I was around 9 or 10 years old when I first saw a real gun. I was rummaging in a closet looking for something else when I saw it on the very top shelf. I must have climbed on some boxes to get a closer look, but I was too short to reach it. And I must have said something to my mother about it because she became angry when she found out. When my dad got home my siblings and I were scolded again. I don’t even remember what my dad said, but I’m sure he was emphatic about it. In other words, he probably yelled at us, but after that the gun was never mentioned or seen again.
Growing up in the Midwest where hunting is very popular, I had many friends who used guns frequently to hunt or for sport. Hunter education was mandatory in school. I grew up watching Rambo, Predator, and other action flicks. If anything, I viewed guns as part of entertainment–they were never real to me. Because of these experiences I grew up neither fearing guns nor being fascinated by them.
In college I had roommates and friends who owned guns. On several occasions we would shoot with them. I thought it was fun, but I couldn’t hit anything worth a crap. Again, I really didn’t have any interest or need to own a gun. I was pretty ambivalent.
When I joined the Army National Guard, I was taught how to shoot an M-16 rifle. I was able to fire an M2 .50 caliber machine gun and other weapons too. I have to admit: it was a lot of fun. I felt very comfortable around weapons knowing the appropriate safety measures to handle them. Despite my training I still don’t have a very good aim. So the thought did cross my mind that I could get a gun to practice with. But I’m kind of a lazy guy. I may talk big sometimes, but when it comes down to it, I don’t act on it. I have never purchased a gun.
My brother-in-law is a gun collector and avid hunter. He even bought his wife a very large .44 mag revolver for her birthday. Because he has his conceal carry license, I know he has been thoroughly trained in the use of hand guns and rifles. I know that he is very conscientious about how he handles his firearms and how he educates his children in their proper use.
He gave me a rifle once in exchange for some farm equipment I had loaned him. I didn’t really want it, but now that I had it, I would use it to practice my aim. But to be completely honest, even though I thought owning a gun would be OK, I had an uneasy feeling about finally having a gun in my home. Rather than making me feel safer, I felt worried for my children’s safety. So, I educated them. I told them that firearms should be treated like any other dangerous tool–with respect and with knowledge. I explained the rules for handling weapons and the consequences of breaking the rules. I let them hold the gun; it was too big and heavy for most of them. Even though they paid attention to what I was saying, I think they were mostly disinterested in guns.
The lesson had the desired effect. None of my children seems interested in guns whatsoever. The bb gun we bought for my son sits in the corner of his room gathering dust. The initial apprehension I had about having a gun in the house is now gone. I don’t worry about whether my children will play with the gun or accidentally shoot themselves with it.
I am still ambivalent about guns. I don’t judge people for owning them, and I respect those who are against guns. I own a gun, but it mostly gathers dust. My manliness is not determined by the size of my gun collection. But I don’t care if someone feels the need to expand his or hers. What matters most is that I know how to properly use a gun if necessary.
What happened in Newtown, Connecticut is a tragedy. My heart goes out to those who lost young children. I have young children too, and I can’t imagine how horrible the feeling must be to lose one so young and innocent. My views on guns and gun control have evolved throughout my life. But this shooting has not changed my attitudes about guns.
I honor the U.S. Constitution and our right to bear arms. I am not opposed to people owning guns. I am very frustrated that parties on both sides of the debate argue from sometimes indefensible, illogical, irrational, and inflexible positions. Compromise is not a bad word. Surely, we can strike a balance between our liberties and public safety.
I encourage thoughtful and respectful discussions about anything I write.