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  • Writer's pictureLee Roth

Guns and Gun Rights — Times have changed

I learned to shoot a rifle

Guns and shooting and schools and gun rights have been in the news a lot recently. Will restrictions on the age of people getting guns and limits of the kind of guns and the capacity of guns make people safe from people with bad intent? Is the only answer to a gun in the hands of a bad guy to have a gun in the hands of a good guy who knows how to use it?

I first drove a big farm tractor, under the guidance of my mother's uncle and his two sons, my older cousins, when I was eight years old. It was during that summer on their farm in Alexandria Township that I first shot a BB gun and a 22 rifle. After two years of spending part of the summer on the farm I went off to camp in New Hampshire.

As a 10-year-old I learned to swim and I learned to shoot a rifle in competition. I earned a sharpshooter pin and two bars. I shot on a ten and under, and later a 12 and under, and then a 14 and under age rifle team in competition. As a reward for earning a sharpshooter metal at age 10 that first summer my mother bought my first 22 rifle for me. She and I shot it together at our small family farm in Holland Township.

I Joined the Air Force ROTC

When I got to college I joined the Air Force ROTC and shot on their rifle team. When I first became a lawyer a client invited me to shoot hand guns in a competition at the Somerset County 4H Fair grounds with a small group of sportsmen and police officers.

When I read about the goings-on in relation to shootings in Chicago, Baltimore, and in schools around the country, and other public places, I think about my gun experience. I read about people seeking gun safety, or more accurately safety from guns. Or preventing people from getting guns. Or raising the age at which a person can legally buy a gun to 21 years of age. Or taking guns away from people. I think about the fact that I became a gun owner at age 10. At the time of my youth I could shoot a gun in any direction away from the house and not worry about hitting anyone. Times have changed.

In The School Parking Lot To See His New Gun

When I see news reports about shootings in schools I remember when I was a student in Flemington High School. A friend invited another friend and myself to come out to the school parking lot to see his new gun. He had a new shot gun for hunting deer. It was mounted in a rack in his truck just behind his head when he drove the vehicle. We checked that there were no shells in the gun and then passed it around and admired it in the open parking lot next to his truck.

Other students brought their guns to school, especially on the first day of hunting season, when I was in high school. A few years ago I read about a student being arrested for having a knife in the trunk of his car in a school parking lot. His family hired a lawyer to defend him from the charge. Times have changed.

But I still have my Firearms Purchaser Identification Card signed by Chief of Police Bart Evans in 1966, although I have not used it for a long time.

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