That issue is violence, and of it, Harris says:
"I remember when I held an M16 rifle for the first time. I was terrified. The rifle was designed specifically for killing human beings. That's one of the first things we were told. It was even scarier after I loaded my first magazine and chambered my first round. I was acutely aware that I now held the power to end another human's life. I was 19 years old.
"Our drill sergeants went to great lengths to make everyone understand that our rifles were to be called 'weapons.' We were told that 'guns' were what teenage boys played with when they are all alone in the shower. I saw soldiers dropped for a healthy set of push ups when they got it wrong.
"The distinction was important. A gun could be a toy or a pet name for your dingaling. By making us refer to our rifles as 'weapons' we had to come to terms with their purpose and our own.
"I spent many hours training with my weapon in a variety of conditions. Shooting an M16 outdoors at human targets that pop up in the grass is a lot different than shooting at paper targets at an indoor range or plinking at cans in your backyard. There's rarely a moment when you aren't aware that you're training to fight other people who may also have weapons.
"Just touching the point of a 5.56 mm round made me uneasy. It's sharp. At first, I didn't like handling ammo or a loaded rifle because I just wasn't sure of myself. I was always afraid that I'd be the guy who dropped the rifle that went off by mistake. I'd seen other soldiers make similarly dumb mistakes with weaponry.
"As part of our training, we also learned what our weapons were capable of doing to the human body. In fact, we spent a lot time learning how to provide first aid to our wounded comrades. I've seen all the graphic pictures I care to see of what assault rifles, landmines, chemicals, and explosives do to humans and animals. The training was important and I'm glad our military goes to such great lengths to ensure our soldiers are expertly trained to handle firearms.
"As combat engineers, we also trained with real grenades, tear gas, a wide variety of explosives, mines, booby traps, and other forms of ordnance. All in all, the basic and advanced training took 14 weeks with a work day that started at 4-4:30 am and ended at 8:30-9 pm. When I graduated from Ft. Leonard Wood as a 12B combat engineer, I had received the requisite training that would allow me to be deployed for action if necessary. That's a lot of expensive training for one soldier.
"Ultimately, after a lot of hard work, I earned my expert marksmanship badge. It was a big deal for me at the time. From that point forward, I felt confident that I could handle myself with a deadly weapon.
Why aren't average citizens required to go through the same training? The weapons aren't any different. The stakes aren't any different.
"If the right to own a gun is to ensure that we can defend ourselves from harm, then wouldn't everyone want to be trained properly? Wouldn't we want many layers of insurance and safeguards? Seems like a no-brainer.
"Wouldn't we also want accountability? Do you really want to spend all of the time you are out in public wondering which one of the red-faced, angry men shouting outside the church on the corner is packing a firearm? Shouldn't someone capable of wielding deadly force be required to carry substantial insurance in the event that, you know... someone gets hurt or killed? Shouldn't they also be wearing a uniform like a policeman or a solider? Shouldn't they be wearing some kind of obvious identification (aside from the loaded/concealed weapon) to let you know this individual was prepared to use deadly force AT ANY TIME?
"You don't see Marines hanging out at the grocery store showing off their assault rifles. People would freak out.
"On the other hand, if the point of owning a gun in America is simply to preserve the legal means to end a disagreement with deadly force, then we are lost as a society.
"Here's what I truly believe:
"No one wants to take away your right to be happy and free.
"No one wants to take away your ability to defend yourself, your country or your loved ones.
"Most of the people in this country are happy to let professional soldiers defend the homeland and to let trained police defend our neighborhoods. No one wants the streets filled with mobs of poorly trained would-be heroes with nothing to lose and too little sense to distinguish a real threat from a perceived one.
"We need insurance, accountability, and extensive training. We need every gun owner to spend some quality time looking at pictures and videos of what their new, fancy handgun can do to a real human being. Weapons aren't toys.
"We need to tell the stories of the men, women and children who've lost their loved ones to gun violence. We need to listen to the stories our veterans have to tell about the true horrors of war and combat. We also need a social contract built on a respect for all life and a willingness to use words over weapons at every possible opportunity.
"Finally, we need to regard the use of deadly force as the ultimate failure to communicate."