Charles N. Lloyd with a trophy elk, 1941
My late father attempted to educate his oldest son about automatic weapons early. His concern and explanation seemed to be—to a first grader—that machine guns might be used to attack the state capitol in our home town, therefore, they were illegal.
But dad was definitely a gun guy. A lifelong hunter of deer, pheasants and occasionally ducks. A World War II vet and later reserve officer, he regularly trekked off to Fort Leavenworth during the summer for competitive shooting. A lifetime National Rifle Association member, who taught his sons about gun safety and how to shoot, he amassed a modest collection of rifles, shotguns and a few pistols over many decades. I never sensed he had any desire or need to add automatic weapons to that small arsenal. I suspect he would have felt—as used to be the prevailing view—that this would be unsportsmanlike.
That first grader went on to draftee Army service during Vietnam and only very limited non-combat experience with the M-16, the result of research showing that in combat, many troops never fired their weapons, since they were busy keeping their heads down to avoid incoming rounds. Weapons like the M-16 and AK-47 let them lay down a lethal amount of fire with a lot less risk. Troops nicknamed the selector switch enabling automatic fire “rock and roll.”
Concern with marksmanship became sort of old school except for snipers.
Meanwhile, over the years, the NRA became more and bellicose, demanding loosening or elimination of gun laws and of course gaining more and more revenue for its magazine through gun manufacturer advertising.
The organization has had particular success in recent years, with its intense political lobbying and PR campaigns producing lots of changes, including a re-jiggering of the 2nd amendment by the U.S. Supreme Court to enshrine virtually unlimited gun rights in law.
State lawmakers have made concealed carry of weapons commonplace across the U.S. and—with the NRA looking over their shoulders—appear to be working hard to eliminate any control or restrictions. In many states, a concealed weapon may be carried into a church or a legislative chamber, though the foolish lawmakers who brought this about may live to regret it.
If you wanted a semi-automatic weapon in the pre-internet days, American Rifleman and similar magazines were the place to go for parties such as Charles Whitman and Lee Harvey Oswald. In the 1960s Whitman took out 17 people from a tower in Austin, Texas and Oswald, President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.
But as events in Las Vegas have just demonstrated, in 2017, you don’t need even minimal marksmanship to kill dozens, using hardware readily available from your favorite merchant online, with the blessings of the NRA.
At some point this gets to be too much, at least for law abiding gun enthusiasts and it happened with my dad, when he learned back in the late 80s that the NRA was advocating legal armor piercing bullets as part of its still ongoing Second Amendment campaign. Of course he never shared that with his son, not an active gun user, who learned about it from his mother.
You see, my father had started his career as a game warden and he knew full well that armor piercing rounds weren’t intended for the pursuit of squirrels or other small game. In that hazardous line of work, wardens regularly get killed in the woods with high-powered deer rounds. Even a bullet-proof vest would offer no protection against the armor piercing rounds.
I would like to think that my father, were he still around, would look at the carnage—murdered concert goers, kindergartners, church goers—the list goes on and on—and conclude something more than private grumbling would have to be done. Of course, I feel the same way about the legislators and our current president.
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