A chance meeting in the woods with the local game warden in 1959, when I was 17 and only weeks from high school graduation, resulted in a friendly conversation in which the warden informed me that he would do what he could do to help me, but my sawed-off shotgun was a federal offense.

Illinois Semiautomatic Weapons Ban Lawsuits

Assault weapons and handguns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield, Ill., in 2013. Seth Perlman/Associated Press, file

After being put in a small windowless room at our town police station, I had time to think over my situation. The warden knew me well from my love of the outdoors, which involved hunting, fishing, trapping and guns. It was a time when November stood for deer hunting and you went before school in the morning and after school until dark – carrying your hunting rifle into school in the morning, walking into the principal’s office and placing your rifle in the corner, where the smiling receptionist pointed.

I didn’t give it a second thought when I cut down a single 12-gauge shotgun and carved the stock into a short grip like a handgun as a novelty toy, never fully realizing that what I had created for fun was considered one of the most deadly weapons of the time and controlled by federal law.

Soon, two federal agents entered the room in the police station, sat down, placed my sawed-off shotgun in the middle of the table and told me to take it. I shook my head “no” and told them that it had caused too much trouble and I did not want it. After a few similar exchanges between them and myself, one of them slid a piece of paper across the table and asked if I was willing to sign the paper, giving the gun to them. I quickly signed it, never reading it, and gave it to them. They took the gun and left, and I was then free to go.

I no longer wish to kill any living thing. But I still have that interest in firearms. Hopefully, I will never have to defend myself or my family, but I have personal knowledge and experience knowing what my legal shotgun is capable of doing. The military-style assault weapons make no sense for hunting and seem to have created a problem just because of the numbers now available to almost anyone.

If we guess that the percentage of those with serious mental issues is about the same as ever, we have to account for an increase in their numbers because of an ever-expanding population. This creates an unpredictable situation beyond what the greatest minds of the 1700s could have imagined.

After every mass shooting of innocents, I shake my head in disbelief, based on personal experience and some knowledge of history, that the public is shocked and that the people we elect say it is a problem with no solution. That makes no sense. The times have changed and men and women with great minds exist today, and our country needs them to do what is right, no matter the cost to them personally. Courage, along with common sense and the Golden Rule, must guide some to lead by example.

Congress, with the Second Amendment in mind, passed the National Firearms Act of 1934, which covered two specific types of guns: machine guns and short-barreled firearms. It did not ban either weapon, but it imposed taxes and other legal restrictions. The legislation survived a 1939 Supreme Court challenge in Miller v. United States. Something can be done by those we elect to protect the innocent.

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