Guns – As American as Apple Pie

3006 (2)I grew up with guns – literally. One of my earliest memories is of my dad holding the barrel of his .22 against the head of a cottontail he had caught in his rabbit gum and letting me pull the trigger instead of whacking it on the head with his pocketknife or tapping it with a ballpeen hammer. I’d get up early and go with  him to the woods hunting squirrels then when I was nine years old, I started hunting with a 20-gauge shotgun that belonged to my aunt. Two years later Daddy came home one day with an Ithaca 20-gauge pump shotgun of my own (I still have it.) Oh, I’d had a BB-gun for awhile but I was hunting with a shotgun at a very young age (although not as young as my younger brothers,) By the time I was in my teens, I had become a rifle purist and would only hunt squirrels with a .22 and try to “bark” them by hitting the tree next to them and knocking them out of the tree so the bullet wouldn’t spoil the meat. Daddy had an old military blanket box that he kept in a closet that was full of .22 cartridges an 12-gauge shotgun shells that he had bought right after World War II when I was still little. The ammunition was getting old and he told me to shoot it up – I did. My “bible” (I had a Holy Bible too) was a US Army marksmanship manual that Daddy kept from his time in the Army. I read it cover to cover time after time and practically memorized everything in it. When I was my teens, one day my younger brother and I were out behind the barn shooting a .22 at a target set against the dirt on a tree trunk that Daddy had pushed up with a bulldozer. Our neighbor down in the hollow called up complaining. He claimed he could hear the bullets whizzing over his head. He couldn’t. We were shooting in the opposite direction from where he lived and the bullets were going into the mound of dirt around the uprooted tree. Daddy told him we were practicing to kill communists. As it turned out, I killed quite a few communists but I didn’t do it with a rifle.

Me and Patrick

I also grew up reading; reading anything I could find about anything. A lot of my reading material was historical, particularly about pioneer times and the military from the Civil War to World War II. I read nearly everything Alfred Leland Crabb and Robert Ruark wrote, and I read about the Founding Fathers and people like Francis Marion, Daniel Boone and David Crockett. I also read the US Constitution and its amendments, the first ten of which are called the Bill of Rights.

 Now, the Bill of Rights are just that, amendments that establish definite rights for American citizens, not for the states. In fact, the Bill of Rights was added because without them, the new Constitution wasn’t going to be ratified by the people of Virginia. The first of those amendments guarantees freedom of religion, speech and the press and the second guarantees the right of the people to “bear arms”, meaning to carry arms. It read thusly – “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.” Now, many modern journalists, antigun activists and some legal scholars attempt to associate the amendment with the present-day National Guard because of the comment about a “well regulated Militia,” but this is untrue. The National Guard did not exist prior to 1916. Prior to that time, each state maintained its own “militia” which under Federal law was made up of all able-bodied men of a certain age. (The National Guard came about as a result of the Dick Act of 1902 which gave the War Department more authority over state militias. Although it is often advocated as being the result of problems that arose during the Spanish-American War, the real reason for the act was to deprive states of having their own “private armies” and were really aimed at preventing another civil war.) Militias were called up to protect against Indian attack, for law enforcement, to put down insurrection (riot) and to serve as the source of manpower for the Federal Department of War. But there was also another – the main – reason for the Second Amendment and that was for the people to have the means to resist a tyrannical government. After all, when the Second Amendment was written, the former British colonies had just come through a period of armed rebellion against a the British Crown, which colonial rebel leaders considered tyrannical. The Second Amendment gives “we, the people” the right to keep and bear arms to insure the security of the “free State.” It’s purpose is not for recreational shooting, for hunting or for sport, but to maintain an armed population with the ability to resist the government when it becomes tyrannical.

From the time of its inception, young Americans with skill with firearms have proven beneficial to the United States. “Overmountain Men” from western North Carolina, later Tennessee, defeated a British force under Major Patrick Ferguson at Kings Mountain, an action that directly influenced the decision by the British to retreat to Yorktown where they were defeated by French artillery and agreed to surrender to Washington. A  regiment of Tennessee sharpshooters halted the British advance at Chalmette Plantation outside New Orleans and guaranteed the departure of the British from what is now US soil in 1813. Southern sharpshooters took a heavy toll on the Union Army during the War for Southern Independence. In the Army manual I read from cover to cover to many times there is a statement from a German officer in World War I. The man said “God save us from these Americans, they shoot like devils.”

For the past half century or so, there has been an organized movement to disarm the American people. It began gathering steam in the 1980s after John Hinckley made an attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan – with a small caliber .22 revolver – and hit White House Press Secretary Jim Brady in the head, permanently disabling him. Brady and his wife became ardent gun control advocates and turned their back on the conservative principles of the man who employed him. Ironically, although Hinckley used a .22 revolver, the main target of gun control advocates has become “military-style assault rifles,” which they take to mean any rifle that can be fire simply by pulling the trigger. While some 9-10,000 Americans are killed each year with firearms, only some 5% are killed with rifles. The other 95% are killed with handguns. (These numbers don’t include suicides, of which some 50% are by some kind of firearm, mostly pistols because it’s difficult to kill yourself with a rifle or shotgun.) Yet it is the “assault rifle” that gun-control advocates want to ban. In fact, when they talk about gun “control,” what they actually mean is confiscation.

One of the sources of ammunition (pardon the pun) for gun-control advocates is the so-called “school shooting.” In reality, there have been very few shootings in schools over the past few years and nearly all of those have been at colleges and universities. In October 2014 a high school student in Washington State killed himself and seven of his friends in the high school cafeteria. The Newtown shooting in Sandy Hook, Ct took the lives of 28 people, most of them elementary school children, but it was the only shooting in a primary or secondary school that took the life of more than 1 person since 2005. Since Newtown, there has only been one “mass” shooting in a secondary school. The most recent primary/secondary school mass shooting before that was the Columbine HS shooting in 1999. In reality, although schools have been the scene of shootings since the 1760s when renegade Indians attacked a school in Pennsylvania and killed the headmaster and 10 children, they have been conflicts between students, conflicts between teachers and students and conflicts between someone at the school with someone outside it. During the Civil War, Union soldiers sometimes amused themselves by taking potshots at school children. However, most school shootings in the United States have been students killing other students or their teachers, usually over some kind of squabble. One of the deadliest school shootings occurred at the University of Texas in Austin on August 1, 1966 when an ex-Marine with a brain tumor named Charles Whitman killed 17 people and wounded 31, mostly with a high-powered rifle, before he was shot and killed by a police officer. Only two weeks before Whitman’s rampage, Richard Speck killed eight student nurses in Chicago – and he didn’t use a firearm at all. He used his bare hands and a knife. He stabbed and strangled them after raping some, if not all, of them. The largest mass murder in US history occurred in 2007 at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA when a student killed 33 of his classmates and wounded 25. As was the case with most other school shootings, he used pistols.

The most recent “school” shooting was at a community college in Oregon where a student at the school killed nine of his classmates and himself and wounded seven. The true circumstances of the shooting aren’t fully known other than that he used one or more pistols in the slayings. However, he appears to have been a member of the writing class in which he first shot the teacher then killed eight students.

Here is a list of school shootings in the US –

Although shootings on elementary, high school and college campuses attract the most attention, there have been other shootings where several people were killed. However, in nearly every case, the shooter knew the victims and killed them for some reason. A few shootings for a time were in post offices. (Back in the 60s an 70s there was a spate of airline hijackings, mostly by black activists who demanded they be taken to Cuba.) A recent headline-making shooting took place in Charleston, SC in June where Dylan Roof shot nine people in a church. Roof is white and the victims were all black. However, Roof’s friends and he indicated that his original plan was to kill people at the College of Charleston. However, evidently since it was summer and school wasn’t in session, he changed his plans and went to the church. Like most other shooters, Roof used a pistol.. There have been a couple of shootings in movie theaters, notably one in the Denver area and a more recent one in Louisiana.

Every time there’s a shooting, there’s a clamor for more gun legislation. However, except for criminal-related shootings, in nearly every case the weapons used were purchased legally. While some shooters were depicted – after the shootings – as having mental health problems, they had notpreviously been identified as such. Law enforcement was never able to identify a motive for the Newtown shootings although there has been a lot of conjecture, mostly by people who don’t have a clue as to what happened. The shooters are often claimed to have a fascination with firearms, although such a fascination often only dates back for a short time before the shootings. (Some also seem to have had a fascination for computer games.) Yes, firearms aficionados occasionally kill but its usually in a fit of passion. I had a friend who loved guns. He eventually killed his wife then shot himself. However, Johnny was a little bit whacky anyway. He didn’t kill his wife because he loved guns, he killed her because of some kind of family situation that escalated.

If one looks closely at the numbers of shootings, it becomes obvious that they’re really nothing new. We humans have been killing each other since Cain slew his brother Able because of jealousy and we’ve used every kind of weapon imaginable to do it, from the rock that Cain used to atomic bombs.

It is commonly believed that the United States leads the world in murders. Actually, the US is ranked as 14th out of 86 nations in numbers of murders and 43 out 86 in numbers of murders per one million population. It is ranked 1st out of 170 in the number of firearms owned per 100 residents (this number is an estimate.) The US is number 10 in murders with firearms per capita with South Africa heading the list. It shouldn’t be surprising that the United States ranks high in most statistics since, after China and India, it is the third most populous in the world. As of 2013, the population of the United States was over 316 million. By comparison, the UK’s population was only 63.8 million. The population of Mexico, which has a high crime rate, is less than half that of the United States with 116.2 million people.

A major factor in the public belief that there is an epidemic of “school” and “mass” shootings is deliberate dishonesty in reporting and definition. Gun control advocacy groups such as Everytown, the group founded and funded by former New York Mayor Blumberg, identifies a “mass” shooting as any in which more than one person is killed. Another group identifies a mass shooting as any when more than one person is attacked. The problem is the definition of “mass” which by normal definition refers to “a large number.” Gun control activists are redefining the word to suit their own purposes, which is to give government, particularly at the Federal level, complete control over all firearms and the elimination of the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear” arms.