I like guns. I have always liked guns. I appreciate them for their history, aesthetics and engineering. I enjoy shooting guns, smelling the burnt powder and cleaning them afterwards. I even enjoy just holding and looking at guns. No doubt most readers share my sentiments. The problem is I grew up in an anti-gun family in an anti-gun state. So, for most of my life this interest in guns was a guilty pleasure. The guns I owned were hidden from friends and family, treated like a porno collection under the mattress. I never really questioned why I felt guilty . . .
Living in a safe, wealthy suburb meant I never saw any practical and positive application for guns. The people around me didn’t hunt and weren’t victims of violent crime. Mainstream media told me guns were bad and the source of all sorts of problems. I believed them. I even wished we could be more like Britain or Australia. Without giving it any thought I had accepted the mantra of gun control.
The Virginia Tech massacre was the first time I was forced to critically think about the fact I could be a victim. My time in Blacksburg was during the Clinton years. I was long gone by 2007, but the attack was still personal. It disturbed me in ways that reports of violence never had before. I dated a woman in the dorm where the violence started and took classes in the building where most of the carnage took place. I distinctly remember feeling uncomfortable with the calls for more gun laws. At that point in time, I was still firmly in the ‘guns are bad’ camp. But, for the first time, I finally began to think about the issue.
I taught American politics in Canada for a couple years after the VT attack. When I teach I make a point of helping students form their own opinions about important issues. I do my best not to tell students what to think and my grading rewards forming and supporting strong opinions. I like controversial subjects because they always engage the most students. A three-way discussion between me and two students who are destined for an A grade, while 17 others snooze, does not strike me as effective teaching. You need topics like drugs, guns or sex to get the back row to wake up and participate. Despite my views to the contrary, I spent many a class helping Catholic or Muslim students feel confident enough to speak out against gay marriage.
I found most Canadian students view the Second Amendment in the same light as fugitive slave laws – outdated and barbaric. The overwhelming view of my students was that the USA is a violent place because of the Second Amendment. At first, I can’t say I completely disagreed.
In every class there were a few Canadians that held a minority view. I generally dismissed them as ‘gun-nuts’. Yes, that was hypocritical given my own secret interests. My self-imposed duty to always present both sides forced me to take them seriously though.
Over a few semesters I dug into the history of the Second Amendment looking for material to present both sides. I soon found myself making a case for the Second Amendment and actually believing the words coming out of my mouth. I also found myself somewhat proud to call it my own as an American. It is indicative of the bias inside the academic bubble that my new-found knowledge still stirred guilty feelings.
I returned to the US a modest supporter of the Second Amendment. I was generally in favor of civilian ownership of firearms, but still all too willing to randomly outlaw something in the interest of the greater good. An improvement for sure – but I was still more enemy than friend to the cause.
I continued to teach and always looked forward to discussing guns. I developed stronger opinions on the importance of the Second Amendment with each passing semester. Despite this, my views on gun control remained mushy. At this point I fully understood the geographic distribution of violence and crime. But I cared about human life. The daily body count in our cities bothered me. I wanted to ‘do something’, even if the problem mostly occurred somewhere other than my home in Northern New England. I remained willing to sacrifice my liberty if it might help others.
It took the Sandy Hook massacre for me to fully reconcile my conflicting views on guns. My daughter was the same age as most of the victims. So, like the Virginia Tech incident, news of the attack was profoundly disconcerting despite the fact it had no direct impact on my life.
The inevitable calls for more laws and more gun free zones suddenly made no sense to me. Mainstream media shouted ‘we’ve got to do something!’ For the first time in my life I asked the question; how will punishing law-abiding Americans make any difference to people willing to kill? Thankfully, the internet enabled me to see that others were asking the same question (shout out to TTAG).
With each passing year I became more passionate about the futility of gun control. The repetitive calls to restrict the law-abiding became insulting. I own a number of guns. I have never so much as willfully pointed one at another human being, let alone actually shot anyone.
My guns are not the problem. The 300 million guns owned by law abiding Americans are not the problem. I care about human life and still want to do something about it. But, nothing will change as long as we allow the leaders of American cities to deflect blame. African Americans and the urban poor continue to suffer because it is considered racist to point out the real problems. It is easier and safer for politicians to blame someone else. This makes me angry. My guns no longer make me feel guilty.
The good news is that I have noticed a trend in my classes. Each semester I find more students arriving with an understanding of the Second Amendment, why it is important and a willingness to reject more laws restricting guns. In fact, it is increasingly difficult to find anyone willing to support gun control in my classes. Those students who do speak up for gun control generally spout the same old talking-points with little conviction.
Class discussions usually start with a focus on self-defense and hunting. Which are certainly important aspects of our right to ‘keep and bare’. However, I am pleased by the fact I no longer need to bring up the topic of armed insurrection. A student, usually a veteran, unfailingly performs this task for me. I am comforted by the fact I know a dozen or so former students (with infantry, Ranger and Marine service) who recognize that civilian arms are the peoples’ fail-safe against out-of-control government. The future of the Second Amendment looks sound, at least in my little corner of the country.
The recent legislation in New Hampshire and Maine to end the permit requirement for carrying concealed handguns helped me understand the degree to which my views had evolved. Initially I was uncomfortable with the prospect of eliminating the permit requirement. As I thought about, I couldn’t muster any concrete reason why mandating permits made sense.
It is unfortunate the legislation was vetoed in New Hampshire. However, I look forward to the fresh breeze of liberty when LD 652 becomes law in Maine this October.
In conclusion, I can say that my support of the Second Amendment is now entirely free of ‘buts’. Unfortunately, my views are still verboten in academia. I like teaching and want to keep my non-tenured job. So, I regrettably submit this contest entry under my comments moniker.