I've generally been neutral on guns most of my life. I grew up around, and shooting, firearms when I was younger, but tended to distance myself from them. I was always more interested in developing technologies, science clubs, math clubs, and most things nerd-like. Guns were neat, the physics behind them are amazing, but it just wasn't my thing.
As I grew older, I grew farther away from the use of guns. I associated them predominately with killing, a trend that current media seems to propagate, and failed to recognize any positives from their true existence. I acknowledged that some used them for sport, that hunting is a method of sustaining a family for some, and that predators such as wolves and coyotes need to be taken care of. Outside of that, I couldn't fathom why anyone in their right mind would want to wander about with a tool, built purely for the purpose of killing, strapped to their hip.
On June 12th, my fears were affirmed. My disposition on guns was left completely validated. I was angry. I saw two of my friends killed in the Pulse nightclub. They weren't gay, and they weren't latino. They were, however, American. They went that night to support a friend of theirs, who had recently come to terms with her sexuality. Their loss was at the hands of a madman. Terrorism struck 25 minutes from my house.
I became angry. I began to shift farther to the left, and I began to justify the meaninglessness of the 2nd amendment. I justified, in my head, how technology had changed the need, effectiveness, and use of guns in our nation. No longer do you have to ride on horseback for three hours to get to a town 15 minutes away by car. So why do we still have these clearly primitive, useless tools of destruction? Guns, most assuredly, were the problem. They were the cause of all of the chaos in the world, and recently, in my life.
A week later, my parents called me. Being in my mid-twenties, they're still very active in my life, which I generally appreciate. They're very conservative, and my step-father has a sizable gun collection. Turns out, they had purchased me a gun. It was waiting at a local FFL for me to sign the paperwork. I didn't want it. So, I hatched a plan. I went to fill out the paperwork, and was told I needed to wait three days (Florida law), before I could pick it up. I settled on finding a buyer for the gun, and I wouldn't have it long. It's a cheap gun, a SCCY, but I figured I could take my wife out to a nice dinner. But I'd be damned if I was going to let it stay in my house for long.
I went to the range three days later to pick up the gun. The salesman offered to teach me the basics of shooting, something they do with every gun they sell or transfer. I politely declined. I wanted to keep the gun "out of box new," but he insisted. He even threw in two boxes of ammo so I could get comfortable with it. He was a genuinely kind fellow, and we talked about more than just guns - that surprised me. I thought gun owners were gun nuts. I thought the craze of gun ownership was a requisite if you owned one, just ask any one of a dozen media networks.
So we fired, he helped me sight the gun in, and went through a hundred rounds in about an hour. It was fun, mostly thanks to his company, but I was still turned off to the ownership of a gun. I would spend the next few weeks seeking a buyer.
One month and two days later, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, more than 80 innocent civilians would lose their lives in a blatant, tragic, and merciless attack. One lone wolf would destroy the lives of countless families. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, infants, indiscriminate. The attack would be over in under ten minutes, a minuscule fraction of the time that it took the Pulse attack to end. The lone wolf never fired a gunshot. Instead, he used a box truck to kill nearly a hundred innocent people, celebrating their countries independence. It was another tragic attack, but this one was different.
We're used to hearing about guns and explosives in these attacks. It's almost a given that any attack on civilians would be the result of a gun. Yet, here, for the first time I can recall in my adult life, a terror attack was efficiently carried out without a single gunshot fired by the assailant. It didn't make sense. I should mention here that I've studied the french language and culture for more than 8 years. I've visited France, and I have photos from the same promenade that the attack occurred on. Again, this struck me close to home.
I've been told over and over that guns are the problem. I'd believed it. I was a sheep in the heard, blindly following the wolves into the cave. My trust was naive, complaint, and ignorant. This one event began to unravel all of that. There was no gun. There was no lead flying out of the "dangerous assault rifle." There was no picture of bullet holes anywhere but into the cab of the truck. And yet, we don't see that on the six o'clock news. We don't hear about how "truck regulation" will save innocent American lives from these kinds of attacks. Because the problem isn't the truck, and the problem isn't the gun.
Two days later I began training. I took my first gun safety course since I was a child, and shortly after I took my first tactical training class. I applied for my Florida CCW Permit on the 4th of this month, and I've joined the NRA. I did this because I began to study. I looked outside of the traditional methods of mass communication to the public. I've begun to understand the impact that gun ownership really has. I've acknowledge my previous held beliefs are wrong.
If you ask me today, yes, I'm still a liberal. I still hold liberal beliefs on a wide range of topics. Just leave my second amendment alone. I'm inside the halls of the liberal establishment, sitting at the outcast table in the lunchroom. I'm one of them, but I'm not with them -- not on this. I was lied to.
As a community, it comes to us to responsibly understand why others are afraid. We can't fight fear with facts. Facts aren't relatable. They don't carry emotion. They don't reach out, and are quickly dismissible. But we can act responsibly. We can see something and say something. We can seek to patrol our community from the inside out. We can get our depressed friend, who just lost his wife in an accident, the help he needs. Perhaps we can offer safe harbor for his weapons until he feels ready to face the world again, so his kids don't grow up without a father. We can raise the alarm to local authorities on that one fellow who keeps asking all of the wrong questions down at the range. We can act, and responsibly change public opinion.
It's the beginning of a journey, and there's a lot to learn. But the prospect of what this change of mind has opened up to me is exciting. I will work responsibly to change public opinion. I will work to help others. I will enjoy the sport and all it affords me.
I was wrong. And yes, I'm a Democrat.