BY JEFF FALK
Jamie Beyerle-Gray isn’t one to bury her head in the sand and hope problems go away. That makes her part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
Beyerle-Gray has some very strong opinions about the most heated topic in today’s American society – gun control – and she’s not shy about sharing them in the right forum. Given the fact that she is one of the top marks-women in the world and she grew up in Lebanon with guns, it’s not difficult to decipher which side of the argument she champions.
A graduate of Cedar Crest High School and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Beyerle-Gray won a gold medal in the 50-meter rifle three-position shooting event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Beyerle-Gray is also a spokesperson for USA Shooting, the governing body for the sport in this country.
Beyerle-Gray, a 28-year-old resident of Phenix City, Alabama, recently made a public appearance in her hometown of Lebanon.
“It’s difficult, given the position I’m in as an ambassador of the sport,” said Gray, “I am not a political person, but at some point I don’t know if we can just not say things. I can’t just say ‘no comment’ every five seconds. What I have to do is get my opinion across, but not in a threatening way. I want to celebrate what I accomplished, and it just so happens what I accomplished was with a firearm. I want to tell people how firearms can be good. It’s been great for my life.
“I haven’t had much media discussion about it,” Gray continued. “I try not to talk about it. I will have a discussion about it if someone approaches me. I’m not going to say, ‘no comment’. That’s just as bad. It’s something that’s dear to my heart. I’m not going to change what you believe. Would I love to change your mind? Yeah.”
Last month, Beyerle-Gray cancelled a public appearance at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg due to the current political climate surrounding issue. About 350 vendors also pulled out, and the long-running show was ultimately cancelled.
“A bunch of our USA Shooting sponsors pulled out,” said Gray. “The point of the show was to celebrate the gold medal with the community, getting shooting out there, what USA Shooting is and what we do. Honestly that job wouldn’t have gotten done with the political backdrop. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I set out to do. We also have to support our sponsors. I thought to myself, ‘Is it really worth it to go?’
‘It’s (the impact of her message) huge, especially as an Olympic Gold medalist,” Gray continued. “I can single-handedly help USA Shooting grow our sport. You’re talked about a lot more and people can hear your story.”
Always a hot topic, the gun-control issue was moved from the back-burner to the front-burner of the American conscious by public shootings at a movie theater in Colorado and at an elementary school in Connecticut over the past few months. Sometimes it seems like a day doesn’t go by when reports of a public shooting aren’t part of our news reports.
“First and foremost, every person who is a gun advocate feels sympathy for people who have been victims of public shootings,” said Gray. “You pray for them and hope it never happens again. I am pro gun. I do it for a living. I make money from it.
“Most of them (public shootings) are done at a vulnerable place,” Gray added. “Most of them end in suicide. So I guess if they (the shooters) can’t be famous they want to become infamous. Every single little shooting is thrown into the media, and that’s what they wanted.”
Penned on December 15, 1791, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and a part of the Bill of Rights, states: ‘A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’
“I have never thought about pulling out a gun and using it against another person, except for personal protection,” said Gray. “And I’ve never been put in that position. They’re a tool. As far as gun control goes, I support by second amendment. I always have. It’s there to protect you.”
“It’s not the tool that’s the problem,” continued Gray. “Every community has cruel people. If you take guns away, it’s not going to stop. A gun is not going to go off on its own. Someone needs to pull the trigger.
“My first reaction is to pray for that family and pray for that community. It doesn’t matter that the tragedy is, that’s my first reaction.”
There exists a school of thought that suggests that God either causes things to happen or allows them to happen. The natural proliferation of that theory is that our challenge as humans is to understand His message.
What we can all agree upon is that life is a gift from God, and because it is it should be valued and treasured. And that could be common ground for those on both sides of the issue.
“Every shooting today is thrown into the media,” said Gray. “My goal is to throw USA Shooting into the media, in a positive way. I had my dreams come true because of shooting. I have a gun in my hands every single day of my life.
“I knew about the safety of a firearm before I could walk,” Gray added. “That was the very first thing I ever learned. We weren’t ever able to handle a BB gun till we passed the test. If you’re taught anything at a young age, you learn about it.”
One of the suggestions made for combating public shootings was to arm officials, school teachers and security guards.
“I am honestly not sure. I don’t know my opinion on that,” said Gray. “We have armed people at airports and we still have violence at airports. Is that going to completely control the problem? I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if anyone has the answer. I don’t know if there is an answer.”
So would there be any aspect of gun control that Gray would support?
“Honestly, not at this time,” said Gray. “As far as banning assault rifles, I own one and I enjoy shooting it. And I don’t think controlling the size of a magazine would stop mass killings.”
One of the concerns of gun advocates is that any concessions made could lead to further restrictions in the future.
“Where does it end?,” said Gray. “You could pass one law, and then make another and then make another and then make another. That’s my reaction to gun control. Eventually we’re going to see our rights taken away from us.
“I had a gun in my hand starting at the age of six,” Gray added. “Back in the day, you used to take a gun to school to go hunting after it. You would keep it in your locker. My dad did that. Guns have been in my life forever, and they weren’t harmful at all.”