As a military trainee in the late ‘60s I recall securing my semiautomatic M-14 assault rifle to my rack with a bicycle lock. No further security precautions were required because without a selector switch to convert the weapon to full auto the M-14 was not significantly different from other semiautomatic rifles then being sold in the private sector. Later, when the fully automatic capable M-16 was issued, arms rooms were required to store these new weapons behind steel doors secured with multiple locks and restricted access. At that time MY COUNTRY considered these battlefield weapons to be significantly different than the semiautomatic weapons being marketed in the private sector — largely because they far exceeded the firepower necessary for personal defense or hunting. Also, at that time, MY COUNTRY did not want unrestricted access to these weapons and elected officials knew it.

As both an infantry rifle company commander and a special operations company commander, I marveled at the awesome firepower I had in my company arms room. There was row upon row of the most efficient killing machines ever devised by man. Fast forward to when I retired from the military in the late ‘90s and ventured into a local sporting goods store wherein I was immediately struck by the similarity between my company arms room and what I found inside the store. Minus the crew-served weapons — mortars, heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, etc. — there was as much firepower on the walls of Blue Lakes Sporting Goods as I once had in my military arms room. And all I needed was a credit card. Today, places like Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Warehouse are awash in AR-15 style weapons. Throw in a bump stock here and there and a WWI infantry squad defending MY COUNTRY would not stand a chance in a hostile encounter with a group of today’s “sportsmen.” Leaving me with the questions: Why? What for? Who benefits?

My military arms room was stocked with weapons of war so MY COUNTRY could defend itself against all enemies, foreign and domestic. MY COUNTRY decided who those enemies would be. Today special-interest groups like the NRA and gun manufacturers, in concert with elected representatives —mostly Republicans but Democrats should not receive a pass, either — have decided that the enemy is, evidently, none other than MY COUNTRY and the way we govern ourselves. And by all appearances we seem to be arming ourselves to do something about it. Yes to all AR owners, I agree with your argument that the Second Amendment was not about self-defense or hunting; it was about preventing tyranny by a repressive government. Yet I also know that the conditions of tyranny ended decades ago. Why don’t you? And unless Bob Mueller can prove otherwise, it is through your and my vote that MY COUNTRY now selects its leaders, not through the shenanigans of a foreign government. To prepare for Armageddon by allowing weapons of war to be viewed as necessary civilian attire is to worship a false God. And places like Las Vegas and Parkland, to name but two of many, are suffering the consequences.

It is an indisputable fact that these weapons were not misused in Las Vegas or at Parkland; they were used exactly for what they were manufactured to do: kill a lot of people in a hurry. It is simply that they were placed in the wrong hands and pointed at the wrong people. It is not the guns’ fault. The guns functioned flawlessly. It is my fault. It is your fault. It is MY COUNTRY’s fault. And so long as they remain available to the general public we will always run the risk of them being placed in the wrong hands and being pointed at the wrong people. In my opinion, these types of weapons do not belong in civilian hands any more than a hand grenade does.

But it’s even more than a type of firearm. It is the “me, me, me” mindset and “to hell with you.” It is the self-fulfilling prophecy that I now need an assault rifle because my neighbor already has several and, well, you know, my neighbor’s crazy! When a scofflaw group of self-declared states’ rights “patriots” showed up in Bunkerville to defend Cliven Bundy’s supposed “right” of refusal to pay for lawfully imposed fees for grazing on federal land, they were fully prepared to kill federal and state law enforcement personnel hired to enforce MY COUNTRY’S laws. And the charges against them were dropped. People such as the Bundy defenders who showed up outfitted for combat are the true seeds of real anarchy, not pretend anarchy. They were clearly visible at both Bundy’s ranch and the Malheur sanctuary in Oregon. Idaho’s elected “law and order” representatives’ response to this nonsense was to applaud one of them when he appeared in person during the recent Idaho legislative session. Keep in mind that this is the same legislative body whose predecessors convened to pass the very laws that the Bundy crowd refused to abide by. Evidently today’s representatives never got the memo that guns are neither needed nor welcomed at such disputes. MY COUNTRY now has courts to resolve these types of disputes. In short, MY COUNTRY has evolved. Why haven’t our legislators?

In retrospect, maybe they did get the memo since the scofflaw didn’t bring his AR onto the floor with him. Seems that type of behavior is considered too dangerous to allow where our representatives gather, and there is ample security for them. You and I pay for it. Unlike at a public school where our children gather — too expensive.

So, we are left with three choices. Either restrict access to battlefield weaponry or raise state and local taxes to protect our children from them. Or do nothing. Wanna bet which one our elected representatives choose? If this seems crazy to you, it is because it is crazy! Now go vote!

Gary Eller is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and former Buhl High School government teacher and ran as a Democrat for Twin Falls County commissioner in 2010.