As a 24-year veteran of the Air Force, I don’t take gun ownership lightly. I was trained for safety and accountability, and I have always been acutely aware of the potential dangers that come with being armed.
When I was deployed, from Iraq to Bosnia, I took the utmost care to handle my weapon responsibly in order to keep myself and the people around me safe. My gun became like an appendage to me, never out of sight or mind.
As a civilian, I take gun ownership just as seriously, and I always store my gun securely — unloaded, locked and separate from ammunition — when out of use.
This is one of the reasons why I was so troubled by the NRA’s annual meeting Oct. 1-2 in Charlotte. The National Rifle Association leadership doesn’t appear to be interested in responsible gun ownership, public safety, or anything other than the bottom line. Instead, they fly around the world in private jets, spend obscene sums on lawyers, and foment extremism — all while trying to roll back common-sense laws like our requirement that North Carolinians go through a background check before buying a handgun.
Because North Carolinians of every stripe continue to be deeply scarred by gun violence, we need stronger gun safety laws, not weaker ones. Many of us are glad that Gov. Roy Cooper stood up for public safety and vetoed the dangerous background check repeal bill.
But we are still far from where we need to be in North Carolina. In an average year, 1,388 North Carolinians are killed by guns — an incomprehensible and devastating loss that our community never seems to get a chance to heal from.
Across the country, we have collectively shouldered the staggering weight of gun violence, and we can’t put up with it any longer. It doesn’t have to be this way, and the change can start with gun owners.
Responsible gun ownership means exercising common sense. It means taking the steps to ensure that your gun won’t be used to carry out senseless acts of violence. Keeping our families safe begins with us, and we can exercise our freedoms while still doing our part to make North Carolina a safe place to live.
Individual gun owners can take precautions to secure their firearms, making it more difficult for others to access them. At home, secure storage systems are an easy and affordable way to keep weapons out of reach from children and teenagers.
Guns are the second leading cause of death among our state’s youth population, and secure storage in the household could mean the difference between life and death.
In cars, simple locks are a small but effective way to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Stolen guns pose a huge risk to public safety, and taking the time to ensure your firearm is properly locked could stop it from being stolen by someone who is legally prohibited from possessing one.
Gun owners have the power to be a force for change. By normalizing conversations about gun safety and setting good examples of responsible ownership, we can fight back against gun violence.
While individuals play an important and necessary role in keeping our communities safe, true change will require far more than that. We need leaders who can stand up to the pressure from the gun lobby and NRA’s extreme leadership, and we need legislators to make data-driven decisions that will make us safer on a larger scale. We need to push past the noise, politicization, and rhetoric that is working to divide us and come together as a state — and when we do, we’ll make North Carolina safer for us all.
Shannon Klug is the Moms Demand Action North Carolina Be SMART lead and a member of the Everytown Veterans Advisory Council.