UNI­LAT­ERAL DIS­AR­MA­MENT

I wanted to be a re­spon­si­ble gun owner. So I took apart my gun.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

Iam a re­spon­si­ble gun owner. I bought my first gun when I was 12. It was a Brown­ing 12-gauge shot­gun, and I saved money from my pa­per route and clean­ing a drive-in restau­rant to buy it in time for dove sea­son. In the years be­fore I could le­gally drive, I’d tie the Brown­ing across the han­dle­bars of my bike and ride to the fields out­side town to hunt.

I’ve owned sev­eral guns since — deer ri­fles and tar­get ri­fles, shot­guns and a hand­gun. I bought that gun, a semi­au­to­matic Ruger, to keep my fam­ily safe, and locked it up to keep them safe from it. Like I said, re­spon­si­ble.

Al­though I’d like to be­lieve I’m not party to the gun vi­o­lence that stains the United States, I can’t. My grand­mother shot and killed her­self with a gun, and a few years ago my fa­ther shot and didn’t quite kill him­self with one. A fam­ily friend lost a teenage son in an ac­ci­den­tal shoot­ing while he and his friends were play­ing with a gun. My step­brother died in a mur­der­sui­cide with a gun, and the hus­band of one of my sis­ter’s co-work­ers was killed in a mass shoot­ing by a guy car­ry­ing three of them.

None of that hap­pened with my gun, of course, but af­ter ev­ery new mass shoot­ing, I’m re­minded that I, as a re­spon­si­ble gun owner, bear a por­tion of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for our na­tion’s gun vi­o­lence.

And now it’s time for re­spon­si­ble gun own­ers to help end it.

Af­ter the re­cent shoot­ing at Um­pqua Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Ore­gon — af­ter ev­ery mass shoot­ing on a col­lege cam­pus, at a movie theater, in an ele­men­tary school or wher­ever — some­one from the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion or some other gun-rights group, or some­one in Congress or run­ning for pres­i­dent, goes on tele­vi­sion and says we can’t fund fed­eral stud­ies on gun vi­o­lence or have uni­ver­sal back­ground checks of gun buy­ers or do any­thing that even hints of gun con­trol be­cause it in­fringes on the rights of re­spon­si­ble gun own­ers.

My gun is be­ing used to ar­gue against do­ing any­thing to even try to re­duce gun vi­o­lence in then­ation.That’swhat­bein­gare­spon­si­ble­gun owner means now — I’m re­spon­si­ble.

I’m a bit ashamed of how slowly I came to that real­iza­tion. For most of my life, I never thought about guns, and I cer­tainly didn’t weigh in on the gun con­trol de­bate. Un­til re­cently, I didn’t even con­nect the tragedies in and around my fam­ily to guns.

COUR­TESY OF STEVE EL­LIOTT

The Mon­day af­ter the re­cent mass shoot­ing in Ore­gon, the author dis­as­sem­bled his gun and sent the proper pa­per­work to the state to re­port it de­stroyed.

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