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Gun Owner Explains Why America Needs Sensible Gun Legislation

In this Jan. 30, 2013 file photo, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a gunshot to the head in 2011, during a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., sits ready with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington to discuss legislation to curb gun violence. A divided Congress denied President Barack Obama’s calls for reforms. The federal gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, is arguably stronger than ever. And polls suggest that support for new gun laws is slipping as the memory of Newtown’s horror fades.

CREDIT: AP/J. Scott Applewhite.

As a native Texan, I’ve been around guns my entire life. One of my earliest memories is of a toy, my Lone Ranger cap gun. Even today, I still remember its gleaming metal and white “stag” handle.

My earliest childhood heroes were the sheriffs, marshals and gunfighters whose adventures I would watch every Sunday afternoon with my father, an avid hunter and western TV and movie fan.

Looking back, this formative period led to me believing strongly in the Second Amendment, but just as strongly, it made me believe in the need for sensible gun legislation.

Growing up, I owned numerous toy guns, but my father always emphasized to me that real guns were not a toy. This might seem paradoxical, but even then, my father was imparting lessons of responsible gun ownership.

I could fire my lone ranger cap gun at the villains who appeared on the TV, but only the villains. Any toy gun I owned, which looked like a real gun, was not to be pointed at a person. I was taught to respect life and the power that a real gun has to take a life.

When I was 8 years old, I got my first BB gun. Like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, it was a Red Ryder Carbine-action, Two Hundred Shot Range Model air rifle. It was love at first sight – love, that is, with a healthy dose of responsibility from my father. The first thing he did after giving it to me was setting up a target for me to fire at, emphasizing to me that if I ever used the BB gun irresponsibly, I would lose the privilege of using it.

A common argument from the pro-gun community revolves around the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Constitutional theory aside, it’s a strong argument. However, my childhood taught me that gun rights do not exist in a vacuum like many pro-gun activists seem to proclaim. Rights always go hand in hand with responsibility.

As an adult, I own both a handgun and a rifle, and I recognize that owning a deadly weapon carries with it particular responsibilities. I’m responsible for making sure that only I have access to these guns. If I pick up a gun, it will be for home defense, and I recognize the terrible responsibility that entails. My hope is to never have to pick up the weapons I own.

Responsibility and respect for the core of sensible gun legislation policy. If a person wants to own an assault weapon, responsibilities should come with that right.

Connecticut is a good example of gun legislation that reflects this philosophy. The state’s new laws allow individuals to own assault weapons, but ownership carries with it the responsibility of registering them.  

It’s important for gun owners to remember the responsibilities that come with their rights. Historically, gun owners and groups like the NRA were actively involved in helping create gun legislation, but today, even discussing the Second Amendment is enough for a gun columnist to lose his job.

It’s time for this to change.

It’s time for gun owners to worry about the price of silence.

The price of silence and inaction is too high. Gun owners who believe that rights carry responsibilities must stand with other advocates and let their voices be heard. The pro-gun lobby does not speak for me, and responsible gun owners should not let it speak for them.

David Moyer is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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