Monday, June 20, 2016

My History with Guns

I used to own three guns. A 22 gauge pistol with a long barrel, a 38 special handgun, and a tiny 22 gauge “ladies” pistol with an ivory grip that I thought was adorable at the time.

I came into possession of these guns through my father, who was an avid hunter and NRA member. In my 20’s, someone very close to me suffered a violent attack from a stranger. My father was understandably devastated, and thus he did the best he could for me. Instead of standing helplessly by, he put force into my hands by buying me a 38 special. And some years later when my father passed away, I took two of his handguns as part of my inheritance.

I had good associations with those guns. I grew up in a household where there was a gun rack full of rifles on the family room wall. For a time my dad had a pickup truck with a gun rack, and when we went camping or hunting, there were rifles in the back window.

My whole family was very responsible with guns. As children, my brother and sister and I knew where the guns were in the house and in a million years it would never have occurred to us kids to ever touch the guns in our house, or to play with them. It was unthinkable.

We knew how to use guns. My dad took us far out into the country and taught us how to be safe with firearms. We practiced target-shooting with handguns, rifles, and shotguns. As soon as my dad handed us a gun, we knew how to immediately check to see if it was loaded. We never pointed guns at any people- not even our toy guns. When I was old enough to comprehend-- probably around 12 years old-- I took a gun safety course with adults. I passed and got a certificate. When my family went camping, my dad would go off hunting for the morning, my mom would read Good Housekeeping magazine by the campfire, and my brother and sister and I would roam around the campground with guns-- shooting into the woods.

In my baby photo album, there is a photo of me when I was two or three years old. I have blond hair, fat cheeks and a toothy smile as I stand in my father’s hunting boots-- the boots coming up to the top of my thighs. In my right hand I’m gripping a long rifle whose butt is on the floor and the barrel points towards the ceiling. I would post the picture, but honestly I don’t want that shit on the internet.

Guns were a part of my childhood. I know guns. I am not afraid of touching a gun. I greatly respect guns.

And this is going to piss off many of my gun-owning family members and friends…. but….. I am not ok with guns anymore.

For many years I kept my three guns in the bottom of my underwear drawer. I stayed low-key about it and didn’t tell people I owned firearms. I lived alone, so there was no danger of someone getting into my guns. At the time I believed that since I lived alone, if anyone burst into my apartment with the intention to harm me, I could make a dash for my guns and handle the situation.

Then the Columbine shootings happened. This was 1999.

And a couple of years later Michael Moore released his documentary Bowling for Columbine. It made a big impression upon me. I remember talking on the phone with a good friend about the movie, and at some point I casually mentioned that I owned guns. There was extended silence on the other end of the line while my friend registered this new information. I don’t remember exactly what she said-- I don’t think it was judgmental-- but by the end of the conversation I had no idea why I still owned guns.

So I got rid of them.

And even though I know that there are responsible gun owners in the United States, I honestly want all guns gone from our country. All guns. Guns for protection and guns for hunting.

Columbine was 17 years ago, and according to a depressing info-graphic online (at motherjones.com) there have been at least 54 mass shootings in the USA since then. And the shootings just make Americans feel more afraid and make them clutch tighter to their guns. And legislators don’t do anything to reduce the conditions for mass shootings. Even today, four different gun control measures were voted down (2 by Democrats, 2 by Republicans).

Gun manufacturers and individual gun owners send money to the NRA so that they can continue selling and buying guns, and the NRA sends money to politicians so gun companies and individuals can keep selling and buying guns, thus politicians vote down gun controls so gun manufacturers and individuals can keep selling and buying guns. I’m a rational, common sense person, and I can tell that something is ridiculously wrong with this set-up.

I know people who are responsible, conscientious gun owners who keep guns for protection and mostly for hunting. They are loving, caring people. They really are. And I want to ask them if they would be willing to give up all their guns in an effort to transform America into a country where we don’t wake up to a mass shooting every few months, like it is Groundhog Day or something. Different day, same old bullshit.

I know gun owners are going to say, “If we give up our guns, only criminals are going to have guns, and none of us will be safe.” But I say I am ready to do something radical. And if someone bursts into my apartment some night with the intention to harm me, then I’ll put up a fight with scissors and a chef’s knife and scratching and biting, and maybe I will even get killed by their gun.

But I don’t care. The right to own a gun is not sacrosanct anymore. Having more guns doesn’t make our country safer. All guns have to go. I got rid of mine.

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