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    Posted December 24, 2012 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Gun control debate: Background checks

    My Heritage

    A lot of sons grow up playing catch in the back yard with their dad. I never did, I played lacrosse and my father never could get the hang of it but, he and I had a different pastime.

    Me and my Dad took weekend trips to the gun range from the time I was 5 years old. With my father, 3 uncles and grandfather to guide me I learned how to be safe and responsible all while being a great shot. Whenever the family would visit we would take a family trip to the shooting range and have fun and see who could out shoot the other. When I was little I never saw a gun as a dangerous or evil thing. To me a gun represented fun times and family gatherings.

    On my 16th birthday I got my first rifle. A Remington 700 chambered in 308 Winchester. From then on I was really hooked. Not only did I like shooting the handful of guns my dad owned, I wanted to shoot and own more. Since that time I've amassed a small collection of my own. Nothing big. I'm 23 and just removed from my college days, but I still manage to squeeze a firearm purchase or two into my budget every year.

    The Remington 700 also opened me up to another hobby that went along with shooting, gunsmithing. I'm not a professional by any means but I've worked on and improved just about every weapon I have owned. From basic cosmetic changes, glass bedding, stock changes and some trigger work on a few handguns I have learned a lot. It has been loads of fun and currently I am working on building my first AR.

    Now that I am older I see a gun as nothing more than a tool that a person uses. I use a gun to have fun, target shooting and hanging out with friends. I also use a gun for defense, to protect not only myself but my family. And soon I will use a gun for work, not just play. I guess thats the other thing you should know about my family. Every generation has fought in an American conflict since the Revolution. My great great great uncles and grandfather were all Texas Rangers or US Marshals in the 1870s and 1880s. My family still owns several of the weapons that they carried during that time. An 1873 Winchester sits in my Dad's safe at home, it's a family heirloom along with the Colt Single Action Army aka "the peacemaker" that is now in my possession. I shortly will be following in their footsteps.

    Guns, whether people like them or not are part of American history, and that is what fascinates me the most about them. I am a huge history buff and guns play a huge role in our history. No other country on the planet shares a tie to firearms like our country does. We are a nation founded by guns. We took our independence with guns, we stole the west from Mexico with guns, and we settled the west with guns. Our history and the history of firearms are intertwined. I buy a lot of weapons because of their historical value, not because they are lethal killing machines. Holding a weapon in your hand that someone had in theirs on some rock in the Pacific fighting the Japanese brings on a sense of awe that I cannot describe. Firearms to me are a functioning piece of history.

    All that being said I don't think banning people from having weapons will fix anything. Criminals don't obey laws. Look at Washington DC itself. 22 people per 100,000 die from gun violence in that city yet you weren't even until recently allowed to concealed carry a handgun there. Obviously strict gun laws don't work. Banning hi-cap magazines won't work either, it just means some crazy person will have to reload more often.

    If you want to stop mass shootings this is how you do it.

    1. mandatory firearms safety courses. Before anyone is allowed to purchase a weapon they need to pass a safety class. At the end of the class if they pass they are given a permit and that permit to purchase firearms lasts several years before needing to be renewed. You should also have to pass a background check and a brief psych workup first.

    2. Better mental health system. Simple, make access to help easier and start screening kids for possible problems in school. If a child exhibits problems they don't need to be treated like a leper, get them the help they need and help them lead as normal a life as possible. A lot of people look down on mental illness in this country and if that wasn't the case these people and parents would probably be more willing to get help for themselves or their kids. Tragedies like this latest one would have been avoided.

    3. Stop blaming the tool. Banning guns is just a knee-jerk reaction to these shootings. A gun is nothing more than a tool. It's like hitting your thumb with a hammer while driving a nail and blaming the hammer. It's not the hammers fault, it's the persons. If you want to solve these issues you need to delve deeper into it than just looking at the gun and saying "well thats the whole problem right there". We should be thankful this kid wasn't smart enough to pack a van full of fertilizer and diesel fuel and then blow it up at the school. Banning a tool won't solve the issue after all it's just a tool.

    We need to get off the discussion of banning guns and look at the real problems here. Our nations' mental health system and our lack of understanding and tolerance to the mentally ill. Look at all of the shootings and what do they have in common besides the gun? Mental illness. Getting these people help will do far more good than banning any weapon.

    Finally I just want to say a simple $400 investment in a gun safe could have saved a lot of lives in Newark, the mother's life included.
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