Steve Newton wrote a post the other day that I’ve been trying to find time to respond. It’s a fascinating post, exposing a world that I was never part of. I couldn’t stop reading it – which is code for you to go read it now. The world in which Steve was raised is so different from my world. Country Mouse meet City Mouse.
Steve and I haven’t had the same experiences. But both are valid, and of all the gun owners/users I know Steve would rank at the top of the list of who I’d consider a responsible gun owner.
I, too, grew up with guns, but that’s where the similarity between Steve’s world and mine end. The guns I grew up with were a tool, part of the uniform my father wore. They weren’t for fun, or simply a part of everyday life. They were dangerous weapons and to be treated with the utmost respect because of what “could” happen.
It’s like when someone says, “Don’t worry, my dog doesn’t bite.” They are telling me to trust them. If they don’t restrain their dog or keep bringing their dog around, they are forcing me to trust them. And if the dog ends up biting someone then we’ll hear about how the dog had never done this before and was always a sweet, family pet – and that most dogs of this breed are gentle. Sorta like… it’s not the dog that bit, it’s the owner.
Years ago a mother and child approached my neighbor who was walking her small dog. The child wanted to go see the dog. The mother asked my neighbor, “Does your dog bite?” I’ll never forget my neighbor’s answer. “All dogs bite.” Truer words were never spoken.
Does your gun kill? All guns kill. That doesn’t mean that all guns will be used to kill, but all guns are designed to kill and can kill.
I will never have a gun in my home. (Ask my brother-in-law, who moved back here from Arizona and stayed with us a few weeks. He was welcome. His gun was not.) But my view on not owning a gun isn’t solely based on some mythical fear. It’s based on several real life experiences.
When I was a teenager we went to visit friends in Parkersburg, West Virginia. One night we went out with their kids. Now, I’m sure there was a lot of showing off for the city girl, but what they actually did was frighten me to the point where I vowed to avoid people like that. The driving like a maniac on back country roads started it off, but it ended with one of the boys pulling out a gun (don’t ask, I have no idea what sort of gun it was) and waving it around. I was terrified. I knew what could happen. Apparently, he did not. When we finally got back to the house I was furious, and in my teenage fashion I launched into a rant about the reckless behavior to everyone. The West Virginians didn’t get upset – they took it in stride. I was stunned, and for years I didn’t understand. But I think I’m starting to. When I read Steve’s post I came to realize that there’s a certain amount of stupid behavior (shooting a cow?) associated with guns. Guess it makes for a good story later in life – if you live that long. Starting to see the disconnect? What horrifies me doesn’t generate the same reaction in others.
My second experience happened in my early twenties. I was living in a Cool Springs city apartment. Who knows why I didn’t go home that night. Who knows why I slept on my friend Lori’s sofa. Her husband was pulling a night shift and by the time we finished chatting it was really late. Early the next morning my parents tracked me down at my friend’s. I had to come back to my apartment. It had been broken into, and the police and my landlord had contacted them.
When I arrived I discovered that my apartment had been broken into by a guy referred to as the Trolley Square rapist. I also discovered several other things. He had been in my apartment for at least several hours. He had gone through every drawer and cabinet, moved the mattress, etc.. He had even found a hidden door in the back of my closet that led to an unused room- and for people who knew me then, my closet wasn’t an organized space. It was a disaster zone, a dumping ground. Even I couldn’t find things in that closet.
My point being that if I had owned a gun, he would have found it. And if I had returned home that night…
Those are two of my experiences. I have also lived through the accidental shootings and suicides. I am probably more familiar with these than most, simply because of my father’s job. Dentist’s kids will be very familiar with the dangers of too many sweets and the need to brush and floss. Cop’s kids will be familiar with safety and guns. Every tragic/stupid event a cop sees will work its way into the conversation around the dinner table – age appropriately censored, of course.
As a cop’s kid you can’t help but be aware of tragedy/crime/violence. Cops’ kids will know exactly what can, and does, happen. We are raised to assess the situation and remove ourselves safely. We are raised in a world where bad things really do happen. We are raised to get the hell away from, and avoid, danger – and if we can’t get away we are taught ways to diffuse the situation. We are trained to always check the back seat of our car before getting in; to immediately leave the house if we expect it has been burgled; to not chase a purse snatcher; to leave a bar if a fight breaks out, etc.. I had a friend whose mother was an ER doctor. Her world view was pretty close to mine. All parents do this to a certain extent – mostly when their teenager starts to drive – don’t play with the radio, don’t text, don’t speed, etc. All designed to keep kids safe.
I was also raised with great respect for guns. I understood that correct and effective use of a gun required extensive, ongoing training. Owning a gun didn’t equal skill. In fact, training should always come before owning a gun. And training must continue once you own a gun. The idea that someone – anyone – simply having a gun during a crisis situation is the answer to mass shootings is pure nonsense. It’s also an insult to our military and law enforcement who train extensively to not only shoot, but how to handle themselves in a crisis situation – how to override human instinct and stay calm and focused. The average gun owner isn’t remotely capable of this.
Steve writes an interesting paragraph:
And they [guns] don’t scare me. A friend told me she was intimidated if she went to a public meeting where people were openly carrying weapons, that she wouldn’t speak, wouldn’t argue with them. That she wouldn’t let her kids stay over at a house if she knew there were firearms there, no matter how safe, no matter how stored. I have a difficult time understanding this fear. I know that will sound utterly bizarre to some of you, especially in the wake of all the shootings recently, but I really don’t get it. I get being scared in downtown Chicago, or Philly, or DC at night. I get being scared if you live in the southwest along the infiltration routes from the Rio Grande and there are gunfights in your backyard. But somebody open carrying to a meeting? Not scary stuff.
I’m the mysterious friend Steve refers to – Yep, outing myself! – who wouldn’t let her kids visit houses with guns. I told them if they were ever in a house and someone brought out a gun (a situation far too common and one I experienced as a teenager) that they were to leave. Immediately. Just walk out the door. Don’t reason with the person. Don’t find an adult. Just get out.
You see, as a cop’s kid this scenario is Act I, Scene I for a tragedy. A scenario that cops deal with far too often.
And there’s the difference. I’m not scared in downtown Chicago, or Philly, or DC at night. As a city dweller I understand and adjust for the risks. Ain’t called street smarts for nothing. So while I’m afraid of certain people with guns, Steve has his fears, too. Both are valid, and both are driven by our individual life experiences. Perhaps I underestimate my safety when I’m in Philly at night, but if I do then I’d say Steve underestimates his safety at a meeting where people are armed.
And given some of the heated public meetings lately, you’re damn right that I would watch what I say to someone who felt the need to bring, and flippin’ open carry, a gun to a meeting. I would view the gun, and what it’s capable of, as a form of intimidation. I would think twice before passionately disagreeing with the guy. I would handle him/her in the same way I handle a drunk – carefully, as to not set them off. Know why? Because I don’t flippin’ KNOW them. And that’s where we keep ending up. Back to my neighbor’s dog. All dogs bite, but not all dogs do. And all guns can kill, but not all do.
We need to find a way to coexist. We need to find a way where people who don’t like guns don’t paint all gun owners as dangerous and crazy, and a way for gun owners not to paint people who don’t want to be around guns as sissies or freedom haters. You don’t have to agree with me, but I’d ask you to respect my views. And that’s where we’re at. I haven’t called for confiscating all guns. I’m calling for solutions, for compromise. Surely, there is room for compromise? Surely, we can agree that some guns and ammo should be regulated? But, maybe not.
Which brings me to…
The real problem I see is the NRA and what it has become – a lobbying group who pushes for laws (many that get enacted) that put us on a path where the motto seems to be “Guns for everyone! Guns everywhere! More guns would have saved those children in Newtown!” Guns in bars, classrooms, churches, stadiums, dorm rooms. Gun laws that allow you to shoot first and ask questions later – Stand Your Ground, baby, and when the homicide detectives arrive simply say you felt threatened. Make them prove you didn’t, which can be difficult since the other witness is dead. How about those body armor piercing bullets or the ability to fire 30, 40, or more, bullets rapidly? Another WTF?
And that’s where I start freaking out. What sort of mind believes they need these sort of guns in these sort of places? These weapons aren’t for hunting or protecting yourself. Talk about blatant overconfidence and ego. It’s pretty scary to me that the only “what if” these type of gun owners seem to consider is what if a bad guy walks in the door. Not… what if a kid gets my gun? What if I drop my gun? What if I shoot the wrong person?
So where does your (whoever you are) right to carry a gun meet with my right to not be around guns? Do I even have that right? Am I simply potential collateral damage?
So my concern isn’t really with most gun owners, it’s with this new breed that the NRA and gun manufacturers openly woo. Because, over the last twenty years, a new breed of gun owner has emerged and they are being encouraged, and egged on, by the NRA and gun manufacturers.
I was driving home from Christmas shopping yesterday and the SUV in front of me had a window sticker that read: Body Piercing by Glock. Aren’t they clever? Another gun ad proudly proclaims “Consider your man card reissued.” Seriously?
And there’s a point we should be discussing – our view of masculinity and how we’re defining it. Here’s how Bushmaster determines who will receive their man card:
…visitors of bushmaster.com will have to prove they’re a man by answering a series of manhood questions. Upon successful completion, they will be issued a temporary Man Card to proudly display to friends and family. The Man Card is valid for one year.
Visitors can also call into question or even revoke the Man Card of friends they feel have betrayed their manhood. The man in question will then have to defend himself, and their Man Card, by answering a series of questions geared towards proving indeed, they are worthy of retaining their card.
I would hope that not many men participated in this man test, but I don’t know. But I bet I could accurately profile the ones who did and took it seriously. To me this man test is very silly, but after last Friday’s shooting I’m beginning to think it’s dangerous… and a big part of our problem. Of the 62 mass shootings that have occurred in the United States since 1982, 61 have been committed by men. So, if we’re going to talk about video games, movies and mental illness, we should also be talking about the other common denominator – our view of masculinity.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Once again a post of mine has jumped all over the place. Shoot me.