A Navy SEAL Sniper’s Perspective on Firearms Ownership & The NRA in America
*This post has been edited from its original to provide more clarity into my position on the NRA.
I’m writing this in response to a recent stir about my intent to run for an NRA board seat.
I first joined the NRA when I decided to attend the NRA Range Development course in 2005. I was there to learn about private range operations and the hurdles of getting shooting ranges approved in California. I learned that getting a shooting range approved in California is almost harder than getting Spotted Owl on the menu at a Sierra Club gala.
I took military leave from the SEAL sniper course to attend the Las Vegas NRA Range Development conference in 2005. I remember sitting in the conference room as the attendees were going around the room introducing themselves, “Joe from Colorado, gun show owner”, “Bob from Montana, gun smith…” When it came to my turn, I stood up, kept a straight face, and told them I was a representative of the Sierra Club who was attending to find ways to shut down shooting ranges across the nation. I’m pretty sure one guy had a stroke, and the rest were just north of apoplectic. When I told them I was bullshitting them and gave them my background as a Navy SEAL, the tension disappeared and the room erupted in laughter.
I never shot much as a kid, aside from shooting clay pidgeons off the bow of the boat I worked on. I hunted quite a bit, but it was with my spear gun, not a rifle. I learned to shoot in the Navy, and only became an expert with a weapon by the time I finished my first SEAL platoon work up. It was there that I was given a shot to attend sniper school with my best friend Glen Doherty (later killed in Benghazi, Libya).
My first exposure to the firearms hot button came when I spoke out in defense of school shootings and compromise on my personal blog. Things heated up again more recently when I announced that I’m going to run for a 2015 NRA board seat on my author Facebook page.
Many people I’ve encountered on social media lately have misinterpreted my position on the 2nd Amendment. Lately, I’ve heard people develop wild and ungrounded conclusions about my position on the 2nd Amendment. Some think that I’m automatically talking about Americans giving up their right to keep and bear arms, and 2nd Amendment compromise. They couldn’t be more wrong.
In the dark corners of the Internet they lurk, call names, and make ridiculous emotion-based (not fact-based) assumptions. I’ve heard it all, and I’ll take this on the chin. To be honest, I could have been clearer on my position in the past. However, do keep in mind that the word “compromise,” a term I’ve used before, comes in many forms; sometimes it includes sitting down with your adversaries and having an intelligent conversation and debate on major issues.
What have I learned since getting out of the Navy in 2006? Few things will stir people up in this country like the 2nd Amendment. It’s right up there with gay marriage and abortion. And I’ve learned that you can’t have a conversation with a fanatic.
“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind, and won’t change the subject.” – Winston Churchill
Some Facts About Me
- I’m Canadian-born American citizen by birth (by a US parent).
- I grew up hunting fish (Halibut, Yellowtail, Bass, nothing was safe) and Lobster in the kelp forests of the Channel Islands with my spear gun.
- I bought my first gun when I was a new SEAL at Team 3. I still have it – an HK USP .45.
- Favorite gun manufacturer: Rifle-Blaser Handgun-HK
- I was an M-60 Gunner in my first platoon (It’s one bad ass area weapon!)
- I am a certified SEAL sniper, sniper instructor, and US Army-trained stinger missile gunner.
- The snipers in the Teams used to go on Navy-sponsored hunting trips, mostly white tail.
- I shot my first buck in 2002 at 443 yards with my issued .300 Win Mag in Washington State.
- I served in the Navy from 1993-2006.
- I own (don’t tell on me):
- Remington 300 Win Mag w/Night Force 15x Mil Dot optic
- HK .45 USP
- HK .45 USP compact (carried this in Afghanistan and Iraq)
- Sig Sauer 1911 .45 “Nightmare”
- Glock 19 9MM
- Mossberg 12 GA Stainless mMrine (I love my stainless)
- My wish list for 2014:
- S&W 686 .357
- Blaser .338/.308 with Schmidt & Bender Mil Dot optic
- HK UMP .45
- A good .308 suppressed semi-auto with short range scope and red dot (my Zombie gun)
A Snap Shot Perspective of My Views on Gun Ownership & The 2nd Amendment
- The 2nd Amendment is inherent in America’s cultural DNA
- Limiting magazine capacity is impractical
- Punishing law abiding gun owners is not the solution
- I believe everyone who owns a gun should attend a basic firearms & range safety qualifications course and that these courses should be standardized
- The NRA should be like PADI or NAUI and encourage gun ranges to only accept NRA basic qualified shooters on the range.
- Few people outside of America understand how important firearms ownership is to Americans
- Background checks are a good idea but should take minutes, not days
- Often gun laws are made by people who don’t use, own, or understand firearms
- Mass shootings have to be dealt with head-on or America will face more gun restrictions and erosion of 2nd Amendment rights.
- NRA training needs to be brought up to date.
- Legislation on increasing the prevention of severely mentally ill folks (e.g. paranoid schizophrenia)from gaining access to firearms seems logical. Increase the early warning signs
- Dogs/handlers at schools and colleges are better than armed guards, in my opinion. Dogs are an incredible resource to use in these situations
- Guns aren’t the problem, mental illness is the problem. It’s like punishing responsible automobile owners (which kill more people annually) because of drunk drivers killing innocent people on the road
- I believe we should be able to concealed-carry and open-carry where practical (e.g., not on an elementary school campus or an airplane)
- Guns are guns and people should be able to own and obtain a permit to own everything, short of an anti-tank weapon or WMD, if they’re properly trained/certified
- The NRA should take a strong leadership position when it comes to legislation affecting ownership pro and con, not just a “supporter” of legislation. The perception from the left is that the NRA is an uncompromising organization
- I think the current NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre, could do more to a lot more to improve how the NRA is viewed by the rest of America, especially the youth.
- If elected to the board I would be one of 76, but I would do my best to make sure we hold the elected leaders accountable, and work on ways to promote and engage the responsible youth in this country. They are the future, and you cannot ignore the decline in youth firearms participation and membership.
- I believe the 2nd Amendment is a right we should keep and hold dear
Hopefully this clarifies my position. If you want to read a great book about why good Americans can be so divided on these issues, the I’d suggest “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt.
I’ll be happy to address more specific questions when I go forward with a petition to get on the 2012 board ballot. To the name callers, and haters of the Inter-web I have nothing to say to people who can’t change the subject. To the rest, thanks for your support regardless of your NRA membership or vote.
2nd Amendment – 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.