Last week, a friend of mine shared a public Facebook post on my timeline and asked me what I thought of it.
So, after thinking about the post for a few days, I’ve decided to reply to the post (thereby answering my friend’s question about what I think about it) here on my blog. The original post was made on October 5, 2015 by Steve Elliott (his original post is here). It reads:
I am a responsible gun owner.
I bought my first gun when I was 12. It was a Browning 12-gauge shotgun, and I saved money from my paper route and cleaning a drive-in restaurant to buy it in time for dove season. In the years before I could legally drive, I’d tie the Browning across the handlebars of my bike and ride to the fields outside town to hunt.
I’ve owned several guns since, and own a handgun now. I bought that gun to keep my family safe, and lock it up to keep them safe from it. Like I said, responsible.
And so while I’d like to believe I’m not part and party to the gun violence that stains America, I can’t. My grandmother shot and killed herself with a gun, and a few years ago my father shot and didn’t quite kill himself with one. My stepbrother died in a murder-suicide with a gun, and the husband of one of my sister’s co-workers was killed in a mass shooting.
None of that happened with my gun, of course, but after every new mass shooting, I’m reminded that I bear a portion of the responsibility for our nation’s gun violence. There are too many guns to do anything about it, the gun lobby says. Regulations are a slippery slope that only limit the rights of responsible gun owners, they say.
My gun is being used to argue against common-sense laws and policies that could reduce gun violence in America, arguments I find unconscionable. That’s what being a responsible gun owner means today – I’m responsible. I’ve been uneasy about that for a while now, and ashamed to admit it’s taken two more mass shootings for me to do anything about it.
That ended today. Today I disassembled my handgun, a 9mm Ruger, clamped the pieces in a vice and cut them in half with an angle grinder. I’m sending the proper paperwork into the state to report it destroyed.
None of us individually can stop gun violence in America, but as a responsible gun owner, I will no longer be used as a justification for doing nothing about it. Today I did what I could. Today there is #ONELESSGUN.
Hi, Steve. Like you, I also consider myself a responsible gun owner. I’m also named Steve. It’s nice to “meet” you, other Steve!
I’ve also been shooting guns since I was 12. My first was a Ruger 10/22 rifle, which I shot as a Boy Scout at Camp Meriwether on the Oregon Coast. I also shot my first 12 gauge shotgun there, which gave me a bruise that lasted a week. My smile lasted even longer. Over subsequent summers, I earned a Marksman Medal and the Rifle and Shotgun Shooting merit badge.
Like you, I’ve owned several guns since. I still own several guns. I don’t have an exact count, and I’ve never really thought of myself as a “gun collector,” though I suppose I’d have to admit that’s probably the case. I own all sorts of guns: revolvers, semi-auto handguns, rifles, shotguns… I enjoy and appreciate them all for different reasons. Like you, I also bought guns to keep my family safe, though I also use them for hunting (mostly pheasant), legal nuisance animal control (my pellet gun gets the most action), my own enjoyment as a shared hobby with friends and family, and to pass down the appropriate firearms respect and safety principles that were instilled in me when I was young.
Like you, I also take strict precautions to keep my family safe around my guns. Like you, I also lock my guns away for safekeeping in gun safes. However, I believe that’s only a part of promoting gun safety and being responsible. I also teach my children that guns, just like any other tool that could potentially cause harm (i.e. knives, cars, table-saws, wood-chippers, hadron colliders) require training, respect, and appropriate supervision. There’s zero chance of my kids stumbling across an unsecured firearm at my house, but that respect and knowledge could save their life at someone else’s house who might not be as vigilant and responsible as you and me. Further, I believe that one of the safest places to store a handgun firearm is secured on my person, which is why I have concealed weapons permits from Arizona, Washington, and Utah. If I’m carrying it, I don’t believe my primary defensive weapon needs to be locked up to keep my family safe from it. On the contrary, having it on my person keeps them safe with it.
Like I said, and like you, responsible.
Unlike you, I don’t believe I’m part and party to the gun violence that stains America. My grandmother, a feisty lady from Idaho, shot and killed plenty of pheasants with a gun in her day, but she died peacefully in her sleep. My father has never shot himself, or anyone else. A good friend of mine also died in a murder… but his attacker used knife. I don’t personally know anyone that has been killed in a mass shooting, though I know quite a few people who’ve met untimely ends with knives, cars, cancer, heart disease, and even their own stupidity. My own son was taken from me too soon, but not through violence. He passed away due to post-operative infection following open heart surgery. I’m sorry for the violence and sadness that has touched your family. And given that guns were a part of each of the experiences you shared, I can understand the origins of your new-found aversion.
As with your gun, no violence has ever stemmed from my guns, either. But I don’t believe that you, me, or any other responsible gun owner bears any portion of the responsibility for our nation’s gun violence. I’ve never heard the “there are too many guns to do anything about it” narrative you mentioned, but I wouldn’t buy that argument even if I had.
Not all regulations are slippery slopes. Some are slippery slopes. Painting things with broad brushstrokes is a slippery slope.
The Second Amendment isn’t the only amendment I believe in. I also believe in the Fourteenth, which sets forth the conditions under which liberties (including those protected by the Second Amendment) may be deprived of a citizen through due process. Laws that prevent violent offenders (who’ve been designated such through due process) from keeping and baring arms are a good thing. Laws that prevent individuals named in protective orders (granted through due process) from keeping and baring arms are a good thing. Not all regulations limit the rights of responsible gun owners. There is such thing as sensible regulations that could limit the rights of irresponsible gun owners, criminals, and other high-risk individuals… without infringing upon the Constitutionally-protected rights of law-abiding citizens… whether or not they are gun owners. I would support any sensible and enforceable regulation that meets those criteria.
I disagree that your “gun [was] being used to argue against common-sense laws and policies that could reduce gun violence in America.” Your gun was locked up. It probably wasn’t even being used for its intended purpose, let alone that fabricated one. We clearly disagree on the definition of “responsible gun owner,” but we do agree that each of us needs to be responsible. And I am responsible. It’s sad that you felt uneasy and ashamed, but I’ve never been uneasy about that for any amount of time, and I’m not ashamed to admit that events have never caused me to question my approach to that responsibility.
That said, while I don’t agree with it, I understand your decision to disassemble your 9mm Ruger, clamp the pieces in a vice, and cut them in half with an angle grinder (I’ll assume you responsibly wore eye protection). And while I think it was the wrong decision, I respect that the gun is your private property, and you can therefore do with it anything you wish; provided, of course, you don’t do anything with it that infringes upon anyone else’s rights… like robbing a 7-Eleven. Sending the “proper paperwork” into the State of California is also your right, though I’m not sure what that accomplishes.
I do wonder why you didn’t choose to participate in a police gun buy-back program, then give the money to a charity that aids victims of violence. A used Ruger P95 (that’s what it looks like from the picture) is worth just north of $200 in the current market, so I’m not sure how much you’d have received in a police buy-back. But the gun still would have been destroyed. That approach probably would have cost you most of the 46,000+ Facebook shares your photo got, so if making a statement was your primary goal, rather than actually making “one less gun,” maybe you made the right choice. But that’s none of my business. What you do with your personal property is your business.
You said that none of us “individually can stop gun violence in America.” I disagree. One of the reasons I carry a gun is so that if I ever need to (and I sincerely hope I never need to) individually stop violence of any type toward me, my family, or anyone else requiring protection in a dire circumstance, I can do so individually. Although I acknowledge that’s not what you actually meant. I disagree that you were used as a justification for doing nothing about gun violence, and I further believe that your action will do nothing about it, either.
I’ve periodically checked Facebook and Twitter since your post, but so far I haven’t seen anyone else follow your lead with the hashtag #ONELESSGUN. I’ve seen a few police departments destroying guns, but I’m not counting those, since the officers destroying those guns aren’t actually sacrificing their own personal property. Most of of those weapons were seized during criminal investigations, or the owners were compensated for voluntarily surrendering them.
Last Monday, you say you did what you could to ensure that there was #ONELESSGUN. Your passion is admirable, but your approach is foolish and your battle cry futile.
So to point out the futility of your attempt to launch an anti-gun grass roots campaign, I’ll launch a challenge of my own to anyone who wishes to follow in your footsteps:
For every personally-owned firearm in America that is verifiably destroyed by its owner (without them being compensated in any way) and posted on social media with the hashtag #ONELESSGUN, I will purchase an additional firearm and post its photo on my Twitter feed (@sjjenkins) using the hashtag #ONEMOREGUN.
And because you destroyed a perfectly good Ruger, I’ll start by purchasing a Ruger — a Ruger Precision Rifle, to be exact. I’ve had my eye on one for a while, and your post gave me the extra nudge I needed. Thank you! Look for my Twitter post tomorrow.
I urge all responsible gun owners to join me — not in matching hashtag for hashtag, but simply by posting photos of their gun purchase on social media with the #ONEMOREGUN hashtag and/or in re-tweeting and sharing my tagged posts.
You might think I can’t afford to keep up, but I assure you I can. I’m an Australian-born immigrant and naturalized US citizen. Like many immigrants, my family moved here for the unique opportunities America offers. I took advantage of those opportunities, and America has been good to me. Guns aren’t the only thing I collect. I also collect cars (Ferraris, mostly). If I run out of money trying to keep up, I’ll sell one of them to continue my buying spree. But I hope I won’t need to go that far, and suspect I won’t, given what I believe about human nature.
All cheekiness aside, I truly do express my sympathies for the gun violence that has touched your life. Where we “stand” depends upon where we “sit,” and I’m certain those events influenced your choice to do what you did. And now your choice has influenced me.
Your post was intended to gain attention to your values by being “extreme.” I get that. But rather than fight on the extremes, I hope that Americans can move inward, away from the extremes, to discuss and consider plausible, realistic, reasonable, enforceable, Constitutionally-sound approaches to addressing violent crime of all types in this country, not just gun crime.
I also hope my wife doesn’t see this post. She always rolls her eyes when I buy a new gun (though she herself also owns a Ruger).
One of my biggest fears is that when I die, my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them. 😉
As I do on all my blog posts, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below.