My father was a tool and die maker by trade who also used his skills to engineer and build things as a gunsmith. While I was growing up, we operated a gun store out of our home. He taught my siblings and me about firearms at an early age. I eagerly learned to shoot at age 8 and to reload ammunition at age 9. One of my brothers followed in our father's footsteps and today teaches others how to safely handle firearms as well as how to shoot.
My comfort level with firearms was likely what attracted me to a career in law enforcement. For more than three decades, I reported for duty carrying a handgun, and I had a shotgun and/or AR-15 for a long gun in my squad car. I now possess a lifetime firearms permit. Several family members also have a law enforcement background. One is a certified firearms instructor through the NRA, a master sniper instructor and a weapons armorer.
I do not consider myself an expert on firearms, but I believe I know enough to hold an intelligent conversation on the subject. I also know that a dialogue on firearms is a crucial conversation as opinions vary, and both emotions and stakes are high.
But a civil conversation about firearms is exactly where we need to start today if we are ever going to address the mass shootings that are increasingly occurring in this country.
I agree with the seven doctors who want to research these horrific crimes and apply preventive medicine to this epidemic. This is the same type of research that led to laws requiring seatbelts in automobiles to decrease the number of deaths of people ejected from a car after a collision.
I remember hearing adults say that no one was going to tell them they had to buckle up. Yet now you and I all listen to the automatic click of a seatbelt as soon as the driver and passengers enter a car. Our society effected change.
Even in uncomfortable situations, change is possible. I had a firsthand look at systemic change in law enforcement. I sat at the table when members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and loved ones of people with mental illness confronted the mayor and police department about the lack of training and improper response of law enforcement to people having a mental health crisis.
Two dozen people sat around a table and shared widely differing opinions. It was difficult to hear that the police were inadequately trained and did not know how to communicate with a person in crisis, and that incarcerating people with mental illness was not a safe or suitable answer to this problem.
We met for two and a half years before we all agreed that we could do better, and the Crisis Intervention Team was brought to our city. For nearly 20 years, our community has experienced success in working effectively with individuals with mental illness because of the challenging conversations that led the way. It was difficult, but change happened.
It is beyond time that we as a community, state and nation have an honest dialogue surrounding gun policy. I don't know the answers, but I'm willing to contribute to the conversation and listen to the opinions of others.
We need facts, data and resources, and we need to approach this emotion-filled topic in a civil manner. We do not need name-calling, shouting down those we disagree with, or overgeneralizations. If you agree with me and want to be part of the conversation, now is the time to speak up.
Dottie L. Davis is owner of Davis Corporate Training Inc.