For decades now, our society has struggled to define the role of firearms in our lives. We jump from one tragedy to the next paralyzed without the will or ability to change.
For the vast part of my life, I have quietly struggled as sensible gun reforms were debated year after year. Twenty-six years ago, my father, a senior chief in the Navy, was gunned down by one of his students.
There were clues this student was in trouble. The map was simply not read by the people trained to spot abnormalities. He went as far as writing to his instructor, “The only way I am going out to the fleet is in a body bag.” This story is not unique; we hear similar stories after every one of these tragic shootings.
Life was normal, and then on Sept. 15, 1986, it wasn’t. I was a kid on my way to a soccer game with friends. Then Arif M. Ameen set into action his plan to show his instructors how much pressure he was really under. He concealed a .32 caliber revolver under his jacket; he carried 65 rounds of ammunition and a survival knife. My father had no chance as he spoke his final words: “Whoa, wait a minute.”
The first two shots hit my father, after which Ameen continued to fire seven more rounds at three different instructors, hitting two of them.
It is difficult to make a direct connection to the impacts this event had on me. After all, this is the only reality I have known. I struggled as a teenage and young adult. I put myself in one bad situation after the next. I joined the military, like my father, looking for answers. However, in the end, there were no answers to be found.
It took me a bit longer in life to get going. Today, I work so hard at my job that I sometimes ignore the needs of the people who care for me the most. I recently graduated from the University of Washington Tacoma and would like to continue to use that education to solve local problems facing Fife and the rest of the South Sound.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution 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.” Our courts have interpreted and protected that right for more than 221 years.
Our society and culture continue to evolve, as does the technology available to gun manufacturers and the general public. It’s time to demand that our leaders act. They should replace outdated legislation and regulations with sensible gun reforms.
All gun owners should be subject to universal background checks. It’s not just about the point of sale. Gun licenses currently expire, but how about the background check associated with that license? How about a reference to your mental health professionals in these background check?
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of watching the new members of 113th Congress take their oaths of office. I couldn’t help but to be optimistic. Common ground is there on this issue. Let’s show our citizens that we are not victims.
Every day we wait, more innocent people are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and join the list of faceless victims. People like my father. And their loved ones, like me.