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Guns In My Backyard

The other night while having dinner on our deck on a warm summer evening we heard automatic weapons fire.  We live in the suburbs of Denver, about a mile as the crow flies from the Family Shooting Center in Cherry Creek State Park.  We often hear the peppering of gunfire as people shoot and train with handguns and rifles.  It is background noise for us, just like the planes flying over our house as they line up to land at nearby Centennial Airport.  But this night was different.  It sounded like we were on the front lines in Syria or Afghanistan.  The shooting went on forever.  Non-stop uninterrupted automatic weapons fire.  I called the Sheriff’s office and they said they were getting numerous complaints.  Then I called and left a message at the range, saying they were being insensitive and not being good neighbors, especially in light of the recent Aurora shooting which left so many people dead, injured and on edge.

Much to my surprise, the next evening, the proprietor of Family Shooting Center, Doug Hamilton, called me.  He was very earnest and apologetic that we were disturbed.  He was certain it was an unusual confluence of atmospheric conditions that carried the sound all the way to us.  He told me they were having a special demonstration event for the staff that they do once a year.  He said he was calling back everyone who left a number and wanted to assure me that they were good neighbors.  He even told me about sound buffers they were installing.  We had a good dialogue, but when I suggested to him that perhaps they do not need to fire off automatic weapons at the range, or if it was essential to have this event annually, perhaps his staff could take a field trip to the country, he went silent.  He listened politely to my feelings but when we hung up I wasn’t sure he really heard them.

And therein lies the disconnect.  I will be candid.  I am not a gun person but in recent years my stance has softened dramatically.  My car dealer has his concealed carry permit.  My son’s best friend hunts.  I visited the Tanner Gun Show and understood why some women felt they needed to have a handgun.  I get that people want guns for recreation and protection.  I have learned to respect their rights.  I believe I am being very reasonable.  But I cannot understand why we need to have automatic weapons in my neighborhood or in any neighborhood for that matter.  When I posted my story on Facebook the jaws of my friends in Canada and Australia dropped.  They couldn’t get their heads around an evening in the suburbs listening to automatic weapons fire or even the irony of a place called Family Shooting Center.  They have such a different world view from ours.

Not long ago in another direction a mile away from my house a new business opened.  It is a gun store, with a built in range, and the owners intend to turn the empty lot across the way into a gun club.  Right across the street from my Starbucks and Einstein’s in an upscale suburb of Denver there is now a gun store.  I must confess when I first saw it I had a visceral reaction.  Not in my back yard.  But I’ve accepted it.  The only thing I wish is that since we are sharing common ground, perhaps we can reach some common ground.  Can’t we all at least agree that there is no reason to have automatic weapons around here?  What good comes from them except to kill people?  Can’t we just leave them to those who fight wars?  It seems like such an easy compromise to make and one that many reasonable people are calling for.  It seems like our country and our communities would be so much safer.  It would certainly keep me from losing my appetite during warm summer evening barbeques on my deck in Colorado.

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War and Remembrance 6

My conversation between Ben Coker, Jr. is getting more interesting as we dig deeper into issues. We come from very different points of view but we’re finding common ground.

Hi Ben,

I hope you and your family are doing well. Sorry it took me a while to get back to you. I have been quite busy and wanted to give your note adequate thought. Your really impress me with your knowledge of history. Many of my beliefs are from the gut. As I read through your letter I notice we agree in degree on many points. But why must people destroy just so they can turn around and rebuild? It seems there have been times in recent memory where change came about without us devastating the infrastructure and crushing the people. The Berlin Wall came down without America rushing in. We are not sending troops to Israel or Palestine to settle differences there. We didn’t go into South Africa to end apartheid. We stayed calm when North Korea rattled its sabers. Just because there is a rogue leader or nation doesn’t mean soldiers need to march in and annihilate people and communities to influence and protect our interests. There are diplomatic solutions to tyrants and bad behavior. It may take more time but I believe it is time well spent. People may think by exercising patience we allow the extremists to organize or worse yet, kill those fighting for peace like Ahmad Shah Massoud, Yitzak Rabin and Benazir Bhutto. Perhaps, but I think America must be careful in the world and not shove our values down other throats. Granted some things like 9-11 and Pearl Harbor require swift and strong intervention, but war must be thought through. The world would be a better place if we didn’t beat our adversaries into submission. Wars are difficult to win.

I believe most people around the globe are good and want peace. I think we really need to be careful not to lump people together. I get very frustrated with people who assume all Muslims are bad because they refuse to distinguish an extremist from a woman who wears a headscarf. I am not defending behavior that threatens Americans. I loathe the terrorists and those who would do us harm. But I wonder how many people who denounce Muslims actually know one personally. I wonder how many people who think Muslims aren’t raging enough against the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other extremists, have actually asked them what they think. I believe that most Muslims cringe over the behavior of the radicals even if they mind their own business. I agree with you that it would be wise for more moderate, peace loving Muslims to verbally condemn radical behavior, but I think people need to walk in their shoes before passing judgment. If I recall you did not speak out during Vietnam because of respect for your parents. Is it surprising that others hold their tongues instead of risk their reputation or draw unwanted attention to themselves and their family?

And on this next point you will probably want to throttle me. I agree with you that building a Mosque a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero is insensitive. But that said, is it inconceivable that a mosque could be used to build awareness, peace and understanding. Just because there is a mosque does that mean it is radicalizing people? It is a place of worship and a community center and from what I understand it is meant to bring people together in peace. We are a country that defends freedom of religion, yet people are trying to take that away. Isn’t that what we are fighting for? Our freedom? Our rights? I think people are getting kind of hysterical. It isn’t just at Ground Zero. Folks don’t want a mosque in Tennessee. They create laws so we don’t have Sharia Law in Oklahoma. America has always been this great melting pot but now people are getting extremely xenophobic. When did we get so afraid of everyone? I agree the media is whipping people into a frenzy. Looking forward to that discussion too. Hope you and your family are anticipating a wonderful Thanksgiving flush with gratitude. Looking forward to hearing from you. Best, Vicky

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War and Remembrance

I received a very thoughtful response from Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina to my Veterans Day post. He and I are having a dialogue about war and peace and our obligations as Americans.  We have never met and I sense we are on two sides of the political spectrum but we are sharing our opinions and trying to understand where the other is coming from.  In the meantime I am getting quite a history lesson.  I’ll be sharing our conversation with you.  Read on:

Good morning Ms. Collins,

I read with great interest you column on your inability to endure your son’s telling you that he would like to join the military. In that column you expressed your gratitude for those who have and are currently serving their country. Your point is well taken, but let me offer the following thoughts. It is only natural for a mother to protect her children; however please allow me to offer the following.

I was born in 1948 and grew up in a very rural area in South Carolina. I had two uncles on my dad’s side that fought in “The Battle of The Bulge” in Germany during WWII. I had other relatives that were deployed to other parts of the world in order to maintain freedom for our beloved America. As I was growing up, I vividly remember the horror stories on TV of the atrocities on sea, land and in the air. One of my uncles was never ever able to re-adjust to life after the war. He had a family with five children, but he was an alcoholic. My other uncle acclimatized well to life after the war.

However, having been born in 1948 I can remember an abundance of patriotism for WWII. There were many movies depicting battles of WWII. We children were drilled on the importance of our military and the need to support the military. I was always very interested in “Operation Overlord” or better known “D Day”. I educated myself on the events that motivated Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor and our subsequent “Declaration of War” on Germany and the other countries allied with Germany.

Other underlying facts involved the genocide initiated by Germany and the the theft of the people throughout Europe who did not adhere to Nazism. Our nation endured much pain and suffering in order to defeat Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. Of course there were many more who rose to power whom we eventually defeated, but the fact remains, the USA paid an enormous cost. from this war rose some of the most courageous leaders ever known. In fact Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the forefathers who endured that period of time. The name of his book was “The Greatest Generation”.

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