Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rights and Responsibilities

These are the results of my first visit to the range.  Shooting a gun for sport is something I never thought I would enjoy.

Living in Connecticut puts my family in the bull’s eye of the gun control debate.  While we do not live in Newtown, one of our town’s residents was killed in the Sandy Hook Shootings.   You cannot escape the debate right now, especially here.
I have been hearing the words of Rahm Emanuel in my mind over and over again.  "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."   Through the tragedy of Sandy Hook, the government has seized the opportunity, through crisis, to take away more of our constitutional rights.
We should not deviate from our founding father’s documents.  The Constitution is not living and breathing.  It is not meant to shift and morph with changes in public opinion and social standards.  It is our guidepost, our beacon of light that keeps Americans free.  My children have already seen a huge shift in the American way of life.  The America I see now, looks very very different to me than the America of just a few years ago.  
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.  It is very clear.  We have the right to keep and bear arms.  We also have many, many laws already passed that affect our right to keep and bear arms.  I have read them.  They are mind numbing.  They also are very clear in outlining what we can and cannot do with our weapons.  The current wave of regulation will do nothing to stop the tragedy that happened in Sandy Hook.  Connecticut already had very strict gun regulations, I know this because I read them line by line.  People who break these laws are not being prosecuted, therefore, there is no deterrent to prevent guns from falling into the hands of criminals.  Sentences act as deterrent to crime.  WIthout strict prosecution and sentencing, there is nothing to deter a person with an evil heart from doing harm.  
I am part of a family that exercises our 2nd Amendment right.  I have a brother and a brother in law enforcement and my brother is also a Marine.  My biggest fear is not that they will encounter a law abiding citizen who happens to be a legal gun owner.  It is that they will encounter a citizen (or non-citizen) with criminal intent who may be on mind altering medication (like the majority of mass murders were or were withdrawing from) and be placed in a position to defend themselves with their weapon.  
My girls have been present during conversations about gun control.  Many of our friends and acquaintances took place in recent protests in Hartford advocating for even stricter gun laws.  They have also sat at kitchen tables where discussions were taking place about the decision whether or not to exercise our 2nd Amendment rights.
Grace, my 12 year old, said to me that she sees that most of the stories on the news are not about regular people shooting each other.  The stories that are told are about drug related, gang related shootings where innocent people are often caught in the crossfire.  The mass shootings that have taken place often involve young men who have recently been on or were actively taking anti-depressant medications.  Why don’t we seek justice from big pharma who is literally poisoning the bodies of a whole generation of our youth?  Why are we not having this conversation? 
This blogger has explored this very issue and has posted video clips from the both Fox News and Michael Moore:
Rather than feeling part of the solution that addresses the real causes of gun violence, I feel part of a scheme to make the most of a crisis.  Families lost children.  That is incomprehensible to me.  It is also incomprehensible to me for the government to use their pain and loss for a political purpose.
Recently I began to exercise my 2nd Amendment right.  Whether or not I choose to become a legal gun owning citizen remains to be seen.  My education began by attending an NRA course on pistol safety.  Once I have my permit, my education will continue as I learn more and practice not only my shooting skills but also gun maintenance and operation skills.  Thankfully my brother has agreed to by my instructor.  I never would have imagined myself doing this 20, 10 or even 5 years ago.   As I watch the news of my area and realize that our judicial system is not keeping us safe from armed criminals, we must use the rights we have to keep our  families and properties safe.  
That's me on the left.  I look forward to visiting again with my brother as my instructor.  
When I learned that looting took place in my town during Hurricane Sandy it became even more apparent to me that we must be able to protect what is ours in times of emergency.   I am part of the new wave of legal gun owners, females, mothers, wives, who are educating themselves in the safe use of a weapon.  It is both empowering, much in the same way that making it half way to my black belt in karate was, but it is also sobering.  It is an enormous responsibility and must be treated as such.  
My girls, who are reading, need to understand how to formulate their own opinions and justify them to others who are in opposition.  Like the abortion debate, this is a conversation that is rarely entered into with civility and respect.  My hope is that as they grow and mature and formulate their own opinions, they come back to the core of their beliefs, the ones that have been formed through our faith and our conservative values and use them as a benchmark against which all others are measured.


Diane said...

Great post. Thanks so much for your kind words about Grace's art today.

melismama said...

Hi Jess - I grew up in a small town where most dads and their kids belonged to the local gun range (us included). I was shooting by the age of 10. I have such mixed feelings on so many of these "control laws". sigh....

Great post - enjoy the weekend!

Jessica said...

My fear is that I have a deep distrust of this administration. It is a power grab and if the 2nd amendment goes, so too will go the rest of our liberties......

Anonymous said...

Like Melissa, I grew up shooting guns. I lived in a rural community in NJ and the dads would set up cans and stuff sawhorses in our backyards and teach us to shoot at them. I know it sounds like something out of a Western. lol. I felt very powerful with a gun in my hand. But I also feel powerful driving a car. I have often thought, while crossing a busy Manhattan street, that if that guy has some sort of psychotic break, he could take us all out. What is to stop someone from not gunning the engine and running over a couple dozen people in a city?

I think gun control punishes law-abiding citizens by taking away their rights. The people with the propensity to kill are not going to be stopped by a law, they don't care about the law and they will find ways to get the weapons they want. Enforcing these stupid laws is going to cost our country money that we don't have while taking away our rights.

In the days after Newtown, I was hoping that the NRA and some gun manufacturers would come out and do for mental illness what Philip Morris and the tobacco industry has done for lung cancer: educate people and fund mental illness research, look into these medications and the side effects, investigate big pharma. Instead, gun owners have been all characterized as crazy and it's become a pissing contest between liberals and conservatives.

We have friends who were in the military and they have made the conscious decision to move to PA which allows private citizens to carry concealed weapons. Our friends are ready for a terrorist attack, but they don't think there will ever be one on American soil because terrorists realize that some American citizens are armed. It goes back to our Constitution and it's important to our way of life.

Karen said...

I grew up around guns too. Hunting and just shooting. That being said I do not own a gun BUT I do believe in the 2nd amendment. I am really afraid that the day will come when me not having a gun may be something I regret. I hate that is the world we live in, but I know it is. VERY good article Jess. In fact Keilee feels very strongly against guns and I am going to read this to her when she gets home this afternoon and discuss it. Thank you.

Jessica said...

I think Big Phara is too powerful. I think they are like Monsanto and no one can touch them. I truly worry about a generation of children who are medicated and not able to function to their capacity because of the horrific side effects of anti-depressants. Did you ever watch The Medicated Child on Netflix? It is truly frightening.

Jessica said...

I understand completely. I don't know if I will own a gun, but I want to keep my right to make that choice. One gun safety class and one experience at a shooting range is not enough experience (in my opinion) to own and operate a gun. Once I have my permit, my brother will act as my instructor teaching me how to operate, clear a jam or misfire, correct aim mistakes and if and when I make a choice, he will help me determine which gun is right for me. I have been very clear to the girls that I fear this right is in jeopardy and as a Patriot, I want to stand up for the Constitution and exercise my right to freedom.

Helena said...

Jess, in the spirit of honest, respectful debate, I'm writing to say I disagree with a number of the points made here. I sense you've written this from a deeply heartfelt place; it's from a similar personal place that I'm responding. Having read your blog for years, and having a sense of the person you are, I feel you'll be open to reading my response, and I thank you for that.

In 1996, a man in Tasmania, Australia murdered 35 people on a gun rampage—one of the worst mass shootings in the world. Afterwards, the recently-elected conservative government, led by Prime Minister John Howard, worked with the individual States to create new gun laws that abolished the ownership and importation of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The licensing and background checks for ALL weapon ownership became stringent and comprehensive. Since the creation of these laws in 1996, there has not been one mass shooting in Australia and firearm deaths have significantly declined.

(These links are worth a read: and )

Howard, our former Prime Minister, who was very much a conservative, wrote a piece in the New York Times about this recently. It is worth a read, too.

You believe the Constitution is not a living breathing thing, but I think the laws that govern a people should not be written in stone. I believe laws SHOULD be living and breathing and should be responsive to changes in the world around them. If it becomes apparent it is in society's best interests to change a long-standing law, I believe it should be changed. If it saves countless lives to change a law, it should be changed.

Seat belt laws were created when it became clear that lives would be saved. In Australia our random breath testing laws have dramatically reduced drink driving deaths. Smoke-alarm detector laws have saved lives. It's the law to stop at a pedestrian crossing, to correctly label items, to have fences around our pools. Any law, by its nature, has an impact on our civil liberties, our freedom. But many of them save lives.

Responding to the Newtown shootings with calls for greater gun control makes sense to me. I'm not sure when else people should respond. There's no objective, emotion-free time left to stand up and argue for this. I was a teacher in a California high school when Columbine happened. I remember feeling incredibly vulnerable and scared. I had a student threaten me while I was pregnant with my son. I know what it's like to not feel safe in a school. I would have argued then for greater gun control. I would argue for it now, if countless mass shootings were an issue in my country. Thankfully, they are not.

Your points about psychiatric medicine are valid and troubling and should be looked into. I agree kids are being over-prescribed these medicines. I agree that treatment of mental health is as great an issue as gun control. But if guns, especially assault weapons which have no place in regular society, had been unavailable or much, much harder to get hold of, I believe the majority of those disturbed people would have not gone on to kill as they did.

I don't think there is an easy answer. But to take up arms because of a mistrust of those in power, to keep a gun with you believing it will keep you safe—knowing that it might end up being gun against gun—adds, I believe, to the problem. Violence begets violence. How many people who have guns in their homes could or would shoot? I can't imagine what it would take to shoot at another human being. It would take darkness beyond imagining. It cannot be the answer.

Freedom matters, I agree. But I think the greater danger is losing loved ones, over and over again.

Much warmth and good wishes being sent to you and your family, Jess.

Jessica said...


I know that you and I will continue to see this issue very differently but I do respect your opinion.

Guns are very much a part of our American culture. To ban every single citizen from owning a gun would not solve the problem, there are just too many in our society. Most of the gun violence happens from illegal gun ownership or illegal gun sales. This is where I feel our efforts should be concentrated, not on preventing those of us who do undergo FBI background checks from purchasing guns legals for hunting, sport shooting or personal protection. Our Constitution guarantees this right and the only way to change that is to seek an amendment to the Constitution.

Although the stories like Newtown and Aurora gain tremendous amounts of media attention there are many other stories of lives saved because of gun ownership. They are not covered by mainstream media but some like Sean Hannity, Andrew Wilkow and Glen Beck offer these stories to counter the tragedies that have taken place recently. I feel that every legal gun owner knows the rights and responsibilities that are inherent in the decision to bring a weapon into a home. He or she must be willing and able to use it. That is not violence begetting more violence. That is taking precautions to protect life and property.

Like you, I was teaching when Columbine happened and like you I too was threatened by a student while pregnant. I had something thrown at me by an autistic child for no reason. It never occurred to me to link that issue to gun control. In CT we already have extensive gun legislation that does outlaw automatic weapons, requires background checks and establishes gun free zones around schools. These laws did not prevent the tragedy. This person would have been able to do what he did regardless of background checks. He was not the owner of the gun. Efforts need to be concentrated on keeping weapons out of the hands of people whom are not the rightful owners. Efforts also must be made to keep our children off dangerous medication and keep them from slipping through the systems that are there to keep them from harm. School, pediatricians, and probably even the homeschool community all failed this child. Many knew he was troubled, yet there was no place for him to be.

Our country has many questions that must be answered. Being able to have civil, respectful conversations is the best place to start answering those questions.

Be well,

Helena said...

Thanks for your response, Jessica. Because I disagreed with parts of your post, I wasn't sure if I should respond (as you have every right to your opinion and to express it). But the thing you said about talking things through with your kids and discussing other's opinions resonated with me. I try to talk about both sides with my kids too, of so many issues, so I thought it would be healthy to engage here in a discussion that others might see. It also challenged me to think through why I disagreed, and see if I could formulate what was initially a strong emotional response into a more reasoned, researched one.

I agree absolutely with your last sentence. I wish more people could have conversations like these. This issue, like many hot issues, is so easy to sit solidly on one side of—but I don't know that progress can happen that way. You are gutsy to bring this up here, and as respectful as always in your response.

… And I wonder how long this conversation would be if we lived in the same town? How many cups of tea would we go through? :) … Peace to you.

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