I've had enough

I decided that I am going to go off on a different topic today. If you don't like what I have to say, that's fine. I would love to hear your comments below, and I will defend your rights to have them in the same way that I will actively defend my own right to express my personal beliefs.

My heart breaks more and more on a daily basis. If you read that sentence and immediately understand what I was talking about without context, you know that I follow the news pretty closely. Today my stomach turned with the fact that Donald Trump called for a ban of all Muslims from entering our nation. In addition to that utter filth, I read of yet another fatal shooting that occurred in Detriot. A 7-year-old girl fell victim to a man with paranoia who later injured the girl's mother prior to killing himself. I understand that those two topics seem unrelated, but I will get to the point on how they aren't.

Let me start with Donald Trump. I was pulling in to work from my lunch break when the NY Times sent the following notification to my phone. "Donald J. Trump has called for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country for the time being." Looking at the history of our nation, and putting into context that the man in question is the party's front-runner for the position of an economic world leader, my jaw dropped in utter dumbfoundedness. Not figuratively, but literally while alone in my car, I spoke the words out loud to myself, "you are fucking kidding me." This is a man who has called Mohammed Ali, who both very publically and controversially converted to Islam in the 60's, a friend. Donald Trump is a textbook example of an individual playing on the fears of others. Yes, we were attacked. No, there's very little we can do with current regulations to stop individuals who wish to inflict harm on the lives of innocent. As  a nation, we expect our leadership to provide a system that prevents tragedies from occurring, but in practice we continue holding on to an archaic principle claiming "God-given rights" should be protected.

In Detroit, Michigan, a 7-year-old girl was shot and killed at her soccer match by a family friend. The man was schizophrenic, yet he had legal access to a firearm. A number of friends have been posting on facebook over the past week with the intent of starting a conversation on gun control. I have been vocal there, and now I'm going to be vocal here.

I owned a semi-automatic Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm w/ 17+1  mag capacity that I used as my conceal carry weapon. Having purchased a messenger bag with a built-in holster, it was on my person at all times. I also owned an AR-15 "assault style" weapon (I loathe that phrase) that I went out to the desert with for target shooting. I no longer own either. Let me begin with this, I absolutely loved gun ownership. It was a great hobby, and when I went out with others that respected the tool for what it was, I always had a great time. I do not demonize weapons, nor do I think we should take them out of the hands of responsible individuals. Instead, I want you to consider something from a different perspective. I was 21. I was married, I owned a home, I had a great paying job. Life was great. I decided to get a concealed weapons permit. It was more of a convenience than anything else, I wanted to take my gun with me as a measure of self-defense in case something would ever happen, and I came to the conclusion that utilizing the state's open carry laws would simply make others around me uncomfortable. It was nothing more than a minor inconvenience to pursue the ability to carry a weapon with me everywhere I went., a 3-hour course that the sheriff's office provided free of charge, and a background check was all I needed. 3 weeks later, I was licensed to take my gun with me just about everywhere.

Now let's fast forward nearly a decade. I have gone through a divorce, bankruptcy, suicide attempts, and more than a few therapy sessions. Even though my firearms were sold years ago due to financial strain from my divorce, I still have my concealed weapons permit. I do not by any stretch of the imagination believe that Idaho should have reissued my CWP. At no point in the initial application, nor during the renewal process did the state request a status check on my mental well being. At no point. Never. There is a glaring omission in regards to the implementation of common logic in a system that does not ask why you intend to have a tool of destruction. Fortunately, I recognize for myself that I am not mentally fit to own a firearm, and as such I haven't really looked much more into it outside of the initial thought of, "Sigh.......it sure was fun when I could go to the desert to shoot off a few hundred rounds.";

I am an exception. The problem as I see it, is that we don't have a nation of exceptions. Instead, we have a nation with citizens like James Holmes, Adam Lanza, Kenneth McLendon, Christopher Harper-Mercers, and Dylann Roof. These were all individuals who have had a history of mental health, and yet they had full access to purchasing firearms and ammunition. It is my opinion that there was not enough done to protect the citizen's of Idaho when I went to recertify for my CWP. Had the state spent any amount of time looking into my well being, at some point I feel like  somebody would have said "woah-woah-woah......does he REALLY need a gun all the time?" The answer would have clearly been no. 

So now we have the debate that people want to chime in on. "How do we address gun control in a nation that is legitimately fearful of a terrorist threat? This is a hard question to answer, although I have an idea I feel is worth looking into. As a gun owner, if I chose to pursue my 2nd amendment rights, it would be my responsibility to purchase ammunition, range time and learn the proper way to use the firearm properly. In the same way that I should pass through hurdles to be trained properly, I think the burden of responsibility falls completely on the citizen pursuing the right of gun ownership to prove their own ability to responsibly own a weapon. One of those burdens should be the cost of an annual mental health examination. If you can prove on my own merit that you not only want to own a firearm, but that you are also mentally fit to make the moral decisions necessary as a gun owner, then at that point the government could deem you capable of becoming a responsible gun owner. If I can't pass a mental wellness check, then I should have the opportunity to sell my firearm legally within a predesignated amount of time, or I should be able to donate my firearms to local law enforcement as a tax deductible donation. This prevents other citizens from paying for the upkeep of a right they don't personally pursue.

I don't think any of the  rhetoric about getting rid of guns will go anywhere, where we are at as a nation divided simply wouldn't allow it. Half of the nation would rather go out fighting in a blaze of glory before they gave up their traditions. What we need is legislation that meets in the center of the aisle to allow personal liberties without creating an imposition on the rest of the nation. If an individual is required to pass through additional hoops, it isn't because the government is trying to deter them from their right to bear arms, but it is to ensure that individual is capable of using them properly.

Additionally, I am sick to death of the argument that if more citizens were armed, we wouldn't have as many tragedies. I'm calling bullshit. We have evolved for millions of years, but we cannot escape out fight or flight programming. If you put a gun in the hands of an average citizen, one who hasn't received adequate firearms training, and then put that individual in the middle of a terrorist attack, they would simply not be able to rationalize their thoughts through the surge of adrenaline and the natural desire for self-preservation. That person would become a liability to the overall scenario, and who knows where their untrained eyes will send bullets. Once again, the individual pursuing the individual right needs to be able to provide proof that they have received training in a controlled environment prior to a license being issued.

Finally, we need to simply abolish the gun show laws that allow private to private sales without a federal background screening. This is plain and simple irresponsible leadership. If an individual sells a weapon to another person without understanding the intent of firearm ownership, there should be federal prosecution for not ensuring that the weapon is going into the hands of the wrong person.

So to recap, I believe that we are a nation that is founded on a tradition of gun ownership, and we should continue to encourage responsible gun ownership. But 2015 is not 1776, and we need to update our laws to reflect the current situations our nation faces. We need to impose restrictions that limit the access of firearms to the mentally ill, and we need to ensure that those being licensed for firearm ownership are adequately trained in the proper use of firearms.

I don't want this to be our future.........


Chris BentleyComment