Jesus Gave Me an A-Bomb

Editor Sean Davis, Editor's Choice, May 1st, 2013

I think that gun ownership should be licensed like cars are...

gun control essay by sean davis
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“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

-The complete Second Amendment of the US Constitution

Jesus Gave Me An A-Bomb

by Sean Davis

 

I have spent most of my adult life training to kill people and blow shit up.

I joined the army infantry right out of high school and learned everything there is to know on just about every small-arms weapon system the United States Military bought in the last fifty years. More than that, I’ve used these weapons systems in real world events. In 1995 I spent several months in Haiti during a revolution and while patrolling I carried a M16A2 assault rifle. I have no doubt I saved lives with my rifle on that deployment. When we guarded President Aristide’s presidential palace I sat behind an M60 crew-served machine gun. We reinstated normalcy to a population in complete chaos. In Iraq I carried three weapons: my trusty M4, a Mossberg 500 Shotgun for blowing locks off doors, and a Russian-made AK-47 I stole from some dead Iraqi General’s house after searching the place for the shitheads who were mortaring us. I carried a loaded weapon on US soil while patrolling the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve been shot at by, and I’ve shot at other human beings. Today, I own an AR-15, which is the civilian equivalent of the assault rifle I carried while at war. So I’m telling you right off that I’m a big fan of what guns have done for me, and I’m very aware of their killing potential.

I also believe in gun control. More than that, I believe that gun control is a common sense issue. What I can’t believe is that the US Senate voted against tighter gun restrictions and more extensive background checks. I watched Idaho Senator James Risch talking in circles on Anderson Cooper saying we should not have extensive background checks because he doesn’t want law-abiding citizens to be penalized. He essentially said that criminals don’t go by the laws so why pass them? This man was one of fourteen senators threatening to filibuster the gun control vote and when the vote happened he voted against the bill.

The morning shows, talk radio, and social media have polarized in the last couple months. It’s all filled with hyperbolic nonsense. I heard an NPR host say that the magazine decides whether or not a weapon is automatic. California Senator Diane Feinstein said at a Senate Judiciary Committee that, “We have federal regulations and state laws that prohibit hunting ducks with more than three rounds. And yet it’s legal to hunt humans with 15-round, 30-round, even 150-round magazines.” I saw the clip of Ice T on London’s Channel 4 telling Europe that the Second Amendment is the last line of defense against tyranny of police officers. How many memes have you seen on your Facebook feed with President Obama’s smiling face behind a caption about taking away your guns? My favorite rant was on how our rights don’t come from the US Constitution; our rights come straight from our all-powerful, all-knowing God.

Well if Jesus wants our government to fear us because we are a “well-regulated militia,” then that obviously means he wants us all to have A-Bombs, because I’ve seen first hand that small arms fire even with high-capacity magazines do very little against the strongest and most technologically advanced military that has ever existed on this planet. So if you’re talking open rebellion, or a second civil war I’d put a couple drones, some tanks, and maybe a dozen attack helicopters on your Christmas list.

Somehow the smart, articulate reasoning and arguments on either side of the issue faded into the background. Instead of intelligent discourse we have Snoop Dog versus Clint Eastwood. Michael Moore against Ted Nugent. Peirs Morgan fighting Glen Beck. It’s an all out sponsor-fueled circus full of screaming idiots doing their very best to drown out everyone else.

Honestly, I was conflicted on the issue. The reenactments of the Newtown killings, the interviews with grieving parents, Gabby Gifford’s open letter to congress, it all broke my heart. I like to think of myself as a pacifist, but I did spend much of my life defending the weakest and most miserable individuals on this planet with an assault rifle in my hand. I know that these weapons have a terrifying potential, but I’ve kept order in the chaos of revolution, defended the weak and wretched in Iraq, and provided stability in the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in history. Without my weapon I could not have done any of it. But that was wartime. What role do weapons play in our civilized society? I was unsure.

Watching the news media, it looked like I had two options: turn my guns in and be a sniveling hippie-victim, or give myself a DIY lobotomy, join the Tea Party, and slap a bumper sticker on my car that read, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.”

To figure it all out, I contacted the smartest people I knew on both sides of the issue. When they finally got back to me, I didn’t get the answers I expected.

The first person I contacted was Jim MacMillan, who was an embedded Associated Press photographer with my unit in Iraq. I’ve kept up with him through Facebook, and his updates are filled with articles and photographs of gang crimes and children’s deaths due to senseless weapon’s violence. Mac was supposed to be my advocate on gun control, and I asked him if he could give me a reason or two for stricter laws. He answered, “If you read my posts closely, I don’t actually advocate for gun control.”

This blew me away. I thought I had the liberal end of the spectrum covered here, but instead of taking a stand against weapons, Mac viewed these atrocities as a public health problem. “If you think about guns in America in terms of supply and demand, gun control is about reducing the supply, but I work to reduce the demand, helping people to know that they are at greater risk when armed, that they have alternatives to violent actions, and that their actions have ramifications not only for their adversaries, but also for their own families and communities.”

This makes sense and made me think. Maybe a solution can come from gathering community support and having us all take responsibility for social problems that lead to gun violence: mental illness, lack of good schools, not enough jobs that pay a living wage, the easy access to illegal drugs and weapons. Just watch a news channel, read the papers, or listen to the radio for an hour and you can see that we all agree there is a problem; but we can’t agree on what kind of problem, and that’s something we need to do if we want to solve the damned thing.

At the same time I’m reading Mac’s email, I get a response from my old platoon leader/army buddy who is a card-carrying member of the NRA, a police officer, former SWAT member, as well as a licensed weapon dealer. I asked Chris Kent about universal background checks, thinking as someone who sells guns he may have an intelligent argument against them. The opposite happened: “I think that gun ownership should be licensed like cars are. You take a test and get a drivers/shooters license. You can then buy any kind of car/gun you want to. Want a motorcycle/machine gun? That will require an additional endorsement on the license. Let someone without a license use your car/gun, and there are penalties. Universal background checks will make sure that law-abiding people sell to other law-abiding people. Great.”

What the hell was going on? My reporter friend who lives in the middle of the gun violence in Philadelphia wasn’t against owning weapons or the Second Amendment, and my old war buddy who sells guns and uses them everyday in his job was okay with universal background checks and gun registration. If I relied only on the media for my information, these two responses would have made me think the world turned upside down. For a day or so I did think their responses made little sense, but then I realized that there is room for an intelligent conversation on this issue. Soon after, I was hit with another realization: not only was it possible for us to have an intelligent conversation, but we owed it to our society to do so, not to mention the grieving family members from the ongoing atrocities, the ongoing atrocities that seem to be happening with increased frequency.

I spent most of my adult life training how to kill people and blow shit up; I very much want to spend the rest of my life doing whatever I can to stop senseless violence. Knowing what I’ve sacrificed, and after getting to know the good people in the community around me, I’ve decided that we have all earned a special little time and place on this planet for our children to live together and be kind to each other. I’ve decided that there is a way for us to keep our right to responsibly own weapons, while making it as difficult as possible for maniacs to murder innocent men, women, and children. To do so, we may have to tune out the celebrities and politicians and put forth an effort to have an intelligent conversation on the issue as a community. Ignore the lobbyists and the slander campaigns and realize that as dangerous weapons, guns need to be controlled. Anti-gun people need to realize that individual weapon ownership isn’t going anywhere, but at the same time, the Second Amendment isn’t a cure-all or a license to be irresponsible; in fact, it’s vague as hell on purpose. Left that way so we can figure it out on our own.

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Header photograph by Heidi Mass.

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Sean Davis

Sean has fought in a revolution, a war, and helped save lives in New Orleans during Katrina. He’s a wildland firefighter during the summers. He’s been a police officer, a bartender, a incident responder, a supernumerary in an opera, and currently teaches writing at Mt. Hood Community College and Clackamas Community College. He volunteers as the post commander at American Legion Post 134 in the heart of the Alberta Arts District in NE Portland where he paints and writes plays, articles, and books.