I’m a member of the NRA and I advocated for Congress to pass gun reforms

I turned in my AR-15 to the police department in Charlotte. They went ahead and secured it. And that's where it's been.

Richard Small
Opinion contributor

I’m a member of the National Rifle Association, an Army veteran trained in the use of assault weapons, a hunter, gun owner, retired teacher and resident of Charlotte, Texas, about 80 miles from Ulvade. Over the past few weeks, I worked alongside hundreds of Americans from different backgrounds, across party and other divides, to advocate for gun safety with 24-7, The People’s Filibuster for Gun Safety.

On the Fourth of July, a day when we celebrate our freedom, we witnessed yet another deadly shooting in the suburbs of Chicago, reportedly from a “high-powered rifle.” 

As a grandparent and a former educator, the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, that took the lives of 19 innocent children and two teachers struck close to home. My wife and I noticed that one of the children who was killed looked an awful lot like our grandson. As a retired teacher and a mother who has lost a son, my wife wanted to express her condolences. So we drove to Uvalde the following day.  We found a town in a deep valley of mourning. And it changed my life. 

'Why do I have this weapon?'

I had an epiphany in Uvalde. As the owner of an AR-15, I stood watching people pay their respects at the crosses laid out in the park and I asked myself, “Why do I have this weapon?” 

My AR-15 was one of the originals and is engraved with the words “For Law Enforcement Only.” An AR-15 is as deadly a weapon as you can possess. This weapon is made primarily for military purposes. They are not for hunting sport; they are for hunting people in a war. And that is the truth. 

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So I turned in my AR-15 to the police department in Charlotte. They went ahead and secured it. And that's where it's been. 

I shared this story and received letters, like flickers of hope, from all over the country. These cards shared messages like: “You are making a difference.” “Protect the children of this country.” "Pray we are stepping forward.” “Pray that this is a catalyst.”  

It was a catalyst, for me and hundreds of Americans.

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I’m a big believer in the Second Amendment. The law says we have the right to bear arms, and I’m not arguing with that. I also believe in the American people, and in our leaders.  

How in the world do you possibly face people and say there is no need for change? There is a need for change. What’s going to happen on the first day of school next year? In the back of every kid’s and teacher’s mind there is going to be anxiety, that feeling that they’re not in control. 

Doing nothing on gun safety is a tragedy

So, I went to Washington, D.C., to testify with 24-7, The People’s Filibuster For Gun Safety. I spoke at the opening, on June 16, and again a week later. During that week, hundreds of Americans from across divides came together with a resolve to keep going, speaking around the clock until Congress took action on gun safety. In all, the nearly 200 hours of testimony included hundreds of people from more than 30 states.

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A protest against gun violence near the U.S. Capitol on June 8, 2022.

I met Republicans, Democrats, victims of gun violence, NRA members, faith leaders and people from across divides who agreed on one thing, at least: It was time to act. I never imagined I would be someone who would speak before Congress. I would have watched, and been the status quo and moved on, like I did with the massacre that happened just south of us in Southerland. But, as I stood at the podium, I was hopeful. I believed something was going to come out of this 24-7 movement.

Doing nothing on gun safety for decades has been the greatest tragedy of all. The silent majority of people in our country who believe we can and must do better took action and made their voices heard. That’s where the power is, with the American people. It’s OK to disagree. But we can still come together to create meaningful change.

Richard Small testifies from a Senate hearing room in Washington, DC at the launch of 24-7 The People’s Filibuster for Gun Safety on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

Richard Small is a retired teacher, Army veteran and lifelong gun owner. He has been a member of the National Rifle Association for more than 25 years. He testified before the U.S. Senate as part of 24-7, The People’s Filibuster for Gun Safety.