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My Turn: Veterans like me want responsible gun laws

I am a U.S. Army veteran having served in Afghanistan in 2010 as a combat medic with the infantry. I served in the mountainous areas of Eastern Afghanistan where Osama Bin Laden planned the 9/11 attacks. It was also an area of the country where many Taliban and al-Qaida leaders escaped to Pakistan from after we overthrew the Taliban.

I’ve witnessed gun violence at home as a paramedic and emergency department RN, and abroad as a combat medic.

I am also a proud gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment.

It was in Afghanistan that I saw the effect of children growing up in a war zone. Once I witnessed a vehicle blown up by a roadside bomb. It was followed by shooting from an Afghan police unit. Despite an explosion close enough to feel the shock wave and automatic rifle fire, the children just kept playing. Sadly, it had become that much of their everyday life.

Here in the United States, we pride ourselves on providing a better life for our kids. But, as we reflect as a nation on the one-year of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 first-grade students and six teachers were gunned down, we must recognize our failures.

Poll after poll shows the majority of Granite Staters support background checks to stop felons, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill and other dangerous people from buying firearms.

In New Hampshire, our two U.S. senators were split on the vote for the bipartisan bill: While Sen. Jeanne Shaheen supported it, Sen. Kelly Ayotte did not. As citizens, it’s time for us to step up and voice support in favor of background checks for all gun purchases and to close the loopholes for gun shows and online sales.

That’s why I recently joined Veterans for Responsible Solutions, a national constituency of retired flag officers and senior officers and former enlisted service members of the U.S. armed forces founded by former astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

With some 300 of us across the country from all branches and ranks, we’re working to share our expertise with guns and experiences as vets in support of responsible gun ownership policies and measures to reduce gun violence.

We are taking notice of politicians like Ayotte, who voted against expanding background checks. It’s common-sense legislation to close loopholes so that felons and the dangerously mentally ill can’t buy guns online or at gun shows – avoiding a background check.

According to the Department of Justice, more than 90 percent of background checks are resolved “immediately,” and since 1998, background checks have blocked more than 2 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers.

I have spent much of my life protecting America and the values that make our country great.

I am a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, but there are people in our nation like convicted felons and the dangerously mentally ill who simply shouldn’t own weapons.

Many of my fellow service members have come home with scars that are not visible. These increased safeguards will not target those of us who have come home with PTSD. It is meant to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are dangerously ill. Shaheen understands that PTSD alone does not make someone dangerous.

As service members in a war zone, each of us had to pass a background check to carry our guns, and we were committed to the responsible use of our weapons. We defended both the Constitution and the safety of our communities. Now we’re asking Congress to protect our rights and the security of our communities by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.

Guns themselves are not the problem, and we believe in the Second Amendment, but we can also come together and pass laws that protect our communities from those who shouldn’t have guns.

Ayotte and others should learn from the courage of our veterans and work to keep our families safe by passing responsible gun violence solutions to prevent these tragedies from occurring again.

(Jeff Ballard of Brookfield is a former U.S. Army combat medic.)

Legacy Comments18

Mental health is the avenue to gun confiscation.. Politicians and Media push gun control in a DISHONEST manner... American Psychiatric Asso: Half of Americans are mentally ill.. 300,000,000 prescriptions for psychiatric drugs written in 2009 alone.. Where would these people begin the disarmament - anxiety, depression, parents of children with ADHD etc etc The list would be endless.. If the Senate could disarm veterans they would....

If a criminal or psychopath or felon wants a gun, they will get one. They have no intention of going through the legal process. None. Nada. Many of the shootings we are seeing lately are out of economic and social decay. This is the end result. Not pretty at all but we can squarely put the blame on politicians and Washington.

Our crime rate was lower before any of the modern gun control laws. And it started going back down after the expiration of the Clinton AWB and the rise of citizen gun carry. With only 44 people charged with crimes based on NICS last year, I am not sure that we have any proof that the existing background checks are useful. Certainly, I am very troubled that more than 50% of the denials by NICS have been shown to be mistakes.

Thank you, Sir, for your service and for risking your life for all of us. Even for those of us who seem to think you have no right to speak your mind.

Vetsky, it is already illegal for convicted violent criminals and adjudicated violent psychopaths to possess arms. What laws are you talking about? Law making them super-duper-hyper-cherry-on-top illegal? Please. We don' need no more stinkin' laws.

BHirsh and Ankh: Perhaps both you patriots might follow Mr. Ballard’s lead and share with us either precisely what you have done, and what you would propose our society might do, as effective ways of making another Sandy Hook less likely?

For starters - no more "gun free zones." They have been proven to be the places where all these mass shootings take place. Second, DO NOT adopt the type of gun laws they have in, say, Chicago. Have you SEEN all the deaths by guns that happen there? Third, FORCE Mental health agencies to turn over records on mentally unstable people to authorities so that they can take action before it's too late. This one thing would've stopped most of the recent mass shooters. Fourth - do something about all the violent movies and first-person shooter death-porn that is produced for consumption by our youth.

You forget that these criminals and psychopaths can go out and purchase a gun from anyone in a private sale. And since the right fights against gun registration there is no way to know who sold it to them or if it was stolen. The person selling the gun doesn't have to know anything about who he is selling to. That's why this loophole should be closed.

Yes you are correct. However, guns can be stolen (as in Sandy Hook) or made as in the places where this soldier served. So, there may be some room for us to reduce the number of guns in the hands of criminals, like enforcing existing laws. The only thing that we know works to reduce the body count is to have citizens trained and prepared to defend themselves. No child would have been killed at Sandy Hook if the staff would have been trained and armed, the shooter would have been stopped when he fired at the window to gain entrance. A very good listen is the interview with Interpol security expert on the subject of hard and soft targets: UT has allowed armed school staff for many years and there has not been a school shooting in UT, I wound why?

I hear this "if the teachers were armed and trained." This is pure fiction and completely false. The teachers and staff are trained to get students out of harms way before all else. The ludicrous idea that a teacher can pull out his/her gun and get in a firefight in a classroom doesn't even warrant addressing. These shootings last a matter of a few minutes hardly time to react and shelter students. I'd rather address the issues leading to these problems than add more guns to the mix.

Oh Boy!!!! I respect your service but come on you willing to let the "if you like your doctor you can keep your Doctor" crew create new laws??? I have the solution very simple on Toughen the Laws already on the books deter crime, if someone robs a bank with a gun doublethe sentence, if someone uses a gun in a crime double the sentence, leave the legal law abidiing gun owners alone. they are not the problem, criminals do not obtain there guns the legal way they steal or buy through the black market, so lets for arguments sake America is disarmed, you think crime will stop??? no, law abiding citizens will be sheep to slaughter. Criminals will use any means to accomplish what they want to do. More laws directed towards law abiding citizens will do nothing to stop or slow crime your only hurting the good citizens. Now a disarmed public will not only be sheep to the criminal, but also the government, Hint: Wonded Knee... and you of all people see what a disarmed populace in Afgani, what happened to the unarmed villagers ??they were dominated by the taliban they had no defence could not protect they were subjugated...Dude wake up... But I do salute you and your service....

Loophole, theres loopholes all right, its called the govt/BATF loophole (S). BATF prosecutes less than 1% of the 2.043 mil rejected since 1997. BATF doesnt do anything about the 95.52% of bad guys (21 mil + since 1997) who dont even try to buy from a licensed source to begin with. BATF doesnt allow civilians access to NICS for background checks on provate sales. BATF out of 139,651 rejected in 2010 only prosecuted 44, 26 straw buyers, 11 felons, 7 domestic violence abusers, no crazies. BATF let over 297,577 straw buyers pass the background check and buy over 446,363 guns in 2010 (over 2.23 mil+ since 1997) Govt. refused to resource to input the mentally ill & felons into NICS database with only 4.865 mil severely mentally ill and felons in NICS database as of Mar 2013 while there are over 31.793 mil of both in the US. Govt. refuses to resource people and moneys to pursue the 1.043 mil + people wanted on open felony warrant of whom 50% are probably severely mentally ill as are 50% of current 2.7 mil prisoners. Man them are some nasty loopholes the government & BATF have created. When are you lefties going to fix these BATF & Govt. loopholes instead of making more useless laws that per Haynes vs US 390, 85, 1968 & Freed vs US 401, 601, 1971 which affirm the 5th amendment right of no self incrimnation, makes 85% of all gun control laws not applicable as a prosecutable charge eh? You know, licenses, registrations, background checks etc, etc, etc...all require someone to IDENTIFY THEMSELVES. So explain again how a law, you cant punish a bad guy with, will reduce violence by said bad guy eh? Oh thats right, you ignorant insane lefties will wave your magic fairy wand and sprinkle your magic fairy dust and wish it to happen, LOL!

I don’t know: From reading his column, for me former U.S. Army combat medic Jeff Ballard just somehow does not come across as an ignorant insane lefty. (Call ME crazy.)

Not insane, misguided. The constitutional authority for background checks at retail issues from Commerce Clause powers. There is no constitutionally delegated authority to mandate them for private transactions. Translation: The government can't do that. Or is the Constitution this vet was sworn to preserve, protect and defend merely an a la carte menu?

If you belive that then there is no authority to ban guns from felons or psychopaths.

Safe to say the legal argument that there exists “no constitutionally delegated authority to mandate [background checks] for private transactions” is supported by NO OPINION of ANY court of competent jurisdiction? Does that mean it your position that Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause do not extend to private citizens’ conduct? (To whom, pray tell, DO they apply?)

Well, the test is basically can they be shown to be effective by the facts? If not then under strict interpretation of the Bill of Rights then they are not legal. We do know that gun registration at the federal level is not legal and that according to DOJ universal background checks can not be effective with out gun registration. So, I would think that UBC is not obviously legal.

I fail to see why you consider federal gun registration not legal? Where does it say that it's not allowed?

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