Editor's note: The following is an opinion piece. The writer is not employed by Military Times and the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Military Times or its editorial staff.
I was shocked to see an op-ed that appeared on the Marine Corps Times website in my Jan. 18 newsfeed titled, “Veterans should lead push for more secure gun laws.” As a Marine Corps veteran of the War in Iraq, I could not disagree more with the opinion of Matthew Hess, the Marine who wrote it.
Displayed in front of me was a man who signed the dotted line to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, yet is willing to promote action in direct opposition to our founding document: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Hess’s main point in support of his position was the fact that as a Marine he had to go through extensive training with firearms in boot camp, as well as the fact that he had to go through an extensive background check to join the Marine Corps. This, of course, ignores a couple of key facts. First, when you join the Marine Corps you give up certain rights. We would never expect civilians to shave their heads, allow perfect strangers to yell at them less than an inch from their faces, be subjected to mandatory bed times and wake up times, or be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. On the contrary, we sign up under those conditions, giving up our rights to preserve and protect the rights of our fellow Americans, including the right to keep and bear arms.
As for the nonsense about a background check, the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps literally recruited felons during the War in Iraq. Felons are not allowed to purchase firearms in the United States. However, they are allowed join the Army and Marine Corps, get combat training, and have access to M-16s, heavy machine guns, grenades, and so on.
Near the end of the piece Hess said, “Most of us agree that we have a gun violence problem in the United States.” I beg to differ. Despite the fact that Americans own more guns than at any point in history, crime rates across the U.S. are at a 40-year low, and violent crime rates are at a 50-year low, according to U.S. Justice Department statistics cited by the Gallup Organization.
However, it is not surprising that Hess states that most people agree we have a gun violence problem. According to Gallup, despite these record-low crime rates, most Americans believe crime in the U.S. is worsening.
But the data clearly does not bear that out.
I do not claim there is no gun violence, or that the mass shootings we see on the news are not tragic. They are tragic and heartbreaking, and in many cases preventable, but not in the way that some might think. The vast majority of mass shootings happen in gun-free zones. That’s why schools are so often targets, and it’s why it typically takes so long to stop shooters in school zones. Ultimately the best defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, because when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.
Don’t believe it? Do you think the “good guy with a gun theory” is a myth? If you fall in that camp, you’re as wrong as the rest of Americans who think crime is on the rise in the U.S. Good guys with guns often stop mass shootings, a fact that even the liberal-leaning Washington Post had to admit in a recent article. And these are just the stories we hear about. People forget, the vast majority of defensive gun uses do not involve any shooting at all. They involve an individual feeling threatened, drawing the gun, and causing the threatening individual to retreat. Estimates vary wildly, but at the high end they may occur as many as 4.7 million times per year, while low estimates put it at about 55,000. Even low estimates paint this clear picture: U.S. citizens use their guns to defend themselves or others literally all the time.
Any new restrictions to purchasing, selling or owning firearms will do one thing. They will make it harder and more inconvenient for law-abiding citizens to get them, and criminals will continue to acquire guns the same way they have for years: Through theft, straw purchases, and black-market purchases.
I feel that Hess means well, but in the words of T.S. Eliot, “Most of the evil in the world is done by people with good intentions.”
Paul Brown is a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq war. He served in intelligence and was honorably discharged as a sergeant. He is currently running for U.S. Congress in Texas' District 32.