By John Kornegay
Let me say this very clearly – I owe Wayne LaPierre an apology. Prior to 2011, I thought he was a paranoid loose cannon who was talking through his tin-foil hat. I have come to see the error of my own ways, and the correctness of his beliefs. Let me share how I came to this epiphany . . .
Up until 2011, you would have called me a Fudd at best. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in the south and midwest, guns and hunting were just part of life. If you wanted to hunt, you bought a hunting license, went down to Sears and bought a shotgun or rifle, got a landowner’s permission, and went hunting (in season, of course).
No permission needed to buy a gun or own a gun required, at least for rifles and shotguns. I didn’t know much about handguns because my father (rightly) recognized that my two brothers and I weren’t responsible enough, plus he just didn’t like them. He wasn’t wild about rifles, either, so we only had BB guns and pellet rifles. But he loved to bird hunt, and taught my brothers and me to love it as well.
However, as I graduated from college, joined the Navy, moved to the east coast, and married a Rhode Islander, guns and hunting just fell off my radar. I still loved fishing and the outdoors, but other than buying a single shot Stevens shotgun in the mid-70’s (I’ll save that story for another time) guns just weren’t a part of my life. I was too busy making a living and all that goes with that to be part of the gun culture at that time.
As a result, if you had asked me about the Assault Weapon Ban or other gun control efforts during that time, I probably would not have even been aware of them. I had no idea how much the world of guns had changed since I left college. Owning a gun for self-defense was not something I even thought about, blessed as I have been in my life.
Fast forward to 2011. When I retired I decided I needed a new hobby and that handgun target shooting would be it. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
I had seen some of Mr. LaPierre’s quotes as delivered (without bias, of course) by the Hartford Courant and CBS, and considered him part of the lunatic fringe. Even though I had to jump through ridiculous hoops to “earn my right” to own and carry a handgun (yet another story for another time), I did it, got my gun, and joined the NRA, a local gun club and the family of Gun Culture 2.0. However, I still considered Mr. LaPierre crazy for believing that there could really be any serious attempt to shut down gun ownership, particularly by our President. Boy, was I wrong.
I was in Connecticut for Sandy Hook and shared in the grief, but quickly saw through the false messaging that arose in the media and politics. Even after watching New York pass its SAFE Act in the dead of night, I expected Connecticut to be better, but I was wrong again.
I watched the kangaroo hearings, filed written comments with the legislative committee, participated in several public events, wrote to and talked to my state senator and state representative (both supportive). Then I watched in dismay as the governor and Democratic legislative “leadership” bypassed all legislative controls and passed “emergency legislation” in the dead of night that none of our legislators had a chance to read.
The resulting law was just a bad as you might imagine, and like Obamacare they are still arguing over just what the law actually says (and means). All the while, our friends Manchin and Toomey at the national level were trying to pass a new assault weapon ban under cover of a universal background check bill.
So yes, Mr. LaPierre, you were right and I was wrong, and I apologize. They were going to try to take away our civil rights, and they made some serious inroads in at least a few states such as mine.
Do I believe some of your latest pronouncements about what they have in mind now? As an American, as a veteran, and as a liberal (not progressive, damn it!) I don’t want to believe them. But recent history has proven me wrong more often than you, so yes, I believe what you say and will work as hard as I can to block those efforts to further erode our civil rights.
That means, among other things, getting out the vote to replace the politicians who have brought us to this sad point in our history. If we don’t change things in 2016, everything you envision, and more, will be attempted. Thank you for continuing to speak up for all of us.