Leif did not grow up with guns, except for toy guns and some realistic-looking air pistols that he and his dad and brother liked to pose with, pretending to be James Bond. However, he developed a keen interest in all kinds of weapons at an early age.
He loved being a machine gunner in the army and missed his gun when he left the army. I think it was after he got out of the service that he started buying guns. The assault rifle in the photo above was stolen from him when his apartment was burglarized in Tampa in July 2007. I hope it has not been used in crimes, but I fear that stolen guns are in the hands of criminals.
Leif felt very strongly about the Second Amendment and gun ownership. He did not join a lot of organizations, but he did belong to Gun Owners of America.
Leif also rarely sent long emails. If he did, it was because the subject was one of his passions. The long one below was part of a family email discussion about guns It was written one year before he used a gun to take his life. Leif would have argued that that, too, was the right of a gun owner.
Leif on Guns, April 2007
"That data is hard to come by. At least reliable accurate data. Let me explain why. Democrats love to cite statistics showing how rarely guns are 'used' to prevent crime or in self defense. The problem with these studies is that they define 'Used' as discharged. Therefore the data only includes police statistics relating to a gun being FIRED are included. The important fact they omit is the incalculable number of incidents in which a gun is brandished in self defense or to prevent a crime. These incidents are most often not reported to police and in the few cases that they are no relevant statistical data is collected.
"Let me give you an example of this from my personal experience as I was involved in just such an incident, in Manhattan at Peter and Jerri's house at 710 Nth 9th St. A neighbor knocked on my door saying some suspicious looking guys were wandering about trying to open car doors and stuff. They had tried to open my girlfriend's car and looked into my car windows. I immediately pulled my car into the garage and hers into the driveway and we called RCPD. I watched them go up and down the alley snooping around. It was obvious they were up to no good.
"So, as one passed by the house I stepped out onto my back porch casually holding a stainless steel .45 cal pistol in my right hand and a MagLite in my left. Pointed the beam of the flashlight at one of them and asked if I could help him. Then as I let the beam of the light fall to my waist illuminating the Pistol he says, "Nah, man I am cool," and quickly departs towards the street. I go back inside and watch out the window as he whistles to call his friends over, waving at them and making the cut throat motion as to suggest they stop what they are doing. He motioned towards my house and made a gesture with his hand like it was a Gun. Then they all got in a car and fled. Apparently a few car stereos were not worth getting shot over.
"Likewise they are not worth shooting someone over but that was not necessary. The mere threat was adequate deterrent. The cops showed up. We told them about it but the fact that I had a gun was not of importance to them since I never left my property and thus was not carrying it illegally and it was not fired. There are countless incidents like this where a gun is used successfully to defend life or property which are never reported to the authorities or tracked even if they are. The greatest thing about gun is that like a nuke the mere threat of certain doom is enough of a deterrent to convince one that a confrontation is best avoided.
"Incidentally, since you brought it up I DO believe, philosophically at least, that Iran has every right to have nuclear weapons just like everyone else. We do not have the right to tell them they can't have the same weapons that we do. We do not have the right to oppress any one's freedom or right to defend themselves. Now does that mean I think we should not try to prevent them from getting them no. I strongly support any effort to prevent them from getting nukes. Does Iran have the moral right to develop military assets to defend themselves against more powerful nations? YES, they do. Should we allow them to exercise those right? HELL NO. That is because Our government exists to preserve OUR rights. Not Iran's. Iran and the rest of the world and their rights can go to hell for all I care if their rights endanger our safety. If I were Iranian I would of course take a different view.
"You mentioned the burglars and D.C. There was a very interesting special on 20/20 or 60 Minutes or Nightline, I forget which, about debunking myths. Among the myths they attacked was Gun Control. They cited the examples of gun control measure that have failed and also noted that many of the states and counties with the least gun control also have the least crime. D.C. was the prime example of how it does not work as it has the most draconian gun ban in the country and yet many criminals have guns as criminals by definition do not obey the law. Part of the segment involved interviews with convicted felons from the D.C. area who openly discussed and confirmed their delight at the gun ban. As one said he can break into a house and have virtually no fear at all of being hurt. He knew that he could intimidate people with his firepower and have no fear or physical harm as no one was armed but him and the police.
"The interviewer then asked if they would be as brazen in their methods if they were living in a City like Miami where citizens can own and carry weapons legally almost anywhere. They answered that they would have to be a lot more careful as they would be afraid of being confronted by a armed citizen in a house they thought was unoccupied. This was echoed even by the inmates that did not use guns in their crimes such as unarmed burglars. One of which, who had moved there from Georgia, put it as such, "You ain't gotta worry about getting 'gauged' in the back by some redneck like down south. Worst thing they come at you with here is a bat" (gauged of course being slang for shot with a 12 gauge shotgun if that wasn't obvious).
"Anyway if you want more info about this check out Gun Owners of America. I think at www.goa.com they are a bit less radical than the NRA and support some sensible legislation. They have done some studies regarding the use of weapons to threaten harm. This concept is even embraced by Police as any police officer will tell you that the goal is NOT to shoot someone and that firing their weapon is a last resort. Yet the fact that our police are armed and trained to kill in addition to serving as peace officers gives a lot of weight to the intimidation of law enforcement and the threat of death can be a great deterrent to a dangerous criminal. Much more than a British Bobbie's night stick.
"As to what should be done, I am not saying there should be no restrictions. But those restrictions should make sense. I personally don't see a problem with a license being required to own a Gun or at least to carry one. Ownership licenses are a bit tricky as unlicensed people will have access to it. There should be more restrictions on who can get weapons or certain types of weapons. Kinda like driver's licenses which require additional training for a semi or motorcycle. I believe that in the the coming years as hi tech frangible bullets become more available that they should be the only types available to civilians as they do not over-penetrate and go through people and walls to kill others. I think that like a motor vehicle, one should be required to demonstrate competence with the device they will be using and be aware of all laws and safety guidelines that are relevant.
"I believe that like drivers' licenses they should have a policy of 'will Issue,' meaning that barring some disqualifying factor the state WILL issue you a license if you apply and pass testing. I believe that gun safety should be taught in middle school. I believe that like a driver's license you should be entitled to that privilege until you abuse it at which point it is forfeited.
"A Buddy of mine and I have been developing a Sci Fi role playing game that is very complex and has different governments with very different cultures and policies about weapons. While most allow weapons, even military grade weapons, to be possessed and used in space where there is a threat of piracy, planetside laws vary greatly. We created two very different philosophies for gun laws for two different nations and reflects focus on the two different aspects of the right to bear arms.
"Country A is a liberal democracy with a strong military culture. They have a draft and all able bodied men and women must serve in either the military or police forces. Upon their discharge they keep their service weapons (equivalent to a modern fully automatic infantry assault rifle) permanently as they remain part of the reserves and militia for life. This means that every citizen has a state of the art war grade rifle in the interest of defending the state against enemies, corruption and tyranny. The people are one army deactivated. They all have assault rifles yet handguns are illegal and so is carrying a concealed weapon. They do not allow handguns or other such short range weapons as they see them as a crime threat and have no legitimate military or security use. Thus most citizens on the street are not armed but have access to weapons of war if needed. These people can openly question their government and could easily rise against it if it were corrupt.
"Country B is a Fascist Neo Conservative empire with state controlled everything. They have ultra-sophisticated war machines but only the military, and to a lesser extent the police, have access to them. While space travelers and frontiersmen may have hardware to protect against pirates, etc., possessing a rifle or other long range weapon of any kind on a premier planet is a serious, often capital, offense. However, there are virtually no restrictions on handguns and shotgun so long as they are carried concealed and no one knows about them. These people have the freedom to arm themselves and defend themselves with short range defensive weapons, even fully automatic ones, so long as they have less than a six inch barrel and or an effective accurate range of less than 50 meters. Basically you can't use pistols and shotguns to fight a war against rifle toting soldiers and over throw the government. The range limitations alone prevent people from becoming a serious threat.
"Neither of these are meant to be the right solution but an example of how different the philosophies can be."
A text message sent to me on February 14, 2008, almost two months before he died was this:
"Is this like the Chinese year of the crazed gunman? How many school shootings are we up to now? This is why I object to law preventing me from carrying on campus. Some GI Bill student with a pistol could save lives. I wanna see that story: gunman shot dead before he could do any damage by armed ex soldier."
The photo with this post was one of a series Leif took of himself with his guns on March 23, 2003 when he was living at 710 N. 9th Street in Manhattan, Kansas.