With news of mass shootings throughout the country, the past few weeks have been devastating and disturbing. Before I continue, I've got to state this very clearly: Killing is wrong. Since before the Ten Commandments were written in stone, murder has been against the law.
Writing about this is hard because I am a compassionate person. I feel badly for those who have lost loved ones in recent mass shootings. It's terrifying and something must be done.
I know some people will react poorly to my opinion on this topic. They'll say terrible things in the comments online. It makes my stomach turn just to think about it. Villianized though I may be, I have to say something because no one else has. And I know as a gun owner, I'm not alone. Firearms owners have been shunned or shamed into silence. Using firearms is a tradition in our country, in our state, and in my family. It is deeply ingrained in our history. I believe firearms in the hands of citizens keep tyranny in check.
And here it is. The thing that will make many people hate me without ever seeing my face. The fact that will cause Facebook trolls to thumbs down my column and fill my inbox with hate mail. The thing that people who have never touched a firearm just don't understand.
I own an AR-15.
And I like it. A lot. I am the legal owner of the weapon people love to hate.
In fact, my AR-15 is my favorite weapon to shoot. It's light. It has an adjustable stock. It is my go-to rifle when I introduce my girlfriends to shooting. It holds sufficient rounds in each magazine that I don't have to get off target and reload often. It has low recoil. It's got a great scope and a silencer. My AR-15 makes it possible for me to participate in competition shooting and hunting small game as an equal in a male-dominated sport. Those things are important to me.
The Second Amendment is also important to me. I believe the right to self-defense is a God-given liberty upheld by constitutional law. My home has been robbed. I have been a victim of assault. Both of those things happened before I started carrying a concealed weapon. The right to bear arms helps me sleep at night. It helps me leave the house without fear because I don't have to be a victim.
In Utah, gun ownership is very common. Nearly 700,000 Utahns have a concealed-carry permit. That actually makes Utah more safe. Statistically, those who carry concealed-weapons permits do not commit violent crimes. According to the website Guns to Carry, a person without a CCW is 37 times more likely to commit violent crime. CCW holders are some of the most law-abiding citizens in the nation. But that could change with the stroke of a pen.
In the current political climate, candidates are using fear to gain power. No one wants to see innocent people killed, especially children. Some presidential hopefuls have promised to use executive overreach to take away the Second Amendment entirely, or at least outlaw AR-15s. They hide behind the guise that taking away guns will save children from danger.
The sad fact is, no one knows how to stop hate and violent crime.
Some pretend they can solve the problem of mass shootings by banning assault rifles (they are already banned, actually). The truth is less than 3% of homicides are committed using rifles.
They pretend creating more mental hospitals will stop mass murder. But mental illness is not directly associated with violent crime. Again, those with mental health disorders, as a group, are statistically less likely to commit any kind of violent crime.
Panels of professional advisers and experts have met in the White House and with Congress. They talk in circles because even they have no solid solution that will effectuate change.
Outlawing my AR-15 will not create effectual change. It will not stop mass murders. But passing sweeping gun bans and recalls would do one thing effectively. It will turn some of most law-abiding citizens in Utah into criminals.
Gun owners I know insist that if laws were passed banning their weapons, they would disobey those laws. It would turn my brothers, uncles, dad, my husband and I into felons. But the country would not be any safer for it.
That said, if giving up my AR-15 would stop mass shootings, I would give it up gladly. I don't value my sport above other people's lives. But it wouldn't help me to feel safer. It wouldn't help my kids be more secure.
Without AR-15s in the world, my kids are still at great risk. According to the FBI database on violent crime in Utah, my children are far more likely to experience abuse at the hands of an acquaintance or family member than a stranger. In Utah, they are more likely to be killed with a knife than a rifle. And in our state, they are six times more likely to die by suicide than murder. The world is inherently unsafe, particularly for women and children.
In this world already teeming with violence and hate, I prefer to maintain my right to defend myself and my family. As far as new laws go to help stop murder, the most important one has been on the books for thousands of years. Maybe the solution is for people to regain respect for human life. It starts and ends with the principle I fully support: Thou shalt not kill.
Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org