I no longer “believe” in the Second Amendment. (Whatever that means.)
With every mass shooting that carries the national news for a couple days, every elected official or those trying to become one of them start an appearance with the consultant and party approved phrase, “I strongly believe in the Second Amendment.” Then pivot to how they are a gun owner or their parents owned guns and a quick nod to a small, hidden section on what regulations they might want to see—mental health for Republicans or some now low-hanging fruit like bump stocks (still not illegal after the Las Vegas mass homicide) for Democrats.
So here is my pitch, as someone who has a stake in seeing these mass shootings end (I walk the streets):
I am a trained killer. The U.S. Army and some of the most elite shooters in the world taught me amazing skills. I own a rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun. I can conceal carry this handgun because I have excellent training, or so the county assumes. I can double tap two shots into the high left chest area in under two seconds. So yes, I guess I exercise my Second Amendment right to bear arms and would be one of those “good guys with a gun.”
(Here comes the pivot)
The military shorthand for why we served is something along the lines of “to protect our freedoms and the Constitution.” I served two military deployments in Iraq where, ostensibly, I was protecting those freedoms.
But here is the twist—Iraq was a contrived and fraudulent war. I did not protect your freedoms when I was there. There were no massive threats to American freedom in Iraq. What I did in Iraq, and what still holds me together today, is I protected and made sure my brothers and sisters who were over there got to return home to their parents, spouses, or friends. That is what kept me going every day, at a frenetic pace, for months, even a year, on end.
Yet I return to an America where I see the same carnage in American cities as in Baghdad. It happens at schools where I send my kids every morning. At movie theaters where I go to relax. It happens at concerts where I want to be entertained. The true freedom of America, the reason I served this country, is because I have the freedom to enjoy public education, thought-provoking movies, and music that may cut against the grain of society.
But now enjoying those freedoms have become a lottery. Is today the day someone upset at their girlfriend comes to the high school and takes revenge on everyone? (My daughter had these thoughts.) Is it safe to go see the new Star Wars installment? Should I carry a handgun (no)? Is it safe to start shooting randomly in a darkened theater (absolutely not)? These are now daily thoughts along with, “do I take the trash out.”
So if this is what the Second Amendment means, I no longer believe in it. I most certainly believe we need to have a military or protective force that keeps our democracy free from foreign intervention. Apparently that idea is not something the Trump administration or the people supporting his regime share.
If the Second Amendment means unfettered access and use of the weapons of war in America against children, parents, and friends, then I no longer believe in it. I would imagine the founders would be equally aghast at what it has metastasized into. I did not join the military to defend the rights of a Neo Nazi sympathizer to shoot up children in a school. I did not serve so this 18-year-old could buy a rifle similar to one I carried. I did not serve so politicians could use my service to protect him while holding their fingers behind their backs and swearing total allegiance to the freedom-hating National Rifle Association.
If you want to thank us for our service, protect your brothers and sisters. They are everywhere in this country. Do not cower in fear at the power of the industry or gun owners after each headline-inducing shooting. Thank us for our service by joining a local chapter of Moms Demand Action, Everytown USA, or start your own group. Write something, say something, do something. Even if it is just “I do not like what is happening and we need to change things.”
If the message to our nation that mass shootings are the new normal then we are going to endure them on a more regular basis. In war zones this happens over time. “Oh, another IED strike on Route Orange.” But that explosion killed soldiers and you did what you could to rescue them and make sure it did not happen again. Yet in America now, someone shoots up a school and kills our fellow children and we feel bad for a few days then move on to the next thing. If this is what we are collectively willing to accept—the wind from a collective shrug that knocks us all over—then this is not the America I thought I served and it is not a Second Amendment right that serves us as a society.