Gun control

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(Host) Commentator John Morton reflects on guns and their function in society today.

(Morton) Recently, our family saw the film, “Bowling for Columbine.” Michael Moore, the activist film maker who took on General Motors a few years ago, has turned his attention toward America’s deadly fascination with firearms. I wasn’t happy with some of the methods Moore used in his film, but I have to admit, he prompted me to reconsider my opinion of guns.

Like many boys growing up in the New England countryside, I learned to shoot as a kid. I had my own hunting rifle and shotgun before I had a driver’s license. As a teenager, I hunted deer and partridge, spending many enjoyable autumn afternoons in the woods.

A four year hitch in the Army intensified my shooting experience. As a member of the U.S. Biathlon Team, stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska, it was not unusual to fire 200 rounds a day in training, probably 10 times the number of bullets a typical deer hunter shoots during an entire season.

When we weren’t training, or competing in biathlon races, we were capitalizing on Alaska’s well deserved reputation as a hunter’s paradise. As the leaves began to turn in mid-August, we’d hunt moose or caribou, either of which could provide enough delicious, healthy meat for a year. Then we’d head out for several days, chasing Dahl Sheep or mountain goats – often without much luck – across windswept ridges and rocky peaks. This was hunting for the pure joy of hunting.

Rounding out my firearms experience was a tour in Vietnam, where I carried an M-16 for five months in the Mekong Delta. Ironically, I did less shooting during half a year in combat, than I had in a typical day of biathlon training.

Returning to Vermont after the military, my attitude toward firearms began to change. In my opinion, rifles and shotguns are intended for hunting, and hunters have made important contributions toward the sustainability of our wildlife populations by funding important biological studies, and conserving vital, wildlife habitat.

On the other hand, pistols – even those intended for personal protectin – and assault weapons – are designed to kill people.

When the Bill of Rights was ratified more than 200 years ago, granting citizens, among other things, the right “to keep and bear arms,” our fledgling nation had just broken free from one of the world’s strongest colonial powers, and the uncharted wilderness to the west was a wild and dangerous place.

The threats confronting our country today, are very different. A computer hacker determined to cripple our communications, a saboteur striking a weak link in our power grid, or a suicide bomber prepared to detonate himself in a crowded subway; these terrorists will not be deterred by an M-16 in every American closet, or a Smith & Wesson .38 under the driver’s seat of every car.

In today’s world, firearms are no longer part of the solution, they are part of the problem.

This is John Morton.

John Morton designs trails and writes about sports. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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