One young man's view on firearms

Opinion: Columns

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By Matthew Udelson

At 20 years old, I was the youngest member of the "Gun Right and Responsibilities Committee." Before I begin, fair warning: I don't sugarcoat anything. (In defense of my coming language I invoke the 1st Amendment.)

During the time that the committee was meeting, I chose to bite my tongue and be respectful and trusting right out of the gate. This is totally out of character for me. Normally, I make people earn my respect and my trust. I'm not saying that I am disrespectful when you first meet me, but I will not go out of my way to be nice if you disrespect me.

Speaking for myself, and maybe a couple of others on the Gun Rights' side, I feel totally disrespected and insulted by those on the other side of what I see as a non-issue who say that they don't want to have guns confiscated but obviously do. We gun owners (and future gun owners) are not stupid, so please don't insult our intelligence.

I wish to echo John Erickson's article from Viewpoints on Jan. 8. Gun violence is a three-legged stool. One leg is the criminal carrying the gun, another leg is the victim, and the last leg is a criminal act. He posed the question, "Why aren't gun owners attacked as often as unarmed individuals?" The answer is quite simple: Do what I do and think like a criminal to avoid/catch/stop a criminal. Criminals chicken out if there is a chance they might get killed! This, coincidentally, explains many gun owners' view that "Gun Free Zones" are a joke. That little sign with the "no guns" symbol in the window, actually says this: Attention criminals; all persons within these premises are disarmed for your convenience.

To those who say that violence is not the answer, I wholeheartedly agree with you, but I am a realist. You can give peace a chance; I'll cover you if it doesn't work out.

Before my closing, I wish to share with you a few quotes that sum up my personal opinion on the Second Amendment:

"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him but because he loves what is behind him." G.K. Chesterton

"We must reject the idea that every time a law is broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." Ronald Reagan

"We, the people, are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution." Abraham Lincoln

"Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading." Thomas Jefferson

At the end of the day, my constitutional rights are not for sale or trade. Anti-gun people need to come to the realization that the Second Amendment trumps their opinion, and that these rights are not theirs to negotiate. They have already been paid for, in full, by better men than them … or me. So instead of insisting on taking away my rights, just to make you happy, you move you're a** to one of those other promised lands. I'll even help you pack. 

Forewarning, there are guns in every country in the world so get used to them. They aren't going anywhere. 

Editor's note: Both and have debunked the quote above that is erroneously attributed to Thomas Jefferson. We can't vouch for the other quotes either.

Reader Comments

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Bill Doogan  

Posted: April 17th, 2014 11:06 AM

While local people debate, laws in Springfield are written by lobbyists like the NRAs Todd Vandermyde. HB183 carry bill sponsor Rep. Brandon Phelps from Harrisburg is a hick from a nothing district who wanted his name on a bill, and Vandermyde is his Rasputin, giving the police Duty to Inform w/ criminal penalties so gun owners can be threatened and arrested, and NRA lawyers can make money. Remember how Benedict Arnold almost cost the American Revolution? Remember traitors like Vandermyde.


Posted: March 25th, 2014 4:05 PM

You are entitled to your own opinions, but please make sure your opinions are based on facts and not rumors on the internet. You are wrong in that gun ownership is not legal in every country in the world ( Also, Thomas Jefferson never said why you quoted him as saying ( Being misinformed destroys your credibility and points to an uneducated individual.

Eric Reeb from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2014 3:10 PM

C'mon: There's part of the reason I wrote "Leaving aside..." There's a whole lot of baggage that comes with Jefferson.


Posted: March 25th, 2014 2:21 PM

Jefferson on race: "Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one [black] could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous." Yeah, Jefferson's legacy is spotless. Eloquent, though!

Eric Reeb from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2014 1:28 PM

Thanks for pointing out the wrongly attributed quote. Leaving aside any other part of his legacy, Jefferson's words were eloquent and that quote most certainly is not.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 24th, 2014 4:30 PM

@ John Abbott - You have made some rather serious charges against me and if true I would like to know who to apologise to and for what. Show me my "Contempt for the truth" and how do you define that truth? Where did I "peddle falshoods" and specifically what were those falshoods? When and where did I claim to be "picked upon" Please define "reasonable discussion" and where did I deny anyone the right to speak their mind. Do not have sympathy for the gun grabber side - they are all adults who can state their case without resorting to character assasination.


Posted: March 24th, 2014 3:03 PM

@butterbeans-The NYT has enough problems managing its own content.


Posted: March 24th, 2014 12:25 PM

Can you imagine if the NY Times fact-checked their opinion pages? They'd have to print a separate afternoon edition just to keep track of them all!

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 23rd, 2014 6:40 PM

What is interesting is that no one is challenging Matts basic premise or opinion. Knotting one's knickers over the source of a quote is silly at best. I would assume that factual misstatements and outright lies would warrant an editors note. This was just a repeat of a quote and source that has happened many times before. I am sure Matt will cover his backside next time

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 23rd, 2014 5:44 PM

"Everyone knows what store we are talking about." - Dan Haley's comment regarding the "Oak Park Sears" headline. It's simply surprising to me that the WJ seems less interested in the accuracy of an article by one of their own paid journalists than in the accuracy of an opinion piece written by an interested amateur. Like Bridgett, I have never owned a firearm. I favor stronger regulations controlling gun ownership. I still think the WJ looks foolish here.

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 23rd, 2014 5:08 PM

I chuckled at the editor's note. That quote by Jefferson makes him sound like Rambo: The Colonial Edition. In any case, I don't live in that fear-based place where a predator lies in wait at every turn. On the other hand, the rhetoric and hand-wringing over gun deaths is very hollow. It generally is gang-related and involves illegal weapons. It also usually involves handguns and yet politicians always bring up 'high-capacity' guns. And they never say how they'd enforce a ban. It's all show.

Brian Slowak from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2014 4:37 PM

Matt possibly misquoted a quote. That is a mistake, not a lie.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 23rd, 2014 2:41 PM

@ Mr Abbott - You admit that you were not at any meetings, yet you proclaim to know what happened and who said what. You might also be interested in the fact that the opinion editor here was an outspoken author and advocate of the regulations that were presented by gun control side . He also has stated in this publication that his side refused to budge on anything. You claim that Matt has committed an egregious sin by using a quote that has dubious validity - to call it an intentional lie is a little strong isn't it? You should have been on Ken Trainors team - your logic is a nice fit with his.

John Abbott from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2014 12:14 PM

cont. from below: There's a big difference between legend a la "Valance" and deliberate lie, and it's telling that Simpson wants to treat them as one and the same. I do however agree with Simpson's final statement: "Matt was not the first to use the Jefferson quote and he will not be the last." Indeed, Simpson and company have such contempt for any truth that contravenes their own prejudices, they will continue to peddle their falsehoods whenever they think they can get away with it.

John Abbott from Oak Park   

Posted: March 23rd, 2014 12:10 PM

continued: Restate the obvious: Matt's letter recycled a deliberate falsification & the WJ practiced responsible journalism when, in publishing this letter, it contested the obvious & egregious falsehoods it promoted. Far from acknowledging that one of his compatriots had been caught in a lie, Ray Simpson instead complained, not for the first time, that he was being picked upon.Then he trivialized the offense with irrelevant allusions to "Liberty Valance." continue above...

John Abbott from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2014 12:05 PM

I was not party to the "year long talk at each other," though I suspect I will be hearing Ray Simpson & company continue complaining about this for many years to come. Based upon Mr. Simpson's astonishing performance in this discussion, I can only extend my profound sympathy to the other side, those who apparently thought Simpson and company capable of reasonable discussion. [Continued above...]

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 22nd, 2014 12:04 AM

It is important to note that the pro-gun pro-second amendment group lost nothing. The sore losers are the people who denied many Oak Park residents their constitutional rights for thirty plus years who got smacked on the wrist by the Supreme Court. The gun rights group thought it would be a worthwhile effort to see if the two sides could come to common ground. The anti-gun regulators sought to reclaim some of their control by generating a multi page list of "fair" "even handed" "reasonable" mandates that was supposed to be a roadmap for communities all over the country. The rights side of this issue figured that the losing side is not entitled to write the surrender document and we chose not to give in to a group who had no "skin in the game" The central dispute seemed to be that one side believed that everyone with a gun was the problem where the other believes that bad people with illegal weapons are almost exclusively the source of gun violence. Not being able to agree on that central premise resulted in a year long, talk at each other - not to each other series of meetings where tempers flared and compromise was a pipe dream. Matt was not the first to use the Jefferson "Quote" and he will not be the last. He agrees with the sentiment - no matter who said the words.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 8:22 PM

John, Because WJ is inconsistent with its corrections, thus giving the impression that such corrections are not about journalistic integrity, but rather his personal viewpoint. Signing it, "Editor's note" rather than the name of the person who found it necessary to make such a correction, gives unfair weight and misuses one's influence as an editor of a newspaper. I have no problem that we disagree, John. I would, however, like the conversation to be respectful. Have a great weekend.

John Abbott from Oak Park   

Posted: March 21st, 2014 7:22 PM

I think I understand the point very well. Some of you are up in arms because the WJ set the record straight on a particularly egregious falsehood. And yes as a matter of record, I have seen, over the fifteen years I have followed it, the WJ issue similar corrections in the past. Again, the WJ had no obligation to print this letter in the first place. So why, when it takes the responsibility to set the public record straight, do you find that objectionable?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 7:03 PM

John, If am am included in your "bunch of sore losers," let the record state that I am not a gun lover, have never been a gun lover, and never plan to be a gun lover. You are missing the point of these comments, sir.

John Abbott from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 6:25 PM

I love it. Matt's letter invokes Ronald Reagan to the effect that "each individual is accountable for his actions," but never mind: the real story it seems is that gun-lovers should never be held accountable for anything they say or do. So by all means, a pox upon the WJ for sticking up for accuracy & trurth. Heck, Ray, the WJ had no obligation to print this in the first place. What a bunch of sore losers.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 5:33 PM

@ Bill D I did NOT bring up Benghazi - if you bother to read the posts Michael O chose to throw it in and I answered his jibe. He was off topic as well.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 5:28 PM

A Google search indicates that this quotation is sort of an urban legend that has been quoted countless times. I am reminded of the famous line from the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - - "No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." I am sure Matt will be a little more careful next time.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 2:12 PM

I have not seen WJ correct anyone's letter/opinion. I have commented, online, on such letters/opinion pieces, correcting information. And I've questioned why WJ runs such pieces with inaccuracies. Example... I know WJ is short-staffed, so I cut them slack. But in this case, as OPT says, this correction is selective. It appears that the editor is letting his personal bias overshadow journalistic protocol.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 1:38 PM

It's not trivial, Ray. Attributing a glib, martial quote to the writer of the Declaration of Independence distorts the man's nature and his contributions to our history. There is no evidence Jefferson said or wrote any such thing.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 12:17 PM

I think that the point is the editors are pretty selective about what they choose to correct. They're comfortable with errors elsewhere.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 10:56 AM

What the editor did was correct an incorrect attribution of a quote. The nitpicking is yours, Ray.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 7:24 AM

After thinking about this for a while I see that the editorial challenge was just nit picking. The editor made no comment about the core issue addressed by Matt but rather pointed out that his socks don't match. Petty and trivial!

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 21st, 2014 12:42 AM

Off topic, huh? You're the one bringing up Benghazi in response to an op-ed piece on guns.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 10:28 PM

@ Bill Dwyer - Kind off off topic or is that a deflection to defend editorial hypocrisy as demonstrated here and what we were talking about.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 4:52 PM

So Ray, where was your outrage when Republicans blocked recommended funding to harden US embassies around the world in the wake of the 1998 terror attacks? Democrats wanted to spend the $3.1 billion a bi-partisan panel said was needed. Republicans balked at the price tag. I guess if chicken hawk conservatives can't war profiteer off it, like Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz et al did with Iraq, they're not interested. You proud of that?

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 2:44 PM

Ray's actually right on this one. When the WJ published "Oak Park Sears" and got flak over the inaccuracy, the response was, "C'mon, you know what we meant." When the author here attributed the quote to Jefferson (an honest mistake, as if often appears attributed to Jefferson), the editors are all over it like a cheap suit. I'm not a gun owner, but the different standards for accuracy are hard not to notice.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 2:35 PM

@ Michael O - the four Americans are still dead and our president is doing bracket charts. You must be so proud!

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 1:40 PM

You really do get downright silly sometimes, Ray. The WJ has made editorial corrections in the past when they knew a statement to be incorrect. They "get off" doing that because they're a newspaper. --- And Matthew, I've spent the past 11 weeks in Nicaragua, and the only guns I've seen in four cities here have been carried by police. While theft is a major problem, violent crime is not. People may have guns in their homes here, but armed robberies are a rare occurrence, because guns are rare.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 1:17 PM

Gee Ray, maybe the editor was just trying to help the kid out. Imagine going through life with the image of Thomas Jefferson hanging out (or standing around) in combat fatigues reloading his M-16, a la Rambo, waiting for the next revolution. Ps. How goes the Benghazi investigation?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 12:36 PM

@OP Transplant, Okay, that made me chuckle.

OP Transplant  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 11:45 AM

It's part of a pilot program. They're going to start fact-checking opinion pieces the editors disagree with. If it goes well, they may begin the fact-checking of articles by their paid journalists. Remember "Oak Park Sears"?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 11:34 AM

Ray brings up a good point, WJ. This Editor's note is not consistent with how you've published other opinion columns/letters to the Editor.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 20th, 2014 10:25 AM

@ Editor - where does the Wednesday Journal get off fact checking opinions as a part of the original letter? If Ken wants to dispute a statement let him descend to the tenth ring of Dante's Inferno and post a comment - just like the rest of us. The opinion editors flaccid claim that he could not verify the accuracy of quotes is just another example of using the editorial megaphone to oppose one opinion with another. For one who loves to state ideology as irrefutable fact, Ken lives in a glass house - and isn't smart enough to resist throwing stones.


Posted: March 19th, 2014 11:15 AM

Finally an article on this site that does not offend the average gun owner. FINALLY!

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