I was raised in a part of Georgia as saturated with conservative ideals as it was speckled with farms. And there were a lot of farms. Large, mud-covered trucks dominated the roads, and you had a better chance of seeing a horse trailer than a sports car. Now, my home may sound uncultured and simple, but Atlanta wasn’t more than 50 miles away. I am always reminded of Atlanta’s proximity when I return home to find the city chasing our rural surroundings further and further away.

Growing up on a farm gave my siblings and I the freedom to do a lot of things other children weren’t allowed to do—like riding ATVs and dirt bikes, hiking and using firearms. I was never aware that my father owned firearms until my siblings and I were old enough to understand the damage someone could cause with one. This was even when we weren’t allowed to see where they were kept. My father instructed my brother and I (my sister had no interest in learning to shoot) in firearm safety long before we ever laid a finger on one.

I have never feared firearms. Without people, they are nothing more than carefully machined metal. I have always made a point of staying away from people who don’t understand weapon safety rules. What I fear more than firearms is people. We don’t have a clearly marked and protected trigger with a safety switch. People go off without warning and there’s no way to tell in which direction they’re pointed.

I have been told many times from anti-firearm individuals that having any sort of firearm in a house increases the occupants’ chances of being killed by one. The American Journal of Epidemiology conducted a study that I thought would explain to me how this could be possible, but after reading it I felt tricked. Their study protocol oversampled the ethnicities and age groups that had the highest rates of gun homicide, which, in my opinion, reduces the overall validity of the study. There is no adjustment to the data for mental instability, prior criminal activity, or knowledge of firearms.

A Google search of any assortment of keywords such as “gun in home” yields hundreds of campaign ads about increased murder rates and family members killing each other. I have to wonder if the people publishing these ads truly believe in them. A firearm cannot function without someone to pull the trigger, so why don’t people focus on the perpetrator? I am sure that a study of cooks handling knives recklessly in their kitchen would show they are thousands of times more likely to cut themselves or others, yet no one is talking about knife control. People know how to safely use a knife and keep them away from those who don’t, which instills a sense of confidence in using and owning a knife. This same confidence of operation exists for firearms, but an increasing majority of Americans are never familiarized with guns and never develop any idea of how to safely use them.

How much longer can people blame inanimate objects for murder? Instead of having Democrats and Republicans fighting each other on gun control, why don’t they focus on the source of the problem—people? If firearms served only malicious purposes and the government assured me they could clear the entire United States of guns, I would happily vote to do so. However, firearms are frequently used in self-defense, and I do not assume the right to take away someone’s ability to defend themselves.

I would rather focus on something that all parties and decent citizens could agree on which is stopping the people who commit crimes, rather than the tools they use. When Congress and the executive branch are divided, as they have been on most issues in the past several years, nothing is accomplished. Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars debating gun control on the senate floor, why don’t the parties agree to tackle issues they agree on such as crime prevention and mental health system improvements? 

Thomas Fuller is a fourth year student and member of Richmond's Army ROTC Battalion. 

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