Guns and My Grandfather
Teen robbers gunned down my grandfather in 1970 at the dry cleaning business he owned in Richmond, Virginia. He kept a handgun at the cleaners. That night he reached for it to defend himself and was shot by one of the animals. Being armed apparently doesn’t guarantee protection.
At the time, I was four years old and have only faint memories of my grandfather, like the smell of his pipe. Most of what I remember is from my mother’s recounting the horrific event. The neighborhood was changing and my grandmother worried about Arthur, my grandfather, working late by himself at the cleaners, which had a laundromat to keep up with the times.
During the non-stop news coverage of James Holmes’ mad killing spree in Aurora, I found myself thinking of my grandfather’s death. Many people have argued that if someone in the movie theatre had a gun perhaps James Holmes would have been killed and not been able to cause such carnage. I’m a supporter of the 2nd amendment, our right to bear arms under the US Constitution. My grandfather was a gun enthusiast, he owned guns to hunt and to protect his family. My father has owned a gun. I enjoy shooting and plan on taking gun lessons in the near future.
Reading the details of the Aurora shooting stirred up memories of the grandfather I was robbed from knowing. Out of emotion I tweeted, “There’s no reason for civilians to have assault weapons.” Afterwards, I was barraged with tweets, some full of disdain, but most from fellow conservatives seeking to educate how the term assault weapon is misleading. My good friend Val noted all guns are assault weapons because “guns serve only 1 purpose…to KILL whatever you aim at.” I’ve since learned assault weapon is a word coined by the military and co-opted by news media and used in the 1994 law to scare people about an “inanimate object” and vilify gun owners.
As San Jose Police Officer Leroy Pilepoints out in a video, fully automatic assault rifles are available only to the US military and law enforcement. He adds semi-automatic technology is over 100 years old and used in 20 million firearms, such as the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used by Holmes in his attack on 71 people. While semi-automatic guns are less powerful than assault weapons and gun owners argue they use them for hunting, prior to the expiration of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, guns like the AR-15 and AK-47 were banned and limited to holding 10 bullet magazines vs. the 100 bullet magazine Holmes was able to purchase.
Many hunters insist they use AR-15 rifles for hunting but I wondered why one needs 100 bullets per magazine to hunt game? A friend who serves in the Army educated me the Army’s “basic load” is seven 30 round magazines for a total of 210 rounds or bullets per magazine. A soldier often has one magazine loaded in the gun and carries six more. This puts a civilian using a 100 round magazine, which often jams in an AR-15, into perspective. Some gun owners question using semi-automatic guns like the AR-15 for hunting. My Army friend said “if the criminals in California, who think owning AK-47′s are cool because they saw it on TV or heard about it in a song are going to go the extra mile to get the bigger magazines. Why can’t law abiding citizens?” If the federal government and states start banning certain types of guns, I agree it’s a slippery slope to eliminating our 2nd amendment right.
Background checks are good but did nothing to detect Holmes’ derangement. We all know mad people will find a way to kill no matter what. But I found it troublesome Holmes was able to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition online in 60 days. Again, my astute Army friend educated me that professional shooters or aspiring marksman will shoot seven days a week, night and day, quickly burning through 6,000 rounds. However, he agreed Holmes’ huge purchase of rounds should have caught someone’s attention and perhaps warrants creating a monitoring system to track who is purchasing ammunition and the quantity.
The National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun rights advocate, needs to stop declining to comment on the Aurora massacre. A non-response is not sufficient for a vigorous defender of the 2nd amendment. Guns don’t kill; people use guns to kill and defend themselves against a target. I wish my grandfather had been able to kill those punks before they killed him but sometimes I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t reached for his gun. I will never know just like we will never know what would have happened in the movie theater if someone was armed with a gun to aim at Holmes. But we can ask questions, can’t we?