It is hard to think of anything but Las Vegas today. The gun issue, which is so divisive in Virginia, is regarded as a litmus test for politicians. I have been advised many times not to speak out against weapons. After Las Vegas, however, we all must speak up, together, against this senseless violence.
I grew up in a household of hunters. The gun issue in my house was gun safety, not gun ownership. We all learned to shoot and how to hit the ducks and pheasants, not our fellow hunters. But there is a great difference between owning a 12- or 16-gauge shotgun and owning an arsenal of weapons of war. So let’s make that distinction and make laws accordingly.
As a journalist, I covered the wars in Afghanistan (3 of them), Iraq (2 wars), Somalia, Colombia (2 wars), Central America and Cambodia. I have dodged mortars, rockets, AK fire, RPGs, cluster bombs, land mines, IEDs, anti-aircraft weapons (fired at ground level in Somalia), 1000 lb bombs dropped from MIGs in Kabul (’96, Taliban invasion) and SCUD missiles. I have watched the disintegration of whole cities into free-fire zones. This is not something we want to see in the United States.
So let’s demand some changes. We must ban large capacity ammunition magazines. There is absolutely no need for these, ever. We must not allow the sale of weapons designed for our armed forces and foreign troops. Why are assault weapons and machine guns on the street? Automatic weapons are illegal but it is too easy to convert semi-automatic weapons. We need universal background checks, including private sales and gun shows, and flags for mentally ill purchasers. We need to stop the relentless pursuit of arsenals for all.
My grandfather was a Marine in WWI. He was a sharpshooter who won a Silver Star for crossing the front line, “swept by enemy machine gun fire” to clean out an enemy sniper post. His citations for “conspicuous gallantry” and bravery were signed by Pershing and Lejeune. He would have been appalled at the massacre in Las Vegas. Some weapons belong on the battlefield, not at home.