Culture / Politics

They're Not Coming to Take Your Guns

The idea that a democratic president will take your guns is an old idea... It hasn't happened yet.

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They’re Not Coming to Take Your Guns



I have Dudley Shimmel’s NRA lifetime membership pin. It’s all I have of him. Thinking of Dudley today.

I remember the day Chief Clark called me from Lawrence Township P.D. Strangely, there was only one number in Dud’s cell phone; Wayne, a friend of mine in Michigan. Wayne told Doug to call me with the news of my dearest friend’s passing.

At this very moment, Scott Crago is stopping what he’s doing in heaven and going, “Whaddyamean ‘dearest friend’?” Okay. It’s a tie. Both were outsized participants in my life.

I met Doug, who was a classmate of mine in the state police academy back in 1991, at Dudley’s house. They’d broken in because Dudley had not come to work that day at Jim’s Sports Center, where he sold hunting equipment. It wasn’t like him to miss a day at work.

I found George - I always called him by his first name - lying on his couch staring at the ceiling.

I mean, I knew the deal. As a state trooper, you deliver this news countless times over your career. It can be brutal, but you get used to being stoic so that you can help those people who look at you helpless in the middle of the night as they realize their lives are irreparably changed.

I sat down on the couch with him.

“Oh, George,” I breathed out. I leaned over and kissed his cold forehead and closed his eyes. There was no next of kin. I suppose I qualified. Many friends, Dudley had so many friends, helped with arrangements.

In going through his things, looking for insurance policies and such, I came upon a yellowed letter he’d put away thanking him for his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association. There was a pin in a tiny zip-lock bag. I took that. Didn’t think he’d begrudge me anything in the world.

I laughed to myself. Dud was a staunch second amendment guy. They never got his guns. In fact, his gun safe was so secure we couldn’t get into it to sell them off to raise money for his burial.

George Dudley Shimmel and I, best friends, disagreed on this issue. Well, not in the right to keep and bear arms. We agreed on that. But not on the notion that “they” were going to come and take your guns.

Friends. I am 59 years of age. I have been hearing this empty rhetoric all my life. Has not happened yet. Lately, given the hateful geopolitics, I’m hearing it again. A democratic president is going to come and take your guns. Friends. There are so many problems right now that taking your guns is about the last thing on anyone’s agenda. Nobody is going to take your guns. When someone closes my eyes, you’ll still have your guns.

The only thing to staunch the endless procession of mass shooters in this country has been the COVID virus, not some act of Congress.

Nobody is coming to take your guns. It is an emotional argument. It is not a factual one. It plays on your fears, not your rational mind. In 59 years of living, I’ve never seen it happen. That’s empiric evidence. Has anyone taken your gun from you in your life?

Go out today and buy a nice Glock 9. Hurry. Promise, they’ll still be on the shelves.

You know, I really don’t think a new president is going to change anything. I hope for systemic change, but, sadly, Joe Biden is not the avatar of the changes I think need to happen. And those changes have nothing to do with whether or not you own guns.

One change we can maybe make, you and I, that would be hopeful, is that we treat each other with love, kindness and respect and not barricade ourselves behind emotional arguments that really have nothing to do with our lives.

George Dudley Shimmel and I disagreed on something that did not change our love for each other.

I have Dudley Shimmel’s NRA lifetime membership pin. It’s all I have of him. I turn it over in my hands and for a moment I have him back again.

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X, with a charming story, begs the gun debate that has ravaged America. It is one niggling detail among the many that we choose to use as meaningless dividing lines in our culture.

It is constitutional to keep and bear arms. It is an American RIGHT. So be it. We are so proud of our rights in this country. What about our responsibilities? I think it is unwritten law, implied law, that rights come with duties of responsibility.

The hole, I believe, in the gun lobby's rationale, as in many of the rights we enjoy, is that we are fond of the rights we have but not with the corresponding responsibilities. We're like a child with a new Red Rider 200 Shot Range Model Air-Rifle, never pausing for a moment to think: "You'll shoot your eye out."

The way I was raised was that firearms were tools of hunting and there were safety measures, the way you operated, held and the way you walked with a rifle. And God forbid the whipping I'd get if I ever muzzled a person even - especially - in jest. Just holding a rifle in your hands was a trust.

The NRA used to believe this when they were advocates for education and safety and before they became a political tool.

It used to be that you had a responsibility when you carried a firearm. Perhaps this responsibility is getting lost in the shouting over your constitutional right.

There is nothing wrong with licensing and registering your firearm. You license your matrimony. You license your home. Your automobile. Because these are things you want to be responsible for. You insure these things against loss, theft or damage. The reason it is a crime to scrape off a serial number is because the act of removing a serial number implies someone does not want to be held responsible for the use of the weapon for some reason.

The registration of firearms helps police. The clearing of back-ground checks helps police. We want to make sure a person who purchases a firearm is not a criminal. But what happens when someone later BECOMES a criminal?

Why don't you have to buy insurance with a gun? Maybe you should have to. Maybe there should be a new crime authored: "Failure to Secure A Firearm" so that those whose firearms fall to criminal use might be prosecuted. You have a right to a firearm. You have a corresponding responsibility to care for the safe use of that firearm, do you not?

You should have a right to have an AR-15. But loathe to you if your firearm is not secured and is taken and used in a crime. If your firearm is used in a crime, you SHOULD lose your right to keep and bear arms, don't you think?

I think it logical that if the purchase of such firearms are legal, then they should have a corresponding price tag to insure them. The NRA and Allstate. What a team! And, perhaps, if you were a member of a rifle club, where your firearm could be safely stored and signed out for use, perhaps you could escape the insurance cost. Such an idea would be a boon to the ideas of rifle clubs which used to exist in our grade schools. Perhaps the NRA could get behind such a thing to propel a new renaissance in gun clubs. A new awareness of firearm safety rather than parading out in the media after every horrific killing spree and saying it is "too soon" to talk about meaningful legislation.

The NRA used to stand FOR firearm responsibility rather than AGAINST it.

All our rights work this way. You have a right to free speech AND a responsibility not to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater. You have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and a responsibility not to hurt anyone in the pursuit.

You've got these rights. You need to accept the responsibility too.

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