For reference, the discussion that resulted in the below email had started on the report that facsimile or deactivated firearms might be banned for use by Civil Air Patrol Drill Teams and Color Guards, and someone mentioned Columbine HS during the discussion. TSA is The Spaatz Association, an group of individuals who earned CAP's coveted Spaatz Award--the highest award in the cadet program. Spaatz awards are not common, and certificates are numbered (I hold Spaatz #445). Not surprisingly, most Spaatz awardees go on to significant leadership positions in later life. For a brief discussion of the TSA, click here. PC is short for politically correct. The email is slightly altered to eliminate names and clarify points that would be opaque without reference to the email to which I responded.

I was introduced to target shooting in CAP when I was 14. Since then, I've carried those lessons in responsibility, safety, and marksmanship throughout my whole life. CAP's marksmanship training provided the right perspective on firearms and my responsibilities. Firearms shouldn't automatically be associated with killing people and breaking things. Sport shooting is a hugely popular, safe, and legitimate use of firearms which has a long heritage in America and is (not by accident) protected by our Constitution. Good firearm safety training is infinitely preferable to the alternative on the streets.

Having said that, the move against the use of deactivated rifles on drill teams is PC and hence wrong-headed to its core. We should be thankful for the discipline these young people show in consistent practice. The lessons learned in healthy competition prepare these young folks for the rigors of adulthood in the workplace. The same goes for sabers. The key isn't the inanimate tool, it's the correct training and discipline of the human element in their safe use.

America's military heritage differs greatly from most other countries. Civilian control of the military and our consistent defense of freedom are things of which we should be proud. The same goes for our constitutional protection of firearms ownership that ensure our freedom from tyranny from within and without. We do a great disservice to our youth by not distinguishing between properly supervised firearms safety programs and healthy drill competitions versus the illegitimate use firearms and armies. It's far worse when people equate the two.

I understand the sensitivities associated with school shootings, especially where you are close to Columbine. I pray God's peace for those affected by all these tragedies. On the other hand, would you take away everyone's right to own a car because a maniac drove through a school yard (an actual case)? Or as a result of the carnage caused by drunk drivers every day? I doubt it. And driving isn't a constitutional right. You are correct when you observe that some do disagree that individual firearm ownership is in view in the Second Amendment, but the writings of the original framers clearly state that their intent was that the militia meant all citizens. The Supreme Court agreed in U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez. The tradition of all the people forming the militia goes back way to the days to the long bow in Europe, and then some.

I know this isn't a popular or well reported fact, but gun-related crime is actually lower in states and municipalities with the least restriction on legal gun owners. John R. Lott, Jr., in his book "More Guns, Less Crime" culls extensive statistics from around the country, including the federal government's own. It is a very thorough and scholarly treatment (and thick reading!), and the evidence is clear. The press didn't report the effective use of a personal firearm in a school in Pearl, Mississippi, in 1997. Assistant Principal Joel Myrick saved the lives of countless students when he used his own firearm to subdue a gunman that had already killed two students before the assailant could reek greater carnage throughout the school. In fact, I believe the hero was fired for having a gun at the school (I lost track of the case because of the dearth of coverage), but probably a dozen or more children who would have been victims will live to adulthood because of his heroism. That's partly what the framers of the Bill of Rights had in mind.

To go a step further into the sociological side, the population of New York City was greater 50 years ago and the gun laws then were virtually non-existent, yet the crime rate was a fraction of what it is now when handguns are virtually banned. What's the difference? In my not so humble opinion, the problem of Columbine, et al, isn't guns or knives or bomb-making material, but the result of decades of parental neglect in not raising children with a strong sense of morals, and tolerating the deterioration of moral teaching in the schools and even churches.

You get what you train, and in many cases parents and schools are training children to be relativistic, amoral beings whose most important guiding lights in life are how they feel and what they want right now. In more and more cases, they feel that their only crime is getting caught. As a commander, I've bounced my share of them out of the military, but sadly, they've usually dragged others down with them and there are always more coming on board behind them. That's one reason I jumped into the TSA when I learned of its existance, and the reason that I think CAP is so important. It's one of the last bastions of sanity where positive role models like you are teaching discipline, responsibility, and leadership to our young folks. I'd stack your CAP cadets against any other group of young people. The hard-working leaders and mentors like you in the units make a real positive difference in their cadets' lives. This also explains my passionate stand against those who abuse that authority. Our young people deserve the best leadership we can provide, and we should tolerate nothing less. America's future depends on it.

I guess I really got rolling on this one, but I pray that we don't miss the real lessons of these tragedies. The price to pay for superficial "solutions" like increased gun control laws (that only ever affect law abiding citizens) is the blood of our children. The deadliest weapon isn't in these killers' hands, it's in their heads. Tim McVeigh didn't need a gun in Oklahoma City, but he sure could have used a conscience.