by Iain Harrison - Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Just over 20 years ago, I hopped off a British military aircraft at McChord AFB in Washington, and boarded a bus to Ft. Lewis. At the time, I was accompanying my platoon on a training exercise, as a means of exchanging tactics with our American counterparts, and it was my first visit to the United States while in uniform.
Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge. In 1997, politicians in the country of my birth chose to vilify law-abiding gun owners as a means to appease the press and get themselves re-elected. As a result of the legislation passed, all legitimate handgun owners were forced to hand over legally held pistols and revolvers, or face up to 10 years in jail. There were a fair number of Brits who, rather than live in a country that would treat its citizens as serfs, chose to jump ship. My wife and I joined them, landing in upstate New York where we settled down to build our own version of the classic immigrant story. I quickly discovered that, like most aspects of life touched by central government, U.S. immigration policy can be arbitrary, capricious and subject to all sorts of arcane rules and odd priorities, all while serving as a convenient soapbox for elected representatives of both major parties. This isn't meant as a whine, just an observation from someone who has experienced it firsthand.
Having a Green Card means that you can live and work legally in the United States, subject to its laws, paying taxes and enjoying most ofthe freedoms assured by the U.S. Constitution. To gain permanent resident status, a prospective candidate needs to fill out a bunch of forms, be fingerprinted, go through a comprehensive background check in both the U.S. and the country of origin, demonstrate good moral character and hand over a sizable chunk of change. Of course, a resident, even a permanent one, doesn’t have one important privilege—the ability to vote.
With an election year looming, I wanted to make sure that my small voice was added to the throng so I could do my part in ensuring that the gun rights for whichwe've fought so hard can be passed on to other generations. So, on the 4th of July this year, I applied to become a naturalized citizen of the United States.
The journey to citizenship means you pretty much have to do the whole process over again with the addition of a personal interview and a test of knowledge on U.S. history and civics, which in my case was undertaken in an anonymous government building, reminiscent of the DMV.
This brings me full circle, back to McChord AFB. On the morning of December 3rd, 2011, the 446th Airlift Wing bestowed the enormous honor of swearing me in as a U.S. citizen in the cargo bay of one of its enormous C17 aircraft. In the afternoon we celebrated by (how else) shooting guns on one of the base ranges. Let freedom ring.
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