(CNN) — “No ma’am … I will not register my weapons.”
These passionate words from a former Marine sparked an insatiable conversation on CNN.com.
Since Joshua Boston posted an open letter to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, dismissing stricter gun control, on CNN iReport, his commentary has received more than 1 million views, almost 30,000 comments and even a response from Feinstein’s office.
But one response stood out from the rest — a reaction from another former Marine addressed directly to Boston. Nicolas DiOrio called Boston’s letter an “embarrassment to those who’ve served.”
The two views on gun control were as different as the photos adorning the letters, Boston wielding a firearm and DiOrio pointing a video camera.
Prompted by the firestorm of discussion the two have sparked, we interviewed both men with the same set of questions to further explain their opposing views on gun control. Read their responses and judge their arguments for yourself:
1. What do you think our founding fathers meant by the right “to keep and bear arms” mentioned in the Second Amendment?
Boston: They had just fought a war against a government that had overstepped its boundaries. You can only come to the conclusion that they put it there for us to have the same ability to do that in the future should the need arise. They use the terms people, militia and arms specifically. They differentiate between the United States, the states and the people elsewhere. I think they use the term arms because they mean any weapons that we might have to bear in such a situation.
DiOrio: I think that because we had a much smaller military at the time, it was more of an allowance that people could have weapons or muskets to raise a militia to defend the country from outside invasion. But in today’s world, we have a much larger military and the weapons that are available are much more dangerous than the weapons of that time. I would think that the founding fathers would not make as broad of an allowance of individual possession of firearms if they knew what the state of firearms was today.
2. What if a new bill about banning assault weapons passes, say Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill? What would it mean for America?
Boston: It’s going to open a door that we, or our descendants, are going to deplore. It’s saying it’s OK to take away guns away based on the actions of a few. The next time somebody goes up the tower at the University of Texas Austin shooting people with a deer rifle, it will show our willingness to give away hunting rifles. And after the next Virginia Tech, handguns are going to be taken away. These shootings have happened before; they just don’t have the same emotional weight as this shooting had.
DiOrio: I don’t think it would really harm gun owners as they think it would. They would still have access to all sorts of hunting weapons and rifles. The bill only seeks to ban assault weapons. Unless we had a bill like the one passed in Australia in 1996, a retroactive ban, we would still have all these weapons out there. Unless such a ban is instituted, it will probably not be as effective as we hope. Nevertheless, I do support any step taken in limiting assault weapons.
3. What’s the biggest misconception that you think people have about your stance on guns?
Boston: There’s a few of them. They think I’m paranoid. I’m not. I just learned early on that you have to expect the worst while hoping for the best. Expecting that the best is going to happen when hard times show up you won’t be prepared and you will fail. People assume because I own guns that I’m not educated or that I don’t know how to think for myself. I own guns because I’m educated to the dangers and the reality of the world that we live in. I accept the reality that we live in and I don’t accept that the police will always be there for me. I own guns because I’m very much attached to reality.
DiOrio: I think, based on what I’ve read, people just have the perception that I think that gun owners are evil or don’t care about gun violence. I realize that’s not true, but I just think that people are very eager to talk about their rights but not always so eager to take that collective responsibility and safety. Also, I want to set straight that I don’t think Josh Boston is a disgrace at all. I just think that his letter could have been more sensitive to the issues. I respect him and his service; I wasn’t trying to personally attack him.
4. What should the U.S. do to keep guns out of the wrong hands (like criminals)?
Boston: Criminals are going to do what they want to do. We have to accept that. We can make all the laws that we want, but it’s not going to stop [people] from breaking them. We have laws to prevent that from happening. Just as keeping drugs out of peoples’ hands doesn’t solve the drug war, gun control is not going to keep guns out of peoples’ hands. The majority of crime is committed with illegally acquired weapons in the first place. What we can do is remove the restriction levels for law-abiding citizens who want to defend themselves. This idea of a gun-free zone has never stopped a shooting. People never walk up to a school and say, ‘This is a gun-free zone, so I’m going to go shoot somewhere else.’ It’s never happened.
DiOrio: We need to enforce background checks, not just at commercial retailers but also at gun shows. We need to limit the sale of dangerous weapons to people who have no record of criminal history. We need to perhaps consider enacting some kind of mental screening or wellness testing before people are allowed to purchase weapons as well. It might offend people because it would infringe upon their rights, but we need to consider if that would outweigh the benefits brought to society by not allowing weapons to go into the hands of the mentally ill.
5. Why were there so many mass shootings in 2012 (Aurora, Colorado, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and Newtown, Connecticut)? What do you think is to blame?
Boston: Humanity. We as a species have faults and we still have wars with each other. I can still hear atrocities happening around the globe. … It’s not because of a simple object that propels a projectile. It’s because of us. We refuse to look at the root of the issue because it scares us. We give into fear and play to our emotions and we move to outlaw something that is not a cause, but just a means. I’m not a psychiatrist. I couldn’t tell you why there are so many. There’s a deeper problem here. These kinds of things, and not just mass shootings, happen all over the globe; it’s not a problem specific to America.
DiOrio: Based upon just what I’ve read on the shootings, it appears that at least a couple of them are mentally disturbed in some way and they had access to these weapons. When the Assault Weapons Ban expired, people were allowed to purchase them again. When the mentally ill have access to them, it’s inevitable that these tragedies are going to happen. It’s very sad to me that not even Aurora took us to these discussions. It took the murder of 20 children before we were again willing to look at our gun laws and wonder whether or not we should make changes.