What Does It Mean to Be a Responsible Gun Owner in America?

Published: Jun 1, 2022  |  

Bestselling comic book and television writer

I was planning a big surprise for my seven-year-old to kick off her summer vacation. I was—and am—so excited to do something for her that I know she will love involving a few of her favorite people. I was giddy thinking about what a great summer she will have. That same day, a few hours later, an 18-year-old went inside an elementary school and viciously murdered 19 elementary school children and two of their teachers, while the “good guys with guns”—the police—waited outside and allowed the little ones to die. I think about all the parents of these precious children and the hopes and dreams and plans they had for their own beloved babies, big dreams and little dreams, and there are not enough words for the heartbreak. There shouldn’t be any words, because this should never happen. And yet, it happens in this nation, our nation, at an alarming rate. It doesn’t happen like this anywhere else in the world.

I don’t want to start this piece with a preface, I want to drop into real tangible action that we can take to save the lives of our kids (and I will), but as an American, I feel that, in order to be heard, I first need to explain my own personal relationship with guns. 

I have had mostly positive interactions with firearms. I grew up around guns. I’ve taken multiple concealed carry courses. As a teenager and young adult, I carried guns in my car, had one in my bedroom closet, in my purse, and went shooting at a local range. I used guns responsibly and never harmed anyone. I was, however, taught how to harm someone if I needed to for self-defense and self-defense only. I had fun bonding with grandfather and my great uncle at the range. My grandfather used to brag that, as a teen girl, I could outshoot some of his fellow Marines. I’ve also seen and been around very, very irresponsible gun owners who brandished their weapons haphazardly. I’ve been around usually responsible gun owners who made mistakes and left loaded weapons near some curious children. Can that still be called responsible? That’s the thing. Mistakes with guns are often unfixable.

So, let’s talk about what it means to be a responsible gun owner, because what is happening right now in our nation is not responsible. Our job as adults is to protect our children, our nation’s children, and we are failing. Do you know what the leading cause of deaths in children and young adults in the United States is? Firearms. More than car accidents. More than disease. More than drowning. Guns. That’s not okay. Not one child death is okay, and these deaths are entirely preventable. 

I know people are prone to jump quickly into politicized arguments, tossing aside their humanity to fight for their “side,” but I do think we all can agree that a nation where we have slaughtered innocent children is wrong, awful, and bad. A nation with slaughtered, innocent grocery shoppers, killed by a racist is wrong and bad… people being murdered in churches and temples and concerts and nightclubs is wrong and bad…. The list is endless, because we have had so many mass shootings, we don’t even have a chance to get the victims buried before the next one occurs.

I will also admit that it sometimes feels like an impossible and lost cause. When we didn’t change anything after Sandy Hook, my faith in our collective humanity was shaken to its core. But here is the truth: Things absolutely CAN change. Don’t let anyone tell you “This is just the way it is in this country. It’s too baked into the core of our culture.” It’s not. Nothing is. This country was founded on the principle that that kind of thinking is BULLSHIT. A true patriot wants what is best for our country. A true patriot wants our children’s right to life to be as protected as their right to liberty so that they can live into adulthood and pursue happiness. That’s justice.

We also do this all the time. Not so very long ago, for example, I would not have been able to vote. We outlawed slavery, though we are still far from finished grappling with the painful legacy of those evils. We shut down schools for a year for a disease that is far less fatal to children than gun violence. We require car seats, seatbelts, driver’s licenses, training, and tests plus liability insurance for cars, because they can kill (though unlike guns, are not primarily designed to do so). We recall toys and treadmills. We still check shoes on planes. Despite what Lauren Boebert very ridiculously said, we’ve permanently changed the way we travel since 9/11. We even created a whole new administration. Yes, only two months after 9/11, we created the Aviation and Transportation Security Act and established the TSA, which did not even exist before that time. So yes, we do update laws and respond to tragedies and make changes.

Yes, we have a Second Amendment right to bear arms just like we have a right to eat food and sustain life and travel and start businesses. And you know what? That doesn’t mean a right to those things without regulation. There is a reason, for example, that the rights guaranteed to American citizens doesn’t translate to your next door neighbor being allowed to collect nuclear bombs. We should all be grateful for such limitations.

Does that mean no one has ever illegally made a bomb? Ah, the popular “criminals don’t follow laws so then only criminals would have guns” argument! If anyone really believed that, we would not have any laws. 

Laws make it more difficult to get illegal objects and mean illegal objects can be taken and criminals charged sometimes before a violent act takes place. The kid walking down the street with an AR-15 in an open carry state isn’t doing anything illegal until someone has been shot. If you don’t believe laws work, there is proof that they do. Look at countries with more gun laws and you will find wildly less criminals committing gun crime there. This is even true within US States. Tougher gun laws directly correlate with less gun violence per 100,000 people. So let’s stop pretending that asking to make it more difficult for a guy who wants to go murder innocent elementary school kids to do so is unreasonable.

The reason this doesn’t happen anywhere else in the entire world is not because we are a more murderous people. Most Americans want to protect our children, not harm them.  It’s also not because the other nations do a better job traumatizing their kids with more lockdown drills. I mean, here we are as parents worrying about the psychological effect of wearing masks in classrooms and this is happening?! 

And what about those “good guys with guns” to protect our kids? The way the police in Uvalde failed—no, actively refused—to go in and save those children has destroyed any hope I had in that concept. There is nothing I could wish on those cowardly officers that would be horrific enough, because I would never wish harm on their children. I believe the right thing to do would be to sacrifice my own adult body to save their children. That is my point. Those officers failed to do their duty in deeply immoral ways. We also have a moral duty to all American children, and we are also failing them in deeply immoral ways.

So, let’s stand up and be responsible. Let’s be the adults in the room. Let’s close domestic violence loopholes for gun ownership. Let’s require licensing and liability insurance for any gun owner. If you have a gun that is used in a crime, your insurance rate skyrockets, and you can’t afford to own a gun. Even if you aren’t committing the crime, if someone else gets access to your firearm, you aren’t being responsible. Let’s stop illegal private sales. Here in California, we’ve just passed a gun control bill allowing private citizens to file suit for at least $10,000 against anyone who makes or sells untraceable ghost guns or illegal assault weapons. Again, if you are doing things above board, no reason to worry. Let’s raise the age limits for gun ownership excluding military service, and let’s limit ammo purchases. Let’s limit magazine capacity and make it harder to kill so many people, so quickly.

None of this should impact a responsible gun owner at all. If you can pass a background check, are responsible enough to carry insurance and can safely store your guns, if you only own guns and/or modifications needed in the case of hunting or self-defense, such new regulations should be fine. I’m not talking about what you want to do. I’m talking about what is the responsible thing to do. I’m talking about not being those shitty officers in Uvalde who tarnish the names of officers who are brave. 

Yes, I also think we should ban AR-15s. Think of it as a recall, since way, way, way too many unnecessary deaths have occurred as a result of these weapons— more than any head of bad lettuce or faulty car parts. No civilian needs one. I have relatives who own AR-15s. I understand they may seem “fun” to collect. You don’t need it to hunt, you don’t need it to protect your family. Side note: if your main goal is to protect your family, research shows that having a gun in your house actually does the opposite. Your family is statistically less safe when a gun is there. If you still feel the need to have one for your home, please protect your precious family with safe storage. 

So here you are, a responsible gun owner, or just any responsible American, who is sickened by the horrific deaths of these children and you want to help. Good news: there are tangible things you can do.

First, you can contact your representatives. You can have an organization like Everytown contact them on your behalf with this simple form, or call the Senate directly at 202-224-3121 and tell them to act on gun and gun violence immediately. Specifically, you can ask them to support the Manchin-Toomey Bill to expand background checks for gun sales. You can also look up and contact your representatives by email and phone here. Additionally, you can join and donate to organizations like Moms Demand Action, Everytown, or Sandyhook Promise.

The most important thing you can do is contact your legislators and get involved with your time, money, and by signing petitions and spreading factual, well-researched information on social media. Contact your local school board too and see what protections the schools have in place, and if there is anything additional that could be fundraised to help. I don’t recommend this because I want school teachers, principals and administrators to have to worry about this issue, but while we work on fixing the problem, we also need to do what we can to mitigate future tragedies.

Take action and be a true patriot. Let’s work together to save our kids.

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