No matter what you thought when you saw the headline above — fist-pumping agreement, or blood-boiling anger — read this about the author of today’s post. He’s a Westporter — but his back story may surprise you.
Dave Stalling — a 1979 graduate of Staples High School — moved to Montana in 1986, after serving in a Marine Corps Force Recon unit. He has degrees in forestry and journalsim, has worked for several wildlife conservation organizations, served as president of the Montana Wildlife Federation, and worked to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” through the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. He is an avid hunter and angler, and a passionate advocate for wildlife conservation and gay rights.
The recent school shooting in Newtown overwhelms the ability of my heart, mind and emotions to even comprehend. When I went to Staples High School in the 1970s, such a thing was unheard of.
Yet guns were prevalent in our society. I had one: a shotgun to hunt ducks and pheasants. Before I was trusted with it, I took an NRA safety course — back when the NRA focused on responsible, proper handling and storage of guns, and worked in a nonpartisan manner to protect reasonable gun rights. It was before they turned into a radical, uncompromising, extreme right wing branch of the GOP.
I keep hearing the tiresome old NRA cliché: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people!” Which is inevitably followed by arguments of how dangerous baseball bats and knives can be, “yet no one is calling on banning them.” But when was the last time a sick and twisted person walked into a school or a movie theatre and was able to quickly kill a lot of people with a baseball bat or a knife? It takes a semi-automatic or automatic weapon to pull such a tragedy off – the kind of weapon designed to kill people with no legitimate purpose outside of the military.
I became pretty proficient with powerful and dangerous weapons while serving in a Marine Corps Force Recon unit. They are tools of war. It’s ridiculous to think citizens should have a right to possess such weapons.
Perhaps it’s not the “weapons” that kill people, but I assure you from my experience you can fire a lot more rounds more quickly, and kill a lot more people more quickly, with a 7.62 mm M60 machine gun than, say, my 7mm-08 bolt action hunting rifle. That is why Marines and soldiers are issued and trained to use more proficient tools of the trade. And why nobody walks into a school or movie theatre and kills a whole bunch of people with a baseball bat or knife.
I hope I never lose the right to keep the rifles and shotguns I use for hunting. I keep them locked in a secure safe at all times, unloaded (and separate from the bullets and shells) where only I can get access to them.
After I left the Marine Corps and moved to Montana, I found elk hunting to be a good, sustainable way to live in that part of the world. But I never had the need or desire to own semi-automatic and automatic rifles designed to efficiently kill lots of people quickly.
The only people I’ve met who have such weapons seem to do it for their egos, to brag about, to feel more manly, or to “defend” themselves from a government that apparently might come after us all if we don’t have machine guns. It’s a violent and macho attitude, promoted by the NRA.
The NRA doesn’t kill people, but they sure do their part.
We live in a society that glorifies violence. We live in a society where weapons are easy to obtain. We live in a society where some people think we should all be able to own any type of weapons we want.
We live in a society where violence is considered good, legitimate entertainment but love between some people is considered disgusting, immoral and sinful. And we live in a society where far too often people walk into movie theatres and schools and randomly kill innocent people.
It really makes no sense. I hope we figure it out.