Earlier this year, I ran for the US Senate under the belief that our country is better than our politics. Like most Massachusetts voters, I was frustrated with the partisan bickering and failure in Washington. Entrenched politicians want us to believe we must falsely choose between right vs. left and liberal vs. conservative — with both sides unwilling to listen and blindly convinced that they are justified in their opinion.
What do we have to show for it? Sequestration, filibusters, economic stagnation, and an unwillingness to listen and learn from each other.
Americans don’t trust their leaders to stand up against conventional wisdom. Politicians have lost the respect of a vast majority of Americans, in part, because they lack the courage to admit when they are wrong.
I remain a private citizen, but feel I owe it to Massachusetts’ voters to admit that I was wrong in one of my earlier positions.
Throughout my campaign, I relentlessly traveled the Commonwealth listening to thousands of mothers, fathers, first responders, and to victims of crime on the issue of gun control. I heard from policy experts and law enforcement officials to broaden my knowledge, and to prepare me to best represent you as your United States Senator.
The overwhelming number of citizens and experts throughout Massachusetts supported banning these weapons and high capacity magazines. At the time, given my Navy SEAL experience, I felt they were wrong.
A lot of people, including my wife Sarah, disagreed with me.
Since the campaign, free from the burdens of a grueling spotlight, I have spent much time reflecting on these exchanges. I asked myself whether my position against banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines represented what is best for the people of our Commonwealth and our Country.
In short: on this issue Massachusetts is right, my wife Sarah is right, and I was wrong.
Based on everything I have learned, seen and heard from the citizens of this Commonwealth, I can no longer support legislation that would allow the continued sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and here is why:
My opposition to banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines was based on my experience as a platoon commander and as a member of the US Navy SEALs. My fellow SEAL team members are the most highly trained, professional warriors in the world.
Navy SEALs can handle assault weapons and high capacity magazines with complete competency and safety. Others cannot. I can show virtually anybody how to change a high capacity magazine clip in five seconds. But that does not mean virtually anybody should have one.
Despite the political risks my decision may pose, the risks to schoolchildren and to other innocent victims caused by assault weapons are simply unacceptable.
I remain a strong, proud proponent of the Second Amendment. I will continue to speak out when politicians play politics and fear monger on guns. However, I will also continue to listen, learn and consider new evidence and arguments from the other side.
Many people of good will may honestly disagree with my decision. Some will be tempted to say my support for banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines runs contrary to the Constitution and to the Second Amendment.
I respect them. I spent a good portion of my life protecting and defending the Constitution, and to protecting their right to speak their minds.
To the professional political critics, I simply offer this: volunteer for the Navy or for the other armed services, successfully go through SEAL or other special forces training. Then you will be fully qualified and prepared to fire as many assault weapons with unlimited high capacity magazines as you desire.
Gabriel E. Gomez is a former candidate for US Senate.