Thad Box: We must learn to control our guns in the United States

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In 1939, Dad gave me a dollar bill to buy my own Christmas present. I had a whole dollar to buy anything I wanted! I was rich. Dad had a job helping build a dam for President Roosevelt’s rural electrification project. I could wear store-bought clothes and go to picture shows on Saturday.

I bought a tommy gun that you could wind up and spew sparks at girls and other enemies of a 10-year-old boy. When Dad saw me shooting sparks at my little sister he grabbed my gun, threw it on the sidewalk and stomped it. I can still see his boot furiously destroying the best Christmas present I ever had. I learned not to point a gun at anything I did not intend to kill. The following year, Dad bought me a real single shot .22 rifle.

I killed my first deer when I was eleven years old. In my 90 years on earth I have owned dozens of guns. Some I’ve given to my children and grandchildren. I still own a bunch of firearms. Some belonged to my grandparents and my father. Some I bought. All are long guns. They are locked in a safe place away from where I live.

Properly used guns are important tools. Our Constitution’s Second Amendment says: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” After a hitch in the U. S. Army, I served many years in well-regulated militias referred to as reserves.

For the past year there has been a mass shooting almost every day in our nation. The weapon of choice of almost all killers has been a rifle similar to the AR-15 modified to fire as a full automatic. The time has come that if we are to remain a world leader we must control guns in our United States.

This does not mean we have to take all people’s guns away from them. It does mean we can, and must if we are to continue as a great country, regulate ownership and use of guns. Most Americans would be horrified if we allowed the cars raced in the Daytona 500 to be driven on state highways. Those cars are built to set speed records.

Knockoffs of AR-15 are built to allow an inexperienced shooter fling bullets at things and people. Maybe they are appropriate for a well-trained militia, but they should not be used or owned by people unfit mentally or physically to operate a weapon of mass destruction.

I have worked and/or have family members in six countries with very different laws concerning firearms. The United States, Mexico and Brazil have (or enforce) few, if any, national laws regulating individual ownership and use of firearms. Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand allow ownership of guns, but have regulations regarding firearm storage and use.

I lived in Australia for extended periods three different times. It has a history, like we do, of massacring natives. Each state had different gun laws. In April 1996 a mass shooter killed 35 white people and wounded 23 others in Port Author, Tasmania. Australia passed and now enforces strict, but sensible, gun laws. I have spent many days with Australians in pickups with a rifle in a gun rack not unlike the one we see in Utah.

I’d hate to see my grandfather’s .38 Winchester, Uncle Noah’s saddle gun or Dad’s sweet sixteen Browning melted down. But I hate worse to have people unfit to own a gun have them or full automatic, military style firearms. The time has come for us to register every firearm in America and regulate its use. New Zealand did it in a couple of months. Regulating guns would make a great Christmas present for USA.

Thad Box

Thad Box is a child of the Great Depression whose Texas parents taught him never to shoot anything he couldn’t eat. For 60 years, his Utah State University students proved his parents were right. He lives in Logan with Jenny, his wife of 65 years.