Opinion

Perceptions about guns in Federal Way | Guest column

This is from the Seattle Times: “Seattle police Officer Ian Birk, who fatally shot Native American woodcarver John T. Williams last summer, resigned after a firearms review panel ruled the shooting unjustified and the King County prosecutor announced that Birk would face no criminal charge...”

I grew up around guns. I got a rifle for Christmas when I was 12 without even asking for it. I was a crack shot. So was my brother, an expert marksman who served in Vietnam. Neither of us hunted, deciding instead to show our stuff at the range. Among the various colorful historical figures in which I’m interested are sharpshooters like Wild Bill Hickok. I also enjoy the TV programs featuring the best marksmen in the world.

When we had kids, my wife made something clear: “No guns in this house.” So, I applied what logic I could to the issue, and gave my guns away. I understood her concerns. And it wasn’t a big deal really. I didn’t need them.

But let’s get back to that story from the Seattle Times. That was a trained Seattle police officer. He failed the “shoot — or don’t shoot” rule. And someone died. The officer did not do this out of any kind of malice. My point is that if the police, being human, make mistakes like that, how can a gun-toting public be expected to show the kind of prudence that must go along with gun ownership? Some states are trying to pass laws allowing guns into bars and on college campuses. I don’t want to hear, “Well, it’s Texas, so what else is new?”

If it can happen there, it will happen elsewhere — especially in this climate of anger and distrust, and with our “us vs. them” mentality. As far as the issue of the “right to bear arms” goes, I’m going to need a better argument from the NRA and its advocates before I’m convinced that we’re better off as a society if we pack heat.

If, as I’ve heard is possible, an indoor firing range is brought to Federal Way, I will probably check it out and squeeze off a few rounds. I’m willing to give the gun owners the nod on this — if they will expend as much energy on the responsibility of gun ownership as they do on the alleged “right” of that ownership.

I say “alleged” because our gun laws are so loosely connected to the era in which those laws were forged. We’re not fighting the British nor the “Injuns.” Nor do many of us hunt for our own food. Are we supposed to arm ourselves to fight the evil terrorists? Seems to me that the only reason one might need to have a gun is to fend off the whacko who somehow got one and is now breaking into our home. A “gun for a gun” becomes the rule.

The gun lobby is as strong as a lobby gets. While I’m neither surprised nor impressed by that fact, it’s something we need to focus on. Guns are apparently here to stay. So, what are we going to do about it?

If the range proposal passes, Federal Way has a chance to set a standard — define what responsible gun ownership is supposed to mean. But if the only thing accomplished is getting more people to own more precious guns, it’s just a victory for those on one side of a difficult argument about public safety.

The big question is this: Are we better off by reducing the number of guns out there, or by increasing that number? We haven’t even factored in human egos and our arguments about our “God given rights.” It’s as much a philosophical issue as it is practical and legal.

C’mon, gun owners, prove my perceptions about your position wrong. Please.


Dave McKenzie is a Federal Way resident.

 

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