When my grandfather died in 2005, he left my elderly grandmother with what could only be described as a small armory in their basement.
He collected guns — including a Union Army Civil War handgun, which my mother inherited — and built guns at his wooden work table. He even made his own bullets.
He was a member of the National Rifle Association, and won 26 of the 100 national marksmanship championships he attended. He was inducted into the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association Hall of Fame in 1995.
Last week, the city of San Francisco designated the NRA as a domestic terrorist organization, claiming the group propagates the use of deadly weapons.
San Francisco’s resolution says the NRA “spreads propaganda” and “promotes extremist positions.” It says the association “through its advocacy has armed those individuals who would and have committed acts of terrorism.”
But not one NRA member committed any of the recent mass shootings.
My grandfather began shooting from a young age, and he was a natural. Often, he would shoot all 10 shots into the center X of the target, even with his terrible vision.
He wasn’t a hunter. Like swimming or gymnastics, my grandfather liked to shoot to perfect his form. And he was damn good at it, too. He often gave away his medals to the neighborhood children to play with, and all of his grandchildren have a small collection of his shooting awards.
He and my grandmother raised eight children in their small house in Sandusky, Ohio. Despite the multitude of unlocked arms in the house and the many hours my grandfather spent on the range, nobody was ever injured.
From the time my mother was able to toddle around, her father told her to respect the guns. She was allowed to look at them or hold them, but only if he was there to ensure her safety.
Guns don’t kill people, he told her. People kill people.
And if his children were ever caught touching the guns without his permission, they knew there would be hell to pay.
Mass shootings have deeply impacted the psyche of the American people. From school shootings to shootings in stores and at festivals, hundreds have been mercilessly slaughtered in the past few years.
But designating the NRA as a terrorist group is a politically-motivated non-action. It does not, in any way, try to reduce shootings; instead, it targets law-abiding citizens dedicated to protecting Second Amendment rights.
California ranks No. 1 on the Law Center’s gun law scorecard, which scores states based on their gun control legislation. But even the state with the heaviest gun restrictions is no stranger to violence: in August, a gunman shot 17 people in Gilroy, California, leaving three dead.
Lawmakers are feeling the pressure to act. They are searching for tangible solutions to an intangible problem.
But lawbreakers will not suddenly stop breaking laws once new laws are passed.
Gun violence is not a gun problem; it’s a violence problem. Take away all guns, and violent people will find ways to injure other people, leaving law-abiding citizens defenseless.
The NRA is not a terrorist organization, and labeling it as such is virtue signaling. It won’t reduce gun violence. Instead, it shows an incredible depth of political division: that gun control advocates want to label a largely conservative group as terrorists.
In fact, the NRA offers gun safety education courses for both children and adults. It also provides a link on its website for citizens to find their state’s gun legislation, so they can inform themselves of their rights and their state’s gun restrictions.
When my grandfather went to the range, he refused to shoot at human-silhouette targets and would instead request bullseyes. He and all other members of the NRA were required to follow safety regulations: never point your gun toward another person, know what’s behind your target.
But if my grandfather had to protect his family, he had the armament and ability to do so.
My grandfather was not a very religious man and seldom went to church. But he and my grandmother taught their children to be good people, and to be good to other people.
In a March 1972 Sandusky Register newspaper clipping my mother found, my grandfather was interviewed about his guns. Reporter Cees Niceswanger documented my grandfather’s stance on gun control and gun violence decades before these issues reached national headlines like they do today.
“…I am strongly in favor of hard punishment for the criminal use of guns,” my grandfather, Bill Carver, said. “Maybe I’m more sensitive about it because they threaten my use of guns.”
I wonder what my grandfather would think about the shootings, and I wonder what policy solutions he would come up with to address the issue.
He definitely wasn’t a Republican. He just liked his guns.