Gun ownership and civil liberties
By Gena Mangiaratti
As I pointed the gun down range, trying to exact the position of the bright red dot on the bull’s eye, I was hesitant to pull the trigger, even if it was just at a paper target 20 feet away. The first time I pulled the trigger, I was taken aback by the bang—no, more than a bang, a debris-less explosion—that sounded from this small but heavy machine in my hands, which before this day had been in many ways foreign to me.
I decided to follow my father, who keeps a gun in the house for protection, to the Smith & Wesson headquarters in Springfield, Mass., to better understand what draws my father and other gun owners to shoot here on a regular basis. One of the reasons that some gun owners, like my father, come is to practice their aim for self-defense purposes. Others, such as gun owner Gary Isom, shoot only for sport.
After witnessing the gun owners’ intensity while shooting at the range, I can understand why restricting them could cause a frenzy.
When Barack Obama was elected president, many gun owners became concerned over how their gun rights would be affected. Two days later, The New York Times reported the sales of guns, rifles and ammunition to have surged, and by February 2009, the Orlando Sentinel reported bullet shortages across the state of Florida.
What would “break the gun owner’s back,” Isom said, would be to make it harder to purchase bullets, which can be made significantly more expensive or regulating where they can be sold.
However, now over a year since Obama has been in office, gun owners continue to be able to keep their guns and purchase bullets. Last year, Obama signed a law allowing guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains.
Still, some gun owners remain uneasy.
“The watchword for gun owners is stay ready,” said Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, an organization devoted to keeping gun ownership rights, in The New York Times in February. “We have had some successes, but we know that the first chance Obama gets, he will pounce on us.”
While the NRA strongly believes in individuals’ rights to gun ownership, others, like the American Civil Liberties Union, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting civil liberties, think the Second Amendment was written for the collective.
“If the framers had wanted there to be no regulation of guns, they could have written the Second Amendment the way they wrote the First,” said ACLU of Massachusetts Communications Director Christopher Ott. “They didn’t talk about a ‘well regulated’ press or freedom of speech—but they did for weapons.”
Some gun owners, however, such as my father, Alan Mangiaratti, did not feel concern when Obama took office because he believes that the selling of guns shouldn’t go unregulated.
My father explained how gun mishaps are avoided in states such as Massachusetts, which require background checks and require a gun safety lessons before a gun permit is obtained.
“Not everybody should be able to get a gun,” he said. “There has to be a registration process and an education process.”
Still, my father wants the right to keep a gun for self-defense.
“If somebody comes into my house with a gun or a knife, I don’t want to be the only one without a weapon,” he said “I think there are going to be less home invasions if people don’t know whether or not they’re going to a house that has a weapon.”
At the same time, some gun owners, such as Isom, don’t own a gun for self-defense. He simply keeps his guns as part of a collection and only uses them for sport at the range.
“It’s definitely not self-defense,” said Isom, who is married with two daughters. “If anybody were to break into my house, believe it or not, it would take me roughly 20 minutes to get the gun unlocked, to go all the way down three flights of stairs to the basement, where the bullets are, and now ‘hold on a second I got to load it now.’ So it’s definitely not for self-protection. That’s why I have a dog.”
Before visiting the gun range, when I would hear the word “gun” I would flinch with discomfort. After spending time at the range, I tried to better understand how gun owners could value the weapon as simply the tool for a hobby. Although my feelings on gun ownership haven’t transformed, I believe the experience was important. Perhaps attempting to embody the views of a contrasting opinion will allow us to better formulate ideas on how to better deal with gun ownership.
Gena Mangiaratti is a freshman journalism major who may not love guns, but was a sharpshooter at the range. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.