“I am not going to take your guns away.” — President Barack Obama on Sept. 9, 2008, at a campaign rally in Lebanon, Va
Around Election Day 2008, I called a friend of mine in Virginia to see how he was doing. He, a photographer and contractor, told me he had fallen on tough times and had moved into a dangerous neighborhood. He had only lived there a few months when not only were all of his tools stolen from his truck, but his house had also been ransacked. My friend, who at one time, couldn’t imagine hurting a fly, told me bluntly, “I am going to pop some lead into anyone who robs me again.”
He continued on about how he needed to protect himself, and even with my talk about how violence only leads to more violence, to quote Mahatma Gandhi, he insisted he needed a gun. He also said the sole reason he was voting for John McCain for president was because he heard that Barack Obama would take away his gun(s).
“In the first year, I intend to work with Congress on a national no carry law, one gun a month purchase limits, and bans on all semi-automatic guns.”
The now infamous and erroneous quote at a “VPC” Fundraiser in 2007 allegedly by Obama began circulating during his campaign.
According to Annenberg’s factcheck.org, none of the above is true.
No organization referred to as the VPC could validate the quote — not the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., nor the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, nor reporters from the Associated Press or the Chicago Tribune that attended the event at the Vernon Park Church of God.
Although Obama does support reinstating a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 (owning fully automatic weapons remains illegal in most cases), he did not propose any new gun laws or bans.
Obama has been known for supporting stricter gun policies though, including voting in 2000 and 2003 on bills that would enact legislation to limit gun sales to one per month. Both bills failed.
During his campaign and even now, he hasn’t pursued any sort of legislation that would prohibit gun sales or take away the right to have a concealed weapon.
Despite all the controversy surrounding erroneous quotes, misguided translations and the like, we are faced with a more emotional topic: Why do we need guns?
We have the right to bear arms to protect ourselves, like my friend back east who lives in fear, and to be equal with our government, but when it comes to new gun laws, is this the reason why gun sales sky rocketed in December and January?
It is hard to imagine that we are so trigger happy that the idea, even though erroneous, of not being able to buy the gun of our choice sent us in droves to our gun shops.
There is no doubt the Obama administration will attempt to tighten up certain gun policies that will to protect lives and help track down criminals, but owning a lethal weapon shouldn’t be taken lightly.
While many of us believe it is our right to own a gun, we can’t deny the damage it causes, the lives ruined because of an illogical decision to hurt someone else, the memory of seeing a loved one murdered in cold blood. We need to question our motivation and remember that we are human, susceptible to making irrational decisions or having our weapons stolen and placed into the hands of criminals.
I can’t help but wonder how my friend would feel if one day he did pull the trigger in order to protect his belongings. You can always buy more stuff but you will never be able to replace a life that was lost. Be responsible and make sure it isn’t the bullets from your gun that causes such irreversible damage.