Take It From a Veteran: Gun Control Will Actually Protect Our Right to Bear Arms | Opinion

Ten years ago this month, 13 Americans died and more than 30 were wounded when one of our own opened fire at Fort Hood.

Speculation immediately began as to then-U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan's motive for attacking the military base in Texas. At his trial, Hasan said believed he was defending the lives of the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. It also came to light that he had sought mental health treatment upon becoming distressed as an Army psychiatrist listening to the accounts of service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the fact remains that he had nearly unrestricted access to firearms, and that's the commonality that ties Fort Hood to so many other tragic U.S. mass shootings.

America's problem is not radical Islamic terror, or even domestic terror, and it's certainly not video games. It's dangerous people with uninhibited access to firearms. We must stop them from getting their hands on guns, killing innocent Americans and causing a public outcry that endangers our Second Amendment rights.

I'm a gun owner. Many of my friends, family and neighbors are gun owners. As a veteran, I treat firearms with care and respect. In the military, I took my weapon to the range to shoot, made sure it was clean and then returned it to the arms storage room at the end of the day. Even while deployed to Iraq, we checked and double checked to make sure weapons were on safe and cleared of ammo when not in use. We were responsible for keeping track of our personal weapons at all times, and God help you if you were a soldier who misplaced your weapon, or if a soldier in your chain of command did so. This is not even to mention the stringent background check and vetting process we had to go through before a weapon was ever placed in our hands.

Since America's armed forces are held to such a standard, shouldn't American civilians who want to possess similar firepower be held to a high standard as well? Second Amendment advocates should rejoice: I'm not supporting a gun grab. I'm asking for us to be held to a standard that makes everyone safer and rids us of irresponsible gun owners who make us all look bad.

Every year, too many children find and use weapons in their own home. In September, a 3-year-old in the St. Louis area found his father's gun and shot himself by accident. In October, a 2-year-old in Indiana found his mom's gun and shot himself by accident. Service members and law enforcement officers aren't immune. On Mother's Day this year, an Ohio State trooper's 4-year-old accidentally shot himself with his father's service weapon, which was left loaded and unsecured in a spare room at home.

We should look at safe storage laws, such as those advocated by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Campaign's "End Family Fire." Storing weapons safely, as well as even mandating that sheriff's departments conduct regular inspections to ensure it, isn't a high price to pay for any of our children's lives.

Fort Hood shooting remembrance
The soldiers memorial reads the date November 5, 2009, at a remembrance service recognizing the 13 victims killed in the Fort Hood attacks on the anniversary in Killeen,Texas, on November 5, 2010. Ben Sklar/Getty

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 passed the House in February but has yet to see a vote in the Senate. Closing the private sale loophole is an important first step to changing the disorderly gun culture, and it's something that can be done right now. Then, we can look at other proposed measures, such as red flag laws. Take it from somebody who served: Guns are deadly weapons, not toys to show off on social media, and only those who demonstrate responsibility and respect toward human life should possess them.

Whether it's the radical Islamic terrorist at Fort Hood, the white supremacist at a Charleston church, the Donald Trump-hating maniac at a congressional baseball game or even this week's teenager in Santa Clarita, California, the perpetrators' motivations don't matter as much as their ability to access deadly weapons.

Instead of viewing any and all efforts at gun control as an assault on the Second Amendment, we should realize that getting firearms out of the hands of dangerous people actually shields our constitutional rights as Americans. Reasonable gun control will not only save lives. It will protect our right to bear arms from the erosion caused by knee-jerk reactions to deadly tragedies.

Naveed Shah is a veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Iraq and currently works as a veterans advocate in Washington, D.C.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

Take It From a Veteran: Gun Control Will Actually Protect Our Right to Bear Arms | Opinion | Opinion