently spoke to him and asked if he would make such a proposal - and his answer . . . "That's not my place."
News Flash: You are a law-maker, so it is your place! If I were not busy working two jobs, raising a young family, coaching sports and chauffeuring my daughter around, I would give you a run for your money (though you've got a ton more) as someone who actually represents the people and the interests of your district Jeff Stone, but until that time comes we are stuck with "law-makers" who would rather make it more difficult to cast your ballot than to buy an automatic killing machine.
Some say it is too soon after these tragic shootings to talk about changing our gun laws, but it could be our only time to get it right.