WASHINGTON - Like many people from Northern Michigan, I grew up around firearms and I'm a lifetime gun owner. The responsible use of guns for sport and for hunting is a way of life up here in Northern Michigan. Many of us have treasured memories of getting our first .22 rifle as a kid or spending hours and hours target shooting at our camp. But right now, there are new anti-gun laws being pushed in Washington that will limit our Second Amendment rights and punish responsible gun owners for actions of murderers.
I believe the acts of violence in our nation with guns should generate a national conversation about enforcement of current gun laws and the state of mental health care in this country. Local sheriffs in Northern Michigan have told me there are people out there with known mental illness who are dangerous to themselves or others, but local law enforcement officials can't access that information. That s something we need to look at and something we need to try to fix. But that should not lead to lawmakers in Washington taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. Frankly, I don't believe more laws from Washington will fix the problem.
Recently, new control legislation was defeated in the U.S. Senate. While I believe this was a win for our Second Amendment rights, I think there's little doubt that politicians in Washington and from the big cities will continue to push an aggressive anti-gun agenda. They only see guns as a problem I don't believe guns are the problem - I believe evil people are.
U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek
Many responsible firearm owners have prevented tragedies with their right to bear arms. Whether it is the convenience store clerk from Battle Creek who protected himself and his customers from a robbery because he was armed with a gun or a single mom guarding her baby during a home invasion, guns are used every day to make this country safer. In fact, guns are used every day in this country to protect the most vulnerable among us.
I think the political elites in Washington, the Hollywood crowd out in California, and the mayors in the big cities just don't get it. They don't know or understand that guns and gun safety are a way of life up here in Northern Michigan. Our leaders in Washington are protected with armed bodyguards and Hollywood celebrities hire armed bodyguards, yet they want to dictate to us what weapons we can use to defend ourselves and our families. I think families in Northern Michigan know a whole lot more about protecting themselves than big city politicians in Washington do.
A few months ago, I wrote a letter to President Obama that was signed by 76 of my colleagues from around the country. We wrote the president to express our concern that his gun-control proposals do not reflect the viewpoints of millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners. Northern Michigan s gun owners deserve a voice in this debate and I plan to keep fighting to ensure their voices are heard in Congress.
We cannot allow our rights to be limited because of the actions of murderers. Our liberties are too important. I am reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin, who said in 1755, "those who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. It's imperative that we prevent government infringement on our God-given right to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and our homes and property."
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Rep. Dan Benishek is a general surgeon and is serving in his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.