Opinion Columns & Blogs

Gun ownership comes with heavy responsibility

A gun owner practices the fundamentals of pistol shooting.
A gun owner practices the fundamentals of pistol shooting. File photo

As an Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, I experienced first-hand the danger on the battlefields in Afghanistan. Every day, military personnel carry around weapons that are intended to kill. At the same time, millions of homes in America contain similar weapons.

Possessing a weapon at war or at home creates a sense of danger, and with that comes an immense responsibility. Part of the reason for going to war is so American civilians don’t have experience this sense of danger in their home and on American soil. The danger of possessing these weapons, in addition to lack of proper training in safety and storage, has resulted in over 57,000 children injured or killed with guns that come from American homes since Sept. 11, 2001.

These dangers or “family fire” incidents are preventable. “Family fire” is a shooting involving a gun from the home in which a loved one is injured or killed. Incidents include unintentional shootings, suicides, as well as any injuries or fatalities resulting from improperly stored firearms. Civilians should feel safe in America, and without proper storage and handling of guns the sense of danger is greater than ever.

Whether in an American home or on a military base, if there is a firearm present, the highest standards for safe storage must be adhered. When it comes to the responsibility of gun owners, military discipline and principles should be adopted to prevent negligent shootings from happening in the home. If there is a desire to bring the increased danger and fear into a home by owning a gun, then there must be a greater focus on adopting best practices.

In the military, there are officers and non-commissioned officers who are responsible for weapons of all types. They make sure everyone adheres to the highest standards of ethics and safety for storage and handling. If a service member is negligent in discharging his or her firearm, the service member faces consequences ranging from a loss of rank, loss of access to firearms, or imposing legal punitive articles. It is considered unacceptable and undisciplined, even after undergoing the highest levels of training.

Sadly, it doesn’t matter if firepower is domestic, foreign, at home, or at a hunting range. A firearm in the wrong hands is deadly. Domestically, far too often firearms are handled negligently, resulting in preventable deaths and injuries. Please commit to the safe storage of firearms and save American lives.

John O’Connell is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and is currently serving as an officer in the Army National Guard.