Mayor Pete Buttigieg believes simply holding a firearm is somehow diminishing. He thinks you should take his pronouncement as an unassailable truth. He is, after all, a veteran.
The Naval Reserve Officer, who served a tour in Afghanistan, made the observation of firearms ownership to journalists traveling on an Iowa bus tour. Buzzfeed reporter Henry Gomez quoted the South Bend, Ind., mayor as saying, “Over time, I realized having a gun made me feel smaller, not bigger.”
It’s an interesting observation, for sure. It’s also one that I’m sure sits well with the gun control crowd that’s looking for the reluctant hero to bravely stand and apologize for actually performing one’s duty in a combat zone. That’s not my experience at all. Nor that of many other veterans with whom I served in Iraq and Afghanistan or in the many other far-flung places I’ve carried a rifle in my 25 years as a Marine.
My experience is much different. Carrying a firearm never made me feel big. It never made me feel superior or anything that elevated me to a status above others. Even today, carrying a gun as a law-abiding citizen doesn’t make me feel anything but responsible.
Mayor Pete, gun ownership isn’t an ego-serving privilege. It’s a right and one that is borne with a sense of duty, obligation and accountability.
Let’s be honest about firearms ownership. It’s fun. Going to a range and shooting sporting clays, punching paper and ringing steel at distance can be – forgive the pun – a blast. At its core, though, I own guns because I love my family. I value their safety. I am duty-bound as a husband and father to provide for their safety and well-being. That means I’m law-abiding to lawfully possess firearms and be permitted to carry them concealed. It also means I responsibly store my firearms when not in use, so they remain inaccessible to those who shouldn’t have access to them, whether that is a child or a prohibited individual.
Even today, the organization I work for now, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, works for real solutions to make our communities safer through several efforts to ensure firearms are in the hands of only those who can be trusted to possess them in a responsible manner.
I’m obligated to ensure for my family’s safety and my community that I’m safe and familiar when I handle that firearm. I’m obligated to comply with the law as to where I can carry a gun and know how to use it properly and accurately. That obligation follows through to my everyday actions. I don’t seek out trouble but avoid it. I’m obligated to every other law-abiding firearms owner to follow foundational safety rules, local and federal laws. I’m not just being watched by those who despise firearms. I’m being watched more closely by the more than 100 million firearms owners in America who daily exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Holding a gun, wearing it in a holster on my body, carrying a shotgun or rifle into the marshes or woods to hunt doesn’t make me feel bigger. It makes me understand the great sense of responsibility I have as an American who chooses to exercise my rights. Carrying a rifle into combat didn’t make me feel bigger than the enemy I faced. It didn’t make me feel above those whom I was there to set free from murderous terrorists and tyrannical regimes. It made me responsible for the safety of the Marines, sailors, soldier and airmen who walked the battlefield alongside me.
Owning a gun isn’t a small matter. Or an ego-inflating matter. Over time, I realized having a gun made me know – not feel - unapologetically responsible.