As a child growing up, my favorite moments were playing “army man”, “cowboys and indians,” or “cops and robbers,” in the sun-soaked grassy backyards of my neighborhood. I was a “good guy with a gun,” and I had a full portfolio of plastic weaponry along with helmets, feathered headdresses and a knockoff Stetson hat. Like the TV shows that bestowed upon me the classic hollywood endings, guns to me were a tool to enforce virtue. They were my trusty companion in my saga of an imaginative childhood. As I grew, guns took on the weight of metal. While working on my grandfather’s farm, through boy scouts, and even with the neighborhood BB gun, I had the opportunity to learn about and use guns as a young man. It turned out I was a pretty good shot.
I was a young adult when my grandfather died. I was given his 12 gauge Springfield shotgun. It reminded me of the first time I shot that weapon, a gentle squeeze and “KAPOW!” I remembered thinking the distance between an inert trigger, and the explosive product of a shotgun shell is so thin. A defining moment, I felt the visceral difference between my plastic toys, and this heavy machine we call a gun.
As an adult, guns have taken on a different collection of emotions and meanings for me. I don’t need guns in my daily life, so there are few in my world. This is a common trend: since my youth, households with guns have dropped from 47% to 31%. This statistic brings further impact to the additional fact that volume of guns has more than doubled to over 300 million firearms in that same time period. Last year alone there were just shy of 11 million firearms manufactured in the US, up from approximately 2 million in 1986. With these changes, guns have become an ever increasing part of our news cycle. Not the instigator, but a productive and accessible tool, guns are associated with what feels like an ever streaming list of senseless violence. Because of these trends, I have had many conversations about guns with various people including ex-military, hunters, hobbyists, teachers, policemen, and average citizens who love, like or oppose their existence. The most profound discussions are with those who grew up in environments where in their youth, guns were a reality, not the plastic playthings of my past. Over 10-20 years of thinking has brought me closer to a full perspective on guns. Still like many, I questioned what is the correct next step in the diverging debate of guns in America.
This all reached an inflection point on Valentine's Day 2018, the day of the Parkland High School shootings. For many of us, this one story in a long series seemed to connect at a deeper level. Before the students began their speeches, James Warren organized the group “The Solution Is Us,” then started collecting ideas and volunteers, asking the simple question: “How do we keep our kids from being shot to death?” I loved the sentiment of this and joined as one of the founding members. As a team we held many face-to-face discussions with the community who brought a diverse set of perspectives, and we quickly realized that what we had to do was change the narrative on gun violence. We had to find a new place where we could get beyond the current positions that were dividing us. As part of the group research effort, I was assigned to study the technical mechanisms of guns. It is important to note that this was the one thing I said I didn’t want to be assigned, but the team saw that I was the likely best choice to dive into the research. I didn’t want it because the deeply ambiguous nature of how we categorize and regulate guns is not something to be unpacked and processed easily; yet, I dove in. I investigated handguns, rifles, automatic, semi-automatic, I looked at blueprints, I looked at gas versus mechanical systems. I looked at caliber, grain and magazines, and I read stories. I read both stories of defense, and stories of damage. I also spent time in the history of the period, statutory laws, and debates that led to the 2nd amendment. I compiled all that I had learned, and presented my collected knowledge as part of the next team meeting. I came to that meeting with recommendations for what I expected to be hundreds of hours of more research to further complete the forming concepts, but what happened was surprising. We came to the conclusion that the collective work presented in that meeting was ready for collaboration outside the group. We needed to communicate this new narrative to a wider audience and seek those who might share this journey with us to dive deeper, and reach further.
Having a hand in the rudimentary details, I offered to draft our work into the form of an open letter. What I delivered was a literary “boulder.” It was a dense informational flow of research, musings and ideas that was then skillfully crafted into a proper document by the talented experts on our team. This collective work became the open letter which we are honored to present to you today. We felt that sharing a part of the journey that led us to this point would be beneficial and we thank you for reading. Our hope is to change the dialogue, and to have our kids feel safe. We’d love to engage you in that discussion.
Read our Open Letter today.