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Page 16
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<< 15. A Veteran's Perspective on Gun Violence17. It's People Who Kill People... With Guns >>

The Gun Line

By Gregory Ross

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I don't own a gun, never have. My interactions with guns have all been while in uniform. The first as a Boy Scout when our suburban troop would go to a rural shooting range and learn about gun safety and shoot .22 caliber rifles at bulls-eyed targets, no human shaped targets, and bottles filled with water.

The next was in Navy Boot Camp, when we had to qualify with various weapons. For most of my four years in the Navy, I carried no weapon. I had no real need for a weapon. The only time I routinely carried a weapon was when I was stationed on two different Cruisers as a Communications Technician working for the Admiral running the Naval war from the 7th Fleet off the coast of Viet Nam. We handled sensitive materials, Top Secret, Eyes Only materials. Our spaces, which in effect were a large bank vault with a tumbler lock, held machine guns and .45 caliber pistols. When we took classified materials to be incinerated we were required to wear a .45. I never could figure out the rationale. Was some Russian spy, disguised as a US sailor or marine going to steal a bag of info, jump into the Pacific Ocean and swim to Vietnam to turn it over to his superiors?

While at sea, in a classic Department of Defense idiotic waste, all personnel on board all ships were required to re-qualify with a .45 caliber pistol. All 1,667 officers and enlisted on the ship I was on at that time were so required. One by one, each man stood on the fan tail of the ship with a .45 and was ordered to empty a full clip into the ocean. He was then declared to have re-qualified, since he hit the designated target — the Pacific Ocean. Orders are orders.

I reiterate, I don't own a gun, even though I live in Oakland, California, the fourth most dangerous city in America according to the FBI. The geography of the Bay Area goes like this. The Pacific Ocean flows through the Golden Gate to form the Oakland/San Francisco Bay. West Oakland, closest to the bay, is the poorest part of town. Mid-Oakland, locally known as East Oakland, is a mix of poor, working class and middle class. This is where my family and I live, in a mixed working and middle class neighborhood. Then there are "The Hills," the more affluent area of Oakland. My wife and I have lived in our present home for 22 years, and raised our son, from the age of 9, in this house and neighborhood. We have only had two break-ins. One by a teenager known to our then teen aged son and one by a stranger. We have an alarm system and have security screen doors on our side and back and basement doors and have reinforced our solid wood front door to prevent it from being kicked in. We have a sign on the front yard stating that our house is alarmed. We had a dog but, she died. We live in a "safe" part of town but, in the last year armed robberies, burglaries involving doors being kicked in, home invasions and muggings, some in front of our house, some just doors away from us, others within blocks, have gone way up.

When I was out at sea the Cruisers I was on had 8" cannons which were known as "Guns." They could throw roughly 300 pound shells almost 20 miles, yet they never made me feel safe. Owning a gun here in my house, in 2013 would not make me feel safer. The Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University released statistics on gun deaths. Three out of five gun related deaths are suicides. This number is from the most recent study available dated 2010. Google gun related suicides, look for the Boston Globe article based on the Johns Hopkins study. The article gives this 3/5th number then goes on to say that this percentage has held true since 1920. Oakland has a dwindling tax base and poor governance. Altruistic assessment — incompetence, cynical assessment — corruption, most likely reality — both. A gun is not going to help us. For one thing, I have not fired a weapon since "qualifying" with the .45 on the fan tail of the Cruiser, on the "Gun Line" off the coast of Vietnam in 1968 or 1969 and my wife has never fired one.

I don't know the answer to the "Gun Violence" problem but, I do endorse stronger gun control laws, all of them. Since I have been clinically depressed and suicidal (VA therapy and medication have changed that), I say again, I don't own a gun, for my own safety.

Gregory Ross: Navy, the Gun Line off coast of Viet Nam with the 7th Fleet [1968-69]. Graduate of a VA drug, alcohol and PTSD program [1980]; Acupuncturist, Detox specialty [since 1989], laid off [2011] published in "Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace". Feedback: gandgandg@yahoo.com

<< 15. A Veteran's Perspective on Gun Violence17. It's People Who Kill People... With Guns >>