The year was 1972. I was 19 years old and found myself a conscript of the U.S. Army. American lives were still being lost in the rice paddies of Vietnam.
It was in October of that year that I was introduced to the military weapon, the M-16. The drill sergeant said that this weapon - never called a gun - was designed to efficiently kill lots of people in little time. He then demonstrated the weapon's fire power by leveling a pile of cinder blocks in seconds.
The M-16 could fire nearly 600 rounds per minute. He explained the entry wound in a human body from an M-16 is small, but the exit wound leaves a gaping hole. He said it was designed to do that. I guess as an American, I've always been exposed to the gun culture.
How could one not? Back in the 1950s and 1960s, on Saturday afternoons, the neighborhood kids of Zylonite in Adams would pile into a parent's car and head for the Adams Theater for cowboy and Indian movies, World War II movies and John Wayne. I saw Lee Oswald shot and killed on live national TV on a Sunday morning. Everybody - and I do mean everybody - hunted animals with shotguns and rifles.
In the Army, I was trained as a field medic, a 91B20. As a medic, my job was to plug holes made in American soldiers, not make them in the enemy. It was a good thing I was trained as a medic because I never got the hang of killing people.
Which brings me back to the military weapon - not the gun - the M-16. It has been around since 1958 when it was first developed by a gun manufacturer called Armalite. They called it the AR-15. That company was sold to Colt and Colt mass-produced the gun for the U.S. military and they called it the M-16.
The military M-16 and the civilian AR-15 are the same the gun minus the automatic capability.
Today, because of little federal restriction, many American gun manufacturers mass produce the AR-15, such Colt, Smith and Wesson, Sig Sauer of Exeter, N.H., and Bushmaster.
One may recall that in October of 2002, the Washington, D.C., beltway, was terrorized for nearly two weeks by a sniper who claimed nine lives and injured three others in random shootings. The gun used was a Bushmaster AR-15. In 2004, the families of the victims successfully sued Bushmaster, who settled out of court to the tune of $2.5 million. In 2005, the U.S. Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that prohibited civil action against gun manufacturers whose product might be used to cause harm that is mass shootings.
In case you forgot:
Aurora, Colo., July 20, 2012: 70 wounded, 12 dead. Bushmaster AR-15, the M-16.
Portland, Ore., Dec. 11, 2012: 3 dead. Bushmaster AR-15, the M-16
And Sandy Hook. There are no words.
In 1975, I was discharged from the U.S. Army. Upon arrival home, I sold the two guns I had to kill animals in Zylonite.
I own no guns today. I choose not to live in fear. I disagree with the NRA position that the only response to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
Culture change can happen. It has happened with attitudes toward drunk driving; unacceptable. It has happened with attitudes toward cigarette smoking; unacceptable.
And Sandy Hook: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeline F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McConnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt. Unacceptable.