Don’t vilify gun owners in wake of Vegas

Liam Verses

I woke up on Monday morning to five news alerts sitting on my phone. “Massacre,” “shooting” and “death” appeared across the screen. I sat there at the foot of my bed, shocked that while I had been asleep, such a horrific event occurred. After I read the news, I went on Twitter to find tirades against gun owners.

Condemning all gun owners is not the way to respond to a mass shooting.

I remember the first time I shot a gun. It was a 20-gauge, double-barrel shotgun. After that day out on the range, I realized why so many Americans — 4 in ten households — own guns. Guns provide safety, embodying the rugged individualism and total self reliance emblematic of this nation.

I grew up in the Texas Hill Country, where I knew it would likely take 15 to 20 minutes for the nearest police officer to come to my aid in case of a home intruder. Is it so insane, then, that I slept with a shotgun under my bed when my parents were out of town? Does liking guns or believing that I should be able to own one for self-protection really make me some crazy redneck?

More importantly, does slamming the 1 in 3 American adults who own guns, people who are your neighbors, teachers, friends and coworkers, give you the moral high ground in the gun control debate?

The gun lobby gives money to politicians, sure. But it’s not the money that makes the National Rifle Association so powerful: It’s the NRA’s members, all five million of them. It’s a broad Second Amendment support base, which consists of the roughly 1 in 2 Americans who want to protect gun rights. 72 percent of Americans believe that most people or almost everyone should be able to legally own guns, and 56 percent of Americans believe that people should be able to carry guns in most or almost all places.

Guns remain entrenched in American culture. Guns are tied to the ideological, cultural and historical identity of the United States. Enshrined in our founding documents and numbering over 300 million in the US, guns are here to stay.

Chastising Americans who cherish their guns does not set the right tone after Las Vegas. Finding comprehensive measures to combat mass shootings and deaths are a priority. But to those who would broadly blame guns and gun owners as the problem: Narrow your focus. The cyclical nature of the gun law debate, where a shooting triggers an outcry which in turn triggers responses that have nothing to do with the nature of the shooting wears out Americans. Most gun owners are responsible and law-abiding, and most Americans don’t want to take away others’ guns, but those who are unreasonable continue to dominate the gun debate. That cannot continue if we want these unspeakable tragedies to end.

Verses is a Plan II and environmental engineering freshman from San Antonio.