My thirteenth year as an ‘”assault weapons” violence survivor’

Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of my becoming an “‘assault weapons’ violence survivor.” That’s right–citizen disarmament advocates don’t have a monopoly on people who were at the scene when some mentally unhinged loser decides to look for self-esteem in the act of mass murder.

It was thirteen years ago today that at Ft. Bragg, just such a loser opened fire on us early in the morning as we were beginning what was to be a four mile run. As mass shootings go, this one could have been a lot worse, with one man, Captain (posthumously promoted to Major) Stephen Mark Badger, killed. Another was paralyzed, while sixteen others sustained wounds of varying (but lesser, at least in the long term) severity. Armed with an AR-15 (and a couple other firearms), and with such a “target rich environment,” our loser could potentially have done far more damage than he did.

Actually, I was pretty slow to figure out what was going on. That morning’s event was our “Brigade Readiness Run”–a ritual of the 82nd Airborne Division in which the brigade taking over as the “alert” brigade (the one on the highest alert status) runs together as a unit, rather than the more usual practice of conducting the physical training (PT) on the company level. Such events are generally accompanied by lots of “Rah, rah” motivational silliness. At the time, things were tense in Bosnia, and at the back of everyone’s minds was the possibility that we could be sent there. When the shooting started, just as we had begun running, I thought at first that it was some kind of mock “attack” (with blanks), to get us into a “tactical” frame of mind. That would have been rather stupid, but my experience with the Army wasn’t such as to eliminate the possibility of stupid motivational stunts.

The sight of a guy on the ground, with a lot of blood on his PT uniform, is what convinced me that something quite different was going on. It was right around then that the general exodus up the hill and away from the area started, and we all did our best Brave Sir Robin impression.

In the final analysis, the physical risk to me, personally, was very slight. I was in more danger of falling and being trampled than of being shot–it was, after all, one guy shooting at around thirteen hundred, and we had plenty of room to run.

I bring this up to point out that being a “survivor of gun violence” does not grant any particular insight about liberty and gun laws. The Brady Campaign and other such organizations never fail to jump at the chance to parade survivors of mass shootings out in front of the cameras, to bolster their credibility in calling for yet more restrictive gun laws, but there’s nothing about such an experience that gives someone any additional qualification to infringe on the liberties of others.

I like my chances of surviving large numbers of so-called “assault weapons” in private hands. It’s the potential of the government trying to take them away that I fear.

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