Our nation has once more been rocked by senseless violence in the shooting deaths of 12 innocent people in Aurora, Colorado who were enjoying the much anticipated and ballyhooed movie, “Batman: The Dark Knight.” An additional 58 people were shot, and as of this writing, even those who were in critical condition seem to be hanging in there.
The perpetrator of this heinous act is currently in jail as he should be. Can anyone know what is happening in this man’s mind? Speculation runs rampant at this point, as it always does whenever the rest of society is confronted with inexplicable evil. It is evident at this point that there was a lot of planning that went into the killing spree at the movie house in Aurora, Colorado that was nothing short of a real live shooting gallery. To throw open a door that had been intentionally left ajar, and then simply aim and fire a shotgun, a pistol, and a semi-automatic rifle with a magazine of 100 rounds at people who had no warning, no sense of imminent danger, and who were squeezed into the theater seats like sardines is beneath contempt. It is pure evil.
I grew up with guns, learning how to shoot rifles and pistols from my father. He had a collection of arms that he’d acquired over the years. In his off time he became an instructor with the National Rifle Association (NRA). As a result, I showed an interest in learning about various weapons. Dad lived out in the country so there was plenty of room to shoot without being a danger. There was a mountain that rose up from his back yard providing an excellent backdrop. We would set up a sheet of ¼ in steel on an angle so when bullets hit they would ping off the steel and slam into the dirt. He often bought cases of WWII ammunition which wasn’t much fun to shoot because it seemed like every fourth or fifth round was a dud!
What I appreciated about learning to shoot, besides spending time with my dad, was the meticulous instruction in handling any weapon safely. I developed a respect for the weapon and what it was capable of doing. No one needed to instruct me as to its purpose. It is an instrument of death. That’s what it was intended for – Killing – be it animals or people.
In case there are any readers of this column at this point who may be miffed at me for saying guns were created for use in killing – relax. I still target shoot occasionally. Not long ago I went shooting with a farmer friend deep into his many acres. I do not hunt, simply because it does not interest me. But if you enjoy that, fine.
As a young Marine in boot camp I had the opportunity to shoot the M14 Garand. I learned to love this particular rifle. “The M14 rifle, formally the United States Rifle, 7.62 mm, M14, is an American selective fire automatic rifle firing 7.62X51mm NATO (.308 Winchester) ammunition. It was the standard issue U.S. rifle from 1959 to 1970. The M14 rifle was used for U.S. Army and Marine Corps basic and advanced individual training.” It was this rifle that I virtually slept with during our two weeks on the rifle range. At the end of those two weeks the rifle felt more like an extension of myself, an appendage if you will. With the ever-present drill instructor (DIs) teaching, correcting and training us in the proper use of this weapon, I enjoyed the time immensely. On the day we fired to qualify, I shot Expert, and was also high-shooter for my platoon. I’ll never forget how that felt! My reward for this singular accomplishment? The DIs gave me a cold can of soda. Any idea how uncomfortable you feel holding a soda in your hand while the rest of the platoon stands in formation, watching? This was a big deal because we were never allowed such a luxury as a soda during boot camp. So I took a sip, then passed it to the next guy and so on for as long as it would last. I also qualified Expert with the .45 ACP M1911 pistol, and the 9mm semi-automatic handgun.
You see, a Marine is trained to handle any weapon properly. For instance, we were required to know how to take the rifle apart, down to its smallest piece, clean it, and then reassemble it. Once we had that figured out, we had to do it again, only this time blindfolded.
Over the years I have taken various training courses in the proper use of weapons depending on the circumstance. I spent time learning how to handle weapons in a hostage situation. I’ve been through several courses for Carrying a Concealed Weapon (CCW).
I am a member of the NRA because I support their fight to protect our right to bear arms based upon the 2nd Amendment. The folks I know who use guns, whether they are military, law enforcement, or sportsmen, almost without exception treat their weapons with the respect they deserve.
Though I have never had to use a gun to kill someone, I have served many years as a Navy chaplain and as a law enforcement chaplain. It has been my unenviable duty to counsel with those who have had to take a life. Trust me on this: To do so changes a person forever. Unless you are seriously demented, like our Aurora killer, taking a life is such revulsion that a person may never take up a gun again. Forget what Hollywood portrays. To kill someone for whatever reason is a ghastly experience.
I will return to this topic of Gun Control next week, unless the Olympics provide something more compelling.
Go Team U.S.A.!