June 2, 2022

Once again, the issue of gun regulation is being hotly debated across the nation — in state legislatures and Congress. Moral voices — religious leaders, teachers, parents — are speaking out in support of gun regulation.

Two aspects of my life — often viewed as paradoxical — inform my passion on gun regulation.

First, I am a gun owner and proud member of a family that regularly hunts. It is a family tradition, and we do not waste the meat. We hunt deer and turkey, and we protect our pastures from groundhogs (no we don’t eat the groundhogs). My partner owns guns. Everyone in my family owns guns. We teach our kids how to respect guns and gun safety. We store our guns in locked gun safes. On holidays, we practice target shooting. I enjoy guns.

Second, I am a passionate advocate for universal, affordable health care. I want every child and adult in this country to have the opportunity to grow up healthy.

And I believe that unregulated guns are a health care crisis. Guns are a roadblock on the path forward to an America where every child can grow up healthy.

Do I want to take away everyone’s guns? No. But I do believe that semi-automatic guns do not need to be in every household’s gun safe. They are the weapons for war, and I don’t think every Joe around my rural county needs to be ready to go to war. These guns have one purpose — to kill people. No one I know hunts with a semi-automatic gun. Just to be clear, semi-automatic guns fire one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, and then automatically prepare to discharge again so you can shoot rapidly and repeatedly. There are magazines for sale that allow 30 to 50 bullets to be fired without a pause.

Why are so many so-called hunters upset about regulating semi-automatic weapons? All hunters that I know agree that the goal of hunting is to be a skilled shot and take a deer down with one well-placed bullet. It is challenging to do so. It takes a calm mind and a steady hand on the trigger. It is about patience, not anger.

I applaud Bishop Mark Brennan of the Roman Catholic Wheeling-Charleston Diocese for urging Gov. Jim Justice to call a special session to ban high-capacity, semi-automatic rifles. The bishop stated, “You could buy back the kinds of weapons that are used, basically for killing people, buy them back  This is a matter of public safety, and we should not delude ourselves into thinking what has happened elsewhere can’t happen here, too.”

As a gun owner, I see no problem with universal background checks that might involve a waiting period, “red flag” laws that allow judges to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, a ban on high-capacity magazines and an age requirement of 21 to buy lethal firearms. These kinds of reasonable gun regulations will not take away my family’s hunting rifles and shotguns.

A good friend of mine — a teacher and a mother — shared pictures of flower buds on Facebook over the weekend. I wrote her to say how beautiful they are – thank you for sharing. She wrote back to me that each bud represented a child in Texas that will never blossom and make the world a better place. For her, the Texas deaths of 19 young school children is deeply personal and painful. Those buds say much more than I really can add to this debate.

As I think about the gun regulation debate, I have a feeling that mothers and teachers — some of whom are gun owners and hunters — are going to rise up and demand from both Democrats and Republicans that reasonable gun regulation legislation pass. Folks that hunt and know the patterns of nature know that there is a point where any creature will fly into action — lash out fiercely — to defend and protect their babies. And you don’t want to get in their way.

I pledge to be part of that fierce action, and I call on every legislator — federal and state — to not stand in the way of reasonable gun regulation.

Kathleen Stoll is policy director for West Virginians for Affordable Health Care (wvahc.org) and operates a policy and economic consulting business, Kat Consulting.