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I spent most of my grade school years growing up in the Midwest where owning guns and hunting was a tradition that was typically passed on from father to son. I took the required gun class to get a hunting license and then pursued hunting pheasants and rabbits with my father and uncle. Often I would take my .22 rifle or .410 shotgun down to the nearby river without adult supervision.

Why Allow Assault Rifles

Assault Weapons: What Are They Good For?—Steve Crandall

In the summer of 1968, I joined the Air Force where in basic training I was taught to disassemble, re-assemble, and shoot the M16 rifle. Our goal was to get as many rounds as possible in the center of the paper target. Clearly, the M16 was different than any other rifle I had shot, but I put those thoughts aside and focused on hitting the paper target. I continued to train with the M16 as I moved from base to base and eventually received an expert marksmanship medal for my accuracy in hitting the paper target.

Often wonder if Ted Nugent, Wayne La Pierre or Donald Trump would share my views about ownership of assault weapons had they served in Viet Nam.

When I joined the Air Force, my hope was to get a position learning about air-conditioning and refrigeration, but I was assigned the position of jet aircraft weapons loader. Being a weapons loader, I knew that sooner or later I would probably end up in Viet Nam, so rather than to wait for the unknown, I made the decision to go ahead and volunteer in late 1969.

I was deployed to Da Nang Air Force Base, also known as “Rocket City,” where rocket attacks that pounded the base and kept us awake at night were all too common. At Da Nang we loaded just about every type of weapon the Air Force had in its arsenal and we would often watch them being dropped in the surrounding valleys and hills.

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Occasionally, we went off base into the nearby foothill villages. We were allowed to check out an M16 rifle along with one 10-round clip. I also carried another 10-round clip I got from a Marine in the adjacent compound.

This M16 was no different than the one that I used in training to shoot paper targets, but now as I held it in my hands, it took on a very sinister feeling. Its rapid fire capabilities and high velocity rounds make it a real killing machine. For the first time, I realized this was not a weapon for killing animals like the ones I hunted when I was a kid, instead it was a weapon designed for the sole propose of killing human beings.

I haven’t hunted since I returned home from Viet Nam. Any desire I previously had to kill animals is long gone now. It doesn’t bother me if others want to hunt, but I do, however, take exception to loud gun-touting advocates who speak against any ban on assault weapons. Especially ones like Ted Nugent, Wayne La Pierre and Donald Trump who all had the opportunity to join the military and go to Viet Nam but instead obtained draft deferments. Also, there are gun advocates like Ted Cruz who made light of an assault rifle in a campaign video by proudly cooking bacon on the hot barrel. Guys like these are the epitome of hypocrisy surrounding the current gun debates.

How many times have you heard slogans like “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” or that the outcome from shootings like the one in San Bernardino, Paris, or Sandy Hook would have been “different” if only the civilians had been armed. This is the kind of rhetoric that comes from mouths of these “armchair” patriots that have never experienced the fear, anxiety, and confusion that comes in these life threatening situations. And being around inexperienced people with guns under stressful situations is the last place anyone should want to be.

I am a strong advocate against putting assault weapons in the hands of civilians and often wonder if Ted Nugent, Wayne La Pierre or Donald Trump would share my views about ownership of assault weapons had they served in Viet Nam. I guess, because they chose not to go, I’ll never know.


Steve Crandall