The mass shooting in Boulder took place just up the street from where I live.
It happened at the very King Soopers where my family and I shop at several times a week. We’ve become rather close to several of the folks who work there, those who give my son with Down syndrome extra hugs.
My ex-wife was in the store just hours before the shooting. My daughter and her friends would go there nearly every day for lunch or snacks or Starbucks. In fact, if not for a doctor’s appointment my daughter would have been in that store around the time of the shooting.
One of our family friends who helps us care for my son was walking from her car into the store as people started fleeing out of it for their lives. Thirty seconds earlier and, well, it’s hard to think about.
This shooting hit me in a way I didn’t expect.
I have been a strong advocate to protect our Second Amendment rights. I am the lead plaintiff in a suit against the City of Boulder’s ban on so-called assault rifles and magazines over 10 rounds. My suit challenges the constitutionality of the ban in the federal courts.
Boulder’s ban was recently enjoined due to a different suit challenging it on state, not federal, grounds. It was found to violate the state’s law which pre-empts localities from creating gun laws. We’ll see if Boulder appeals.
What you may not know is that I used to be wildly anti-gun earlier in my life. I gave money to anti-gun organizations including Handgun Control Inc., now called the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. I believed there was no reason people needed such guns and thought government should use its coercive power to take them away.
My conversion took years and many uncomfortable challenges of my own biases from people I respected. My obstacle was the emotion I had against guns; it overran the logic I claimed I use.
I kept asking – do the anti-gun laws I want make us safe, or do they just make us feel safe? If the anti-gun law fails to make a sizable difference, then what next? Where does it end?
Over two years I researched, learned how guns operate, had conversations with gun owners, and fought to be consistent in my thinking.
Over that time the emotion I had against guns, and those who own them, melted and I could see the issue clearly. It was then my mind and heart changed. It wasn’t too much longer when I bought my first gun.
With this latest mass shooting threatening the very people I love I’ve been forced to check my biases again.
This evil happened in my world, my back yard, and it slapped me in the face. I have to admit the old fear of guns resurfaced. I’ve been asking those questions again.
Do I want to feel safe, or be safe?
What if the Boulder ban was still in place? Well, that would have made no difference. The shooter lived in Arvada.
What if we had a waiting period? The shooter bought the gun six days before. And haven’t we heard a right delayed is a right denied?
What about our new “red flag” law? The shooter’s family members watched him play with the gun and knew of his violent streak and mental issues and took no action.
What would the victims have wanted? Denny Stong, who I have seen work at the store, on his birthday asked for people to donate to the National Foundation for Gun Rights on his Facebook page.
Officer Eric Talley, according to his father, owned an AR-15 himself and supported gun rights. His father said, “My son would have been deeply offended to know his death would be used to promote gun control.”
We all want simple answers to difficult problems. And I understand more than most pro-gun activists why gun haters have the passion they do.
Most gun haters won’t take the years of study and hands-on shooting to understand what they hate. It changed me.
Before you join the emotional stampede to demand disarming free people, I ask you to take the time to challenge your bias. And give us all time to grieve and learn the facts.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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