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Giving Up My Guns

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

I’m a retired cop and I’m giving up my guns. I’ve never liked guns and only owned them because of my job. For the past 16 years I’ve been a local police chief. During that time the escalation in the number of gun-related deaths in the United States has soared beyond anything I could ever have imagined. Gun ownership in this country of 332 million is estimated to be 394 million. That’s about 1.2 guns for every man, woman and child.

So far in 2023 there have been 7,627 deaths from gun violence in this country. As of today there have been 104 mass shootings in the US and a total of 3,271 deaths (not counting suicides) resulting from gun violence. Children under the age of 11 account for 42 of these with an additional 106 injured; teens under 18 account for 265 deaths with an additional 644 injured. Sixty five police officers have been killed or injured by gun wielding assailants.

My dislike for guns probably began as a child when my father insisted on taking my brother and me to hunt rabbits in the middle of winter. The shotgun scared me and hurt my shoulder when I finally raised the weapon and fired it. I couldn’t bear the thought of killing a bunny in any way, much less with that shotgun.

It seems to me that Americans have been convinced by the gun lobby that they should live in fear. But the numbers don’t support that premise. There is less than a 1 in 50,000 chance (based on previous full-calendar year statistics) that anyone will be shot. There’s a greater likelihood of dying in a car crash. And yet, we are convinced that we need to carry guns, and everyone seems to believe that if they are confronted with a weapon bearing assailant they will be able to retrieve their weapon and successfully defend themselves. Maybe folks have been watching too much television and too many movies because it simply doesn’t work that way in real life.

My conversations with the Second Amendment contingent have been disturbing at best. Each of them supports a literal and absolute reading of the Second Amendment without any consideration of the culture and context of it’s writing. While sticking to this line of thinking, none of them will acknowledge any other of the Bill of Rights that are absolute. And none of them can acknowledge that the Bill of Rights was crafted during a period of our history when African-Americans were, as a matter of law, only three fifths of a person and women couldn’t vote. In most respects, save for the Second Amendment and America’s love affair with guns, we’ve moved well beyond those days.

I’ve had officers in my department who strap on a weapon any time they step outside, even to cut the grass or have a cold glass of tea on the patio. What are they afraid of?

I’ve always been an outlier as a chief and love to have conversation about controversial issues. One morning over coffee with my deputy chief we were discussing gun ownership and gun violence; I mentioned that I don’t think police in the US should generally be carrying guns. I referenced the UK where only select members of specialty units are issued firearms. My colleague, without thinking, said “yes, but the gun laws there are more strict.” Exactly! The US has the highest gun ownership per capita of all countries in the world; 1.2 guns for every living person. The UK has 0.04 guns per capita and very restrictive laws about who can carry a weapon.

One afternoon with several of my officers at lunch someone raised the gun issue and the Second Amendment. I simply said that I wished no one had guns, and was promptly asked who I thought should be able to carry guns. When I said that only the police should be able to carry guns one of my sergeants abruptly stood up and walked out, leaving his meal on the table. And this is someone who could very easily be shot intentionally or accidentally by some Rambo wannabe.

In my home state of Kentucky one of our state legislators who hails from the land of US Rep. Thomas Massie (look him up) has proposed that 18 year olds, yes, that’s right, be allowed to own and carry concealed weapons AND that anyone should be able to carry weapons on school grounds and in public buildings. This same legislator and her minions support legislation to prevent gender-affirming care, even with parental approval, for anyone under the age of 18. The National Institute of Health says that “the prefrontal cortex is known to be the higher-order association center of the brain as it is responsible for decision making, reasoning, personality expression, maintaining social appropriateness, and other complex cognitive behaviors” but doesn’t fully develop until about 25. So, she wants to let teens without fully developed prefrontal cortexes carry weapons but not make decisions about their own gender identification as though their brains are developed just enough when they turn 18 to make life and death decisions about who to kill with a gun, but not developed sufficiently to make decisions about their own health. By the way, auto insurance underwriters rate 18 year olds the way they do because they make more poor decisions. This exemplifies just how powerful the gun lobby can be.

There is nothing good to come from expanding gun rights. Manufacturers of guns and ammunition increase profits while Americans continue to suffer and grieve from gun violence.

I was a cop for most of my adult life, but I’m giving up my guns.

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