Through my own experience, I’ve learned guns are not a curse, but a blessing. As we start 2017, I hope more Americans will take the time to become educated about the Second Amendment and the proper, lawful use of firearms.
Like most people, my initial knowledge of the Second Amendment was limited to what was taught in the schools of my hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The discussions were brief and primarily referenced the Revolutionary War and our nation’s founding. It would take quite a few experiences and realizations for me to become an advocate of what many consider to be the one amendment that provides protection for all the rest of them.
Major networks and national news outlets didn’t carry stories about “good guys with guns.”
Philadelphia has a lot of crime and violence, just as most major cities do, and this undoubtedly contributes to the negative view of guns. The only time most city people hear about firearms is when there is news of a shooting. Obviously, residents of cities like Chicago and Baltimore don’t need to watch the news to see gun violence. They need only to look outside their front door or out their window.
I don’t ever remember seeing or hearing any news as a kid about a citizen defending himself or herself using a firearm. Mass shootings, gang shootings, and drive-by shootings always receive the media attention — while saving a life rarely gets the headlines.
At the start of my teens, my neighborhood became increasingly unsafe, as bad elements started causing serious problems. Illegal drugs became more of an issue, and a known drug dealer moved into the house three doors down from ours. My father packed us up and moved us to Havana, Florida, to get away from the spike in crime.
We moved to a home on six acres just south of the Georgia state line, and one of my dad’s projects was to start a garden. It was successful — until it got picked clean by critters. That is when my father bought the first firearm I ever got to shoot — a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle. We didn’t have much training, except for what the salesman told us about the firearm. Since we lived in a rural area, we could legally shoot the gun on our property. With no other kids around and school not yet started, I had plenty of free time to shoot that rifle.
The .22 also served as our home protection. If we were to call the police for an emergency, they were at least 10 minutes away. The gun was kept close to the front door in case of robbers or anyone intent on doing us harm. Thankfully we never had to use it to protect ourselves.
I was very happy that I had the opportunity to become relatively familiar with firearms, since I would later join the Army in 1988. That summer at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, I was introduced to the M-16. This magnificent weapon is the standard rifle of U.S. military forces. My platoon mates and I learned everything about that machine and its parts, including how to aim and shoot it properly. My eyes were opened to the proper use of firearms in the defense of “good guys.” Eight years later, I left he Army — and when I did ,I took that new outlook with me.
Soon after, I met the woman who would become my wife. She had never even seen a real gun before, let alone held one in her hands. I did not rush her, or pressure her into it. She managed a restaurant and would close up late at night by herself, so I encouraged her to consider carrying a gun of her own. Motivated to do so after a robbery and rape occurred next to her place of employment, we did eventually go to the range together many times. I was able to teach to her the safety and shooting fundamentals that I had learned in the military.
Even though she was not a “gun person,” my future wife had the common sense to know that sometimes ordinary people need firearms to defend themselves or others. We made the joint decision to get our concealed carry permits. We took our mandatory training classes, got our fingerprints on file with the state, and mailed off our applications. In less than two months, we were both licensed to legally carry our concealed weapons.
That’s when I started paying attention to any story I could find regarding “good guys with guns.” It was important to me to know what situations were considered justified shootings. Major networks and national news sites didn’t seem to cover those types of stories. I found only a few websites that would share self-defense and gun use stories. I was inspired to start my own page on Facebook, and share their stories with family and friends, especially those up north who are not exposed regularly to these events.
I also committed to being a Second Amendment advocate. This country needs to know about the right to keep and bear arms. Citizens who defend themselves and others should be celebrated. Situations in which an armed person could have made a difference should be recognized and discussed. Federal and state infringements need to be reversed — new ones prevented.
Our youth need to be taught the true meaning of the Second Amendment — which is to prevent tyranny, both foreign or domestic. Guns are used all over this country, many times a day, to save Americans, protect our police, and safeguard our landmarks and national institutions. Evil people using them for evil purposes cannot change those facts.
Firearms are not a blight on this country. They are a blessing that enabled us to gain the independence to protect all of the rights granted to us by our Creator. The question is not why I became a Second Amendment advocate. It is: Why haven’t you?
John Cylc is an eight-year U.S. Army veteran and lives with his family in eastern Tennessee. His primary advocacy is promoting and protecting Second Amendment rights.