On The Ridge with Joe Judd: Digging into HD.4420

Published: 09-06-2023 6:09 PM

I need to start off this column by saying that I’ve never been much of a politician. Even when you consider the two-plus decades I spent as a selectman in Shelburne, I was never a politician. But even if I was, being a selectman in Shelburne, Massachusetts, hardly elevates you to the status of being relevant in the world of politics. Diving into a tough topic like this is by no means my attempt to sway anyone’s opinion. Nonetheless, here we go!

Since late June, I’ve been quietly paying attention to Bill HD.4420 being proposed, and if passed, would attempt to modernize, and reform the state’s current gun laws. What really stands out to me in this large proposal is the number of topics that are covered within the bill, making it extremely difficult for the average citizen to fully comprehend.

Yet we all understand how the topic of guns has divided this country for decades. I recently discussed this with my good friend, and retired Mass-Wildlife Central District Director Bill Davis, who offered up, “When it comes to the bottom line of this new bill, it’s just a massive piece of legislation that cannot be amended or otherwise repaired. Which means it will have no positive impact on society, or for legal, and responsible, gun owners in Massachusetts. Simply put, it will make lawful gun ownership here more difficult than ever before.” Bill goes on to say, “I fully realize that emotions run deep on this topic, so we must temper our approach and stick to the facts.” And I agree with those comments, 100-percent.

Having said that, reasonable solutions on this topic are exceedingly difficult to reach. It stems from the fact that, while many people disagree on guns and gun ownership, owning a gun remains one of the oldest and, in many places, most cherished traditions. The right to “keep and bear arms” within a “well-regulated militia” was set forth as being so central to the notion of liberty that it came second only to “freedom of speech and thought” in the Bill of Rights. But when this is talked about or debated, it usually boils down to talking over, or sometimes through, each other. So the gun questions end in a standoff, to the point where people can’t agree on anything. One side appeals for “common sense gun controls,” the other hears only “control.” Others scream “law-abiding gun owners,” yet others only hear “guns.”

So I ask you, how did we ever get here? And to answer that takes time, plus digging up a little history along the way.

Our country was a rural society for most of its history. In many places, firearms were tools — for protection, securing food, and connecting generations. I remember the year I was old enough to receive my first 22-caliber rifle for Christmas. It was a Marlin Model 81, given to me by my father, which was handed down to him by his father. And I remember thinking how desperately I wanted to take care of this rifle and learn how to use it as well as them. Thoughts of wanting to pass it along someday didn’t surface until many years later, but the gun still sits in my safe today, waiting to be passed on again.

The view of guns in urban America are decidedly different. Cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and others, which are 90-percent suburbs, carry some of the highest gun violence rates in the country, leaving little support by the people for guns and gun ownership. On top of this, we must accept the truth, that shootings are now commonplace across our country, happening in our most precious and sacred places; an unthinkable occurrence just a generation ago, has now become an unfortunate element of routine. Active shooter drills are familiar to many preschoolers and kindergartners all over the country, with parents anxious at best as they watch their children leave for school each morning. And I got to tell ya, with school starting up again here, I feel a pit in my stomach every time I think about it too much.

So what’s next? Recently, a firearms instructor who lives about five miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School commented that, “If we could educate on who we are and what we believe in, common ground might be found.” And after mulling this comment over, she’s spot on. The responsibility, and the need for extraordinary care for those who legally own firearms — are common to both those who own guns, and those who want more control of guns. And in many ways, this concept might be a bridge to the big divide; and a logical starting point for a heartfelt conversation to begin.

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff. He can be reached at jjontheridge@comcast.net

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