I’m Fascinated with Guns… BUT

Contributing to Critical Public Discourse- POST 3

I grew up with no guns in my house, or so I thought.

I knew where everything was in my parents house. My parents were Catholic and yet, I knew where they kept their condoms. We never talked about sex or cussed without consequence, yet I knew where my mom kept her Anais Nin and Lenny Bruce books by the time I was eight, wrapped in an old shirt on a high shelf in an unused closet in the basement. I was young. I was curious. I was a snoop and yet, I never knew we had guns in the house until my younger and only brother came of age to hunt- and my dad broke out the guns.

All of our lives none of us ever knew there were guns in the house. My dad showed a certain amount of low-key German satisfaction that he pulled one over on us for damn near 15 to 20 years. I was dumbfounded.

American Sharpshooter, Annie Oakley

One of them was a hair trigger, ornate, long-barreled pigeon gun. It was my mother’s mother Ann Carey’s gun, who everybody said I was exactly like though I never knew her. I was fascinated that my grandmother was reportedly a “good shot” and used the gun to provide food for her family. I was already fascinated with tales of strong women, Annie Oakley included. Years later, when reading “Pretty Birds” by Scott Simon, I discovered that in the Balkan War, it was common practice to recruit and train athletic, highschool-age women as snipers because they excelled at the occupation. I was curious. I wanted to try shooting a gun.

Jeb from the Beverly Hillbillies found oil with his gun.

When I lived in Tennessee, a group of what most definitely would be considered “rednecks” by Yankee standards, took me to their homestead deep in the mountains and let me shoot every gun imaginable: legal, illegal, modern, vintage, “kicking” guns I should avoid and easy ones they felt I could handle. I hefted World War II machine guns that American infantry would have carried and gained new insight at how heroic these men were by understanding the sheer weight of the weaponry they carried such long distances. 

Poke fun if you must, but my hillbilly friends were very serious about my training. They lectured me considerably on gun safety before I laid a hand on so much as a clip. They taught me about the safety and even if I knew a gun wasn’t loaded, to never, ever waive a barrel anywhere near or in line with a human body: the barrel had to be straight up in the air or down on the ground and son (yes, “son”) you better not get that wrong more than twice or you were an idiot that didn’t get to shoot anymore. Not only that, you were ostracized. Period. You were not to be trusted if you were reckless with something as simple as a gun. Let’s face it, we’re talking about a tool that is designed to kill. Life and death- there are few things more basic for any human being to understand.

It saddens me greatly to see stories like the one in the Star Tribune, “Kentucky Child Shooting Spotlights Urban-Rural Gun Debate.”  The article is about the death of a two year old girl at the hands of her five year old brother. The gun was sitting loaded and unattended in a corner when the boy got a hold of it. It was a Crickett “My First Rifle” .22 caliber rifle that was designed for a child.

If my redneck buddies were letting their children shoot guns, I’d assume they’d be tougher on their own kids then they were on me. I believe they would not allow their child to handle a gun unless an adult was closely present and the gun, as any of my Tennessee redneck would tell you, was unloaded and properly stored (aka: locked up with the safety on) when not in use.

Crickett Video Safety Faux Pas #1

Check out this promotional YouTube video from Crickett Rifles for Youth and Small Frame Shooters. I’d take you to the manufacturer’s website, but oddly enough, it’s been taken down for “routine maintenance.” Despite safety goggles, ear protection and a quick reference to safety features, at least twice in a very short video some really bad safety practices are going on, starting with the boy being given the gun with the barrel pointing at his sister’s head, and mom pointing the barrel at her son’s head later on.

Crickett Video Safety Faux Pas #2

Although I like to shoot, I have never killed anything. Someone loaned me a handgun (a Jennings J-22 with a pearl grip, aka “Saturday Night Special”) for an extended period of time and I could not get over a preoccupation with finding the safest place to store it since I had no locked cabinet- and I never was satisfied. Long before the debate over gun control, I realized I never felt so unsafe as when I had a gun in the house. I politely returned the gun to my friend after many months.

Here is a link to John Oliver’s hilarious interview with Phillip Van Cleve of the Virginia Civil Defense League. The interview demonstrates that hardcore gun advocates are against any form of gun control, even if it is simply good sense.

I have heard the line “with rights come responsibilities” uncountable times on the gun control side of the debate. I have nothing against guns but I do have a problem with unnecessary proliferation of innapropriate guns and the tragic number of gun-related deaths in this country. There’s always going to be stupid people and models of unsafe behavior. That’s why we regulate dangerous things. I’ve never heard of an IQ test being part of a background check, but perhaps it should be included. Certainly, passing a gun safety course periodically should be required as well as proof of secure storage.

Perhaps Darwinism will run it’s course. But even an idiot’s child should not have to pay the price.

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