(View Published Piece on Dallas Morning News)
I own multiple shotguns, handguns and rifles, including an AR-15. Unfortunately, when the gun control debate is reignited by another mass shooting, my voice is often unheard. Maybe my message is drowned out by the NRA’s continued silence. Perhaps I’m ignored because I don’t fall within a predefined box, allowing you to label me an outlier. Either way, in the wake of yet another mass shooting by a U.S. citizen, please do not allow my plea to fall on deaf ears. So I ask that you do the following:
Put me on a registration list or ban my AR-15. Force me to wait three days before I pick up the next gun I buy or conduct a more thorough background check. Tell me I can’t own a 20- round clip for my AR-15. I don’t care what you do. But please do something.
In the coming weeks, some people will call for tougher gun laws, while others will remain silent, knowing that their Second Amendment argument simply does not hold water after yet another massacre. And while society is consumed with the gun-control debate, history indicates that our discussions are futile. After a gunman slaughtered 20 first-graders and six staff members in their school, after an American murdered 49 people because of their sexual orientation and after 32 students and professors were killed on a college campus, you passed no legislation. Instead, you chose to take to Twitter to express potentially preventable condolences to the families of the most recent group of slain individuals.
Now, I choose to believe your inaction is not because you are terrible people. I believe U.S. citizens have the ability to elect competent and kind individuals. Rather, I think your inaction is caused by two interrelated issues.
First, you accept the National Rifle Association as the voice of gun owners. Listening solely to this outspoken organization’s rhetoric is to ignore the majority of us. In fact, only about 6 percent of gun owners are members of the NRA. If you consider that NRA annual dues are only $40, it is hard to imagine this lack of support is due to financial limitations. It seems much more likely that 94 percent of gun owners are like me. We enjoy exercising our Second Amendment rights, but we also recognize that the right to bear arms cannot become an absolute right. We know that there are times when an individual must trade his or her rights to ensure everyone’s security. As a Second Amendment advocate, I ask that you listen to the majority of us, rather than be influenced by the money or power wielded by 6 percent of gun owners.
The second reason for your inaction seems to be your memory. You forget that most gun owners agree with mandatory waiting periods. And why do you struggle to pass universal background checks, considering most gun owners support them, including 74 percent of NRA members? Is there another explanation for your refusal to pass a ban on violent felons owning weapons? Especially considering the majority of us agree that some people just shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.
Of course, we don’t agree on all the issues. Some restrictions and laws can be polarizing. For example, some gun-control activists call for the registration of all guns. Some call for a ban on high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons. It would be easy for me to oppose these ideas. On the one hand, I know how I use my semiautomatic rifle. I know that I will use my AR-15 when a friend or neighbor needs help hunting the hogs that cause an estimated $52 million a year in damage in Texas. On the one hand, I like being able to help my neighbors protect their livelihood. I also know my AR-15 will never be used for a mass shooting.
But Congress, if you think a ban on AR-15s might reduce mass shootings, tell me where to drop mine off. If registering all guns means there is one less mass shooting, I’ll be the first in line.
Sure, there may be debate about which laws appropriately strike the balance between individual liberties and the safety of civilians, but the time for discussion has long passed. It is time for you to enact laws that require mandatory waiting periods and universal background checks. If you need to ban all semi-automatic, high-capacity guns, then draft the bill.
As a gun owner, I am calling on you to do something. My limited happiness is not worth the lifetime of sadness experienced by the friends and families of the victims of Las Vegas, Pulse nightclub, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino and any other mass shooting.
Michael Foreman is an attorney in Richmond, Texas. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org