Monday, August 27, 2012

Growing up with guns

I grew up with guns. Like many other rural kids, it is a part of the culture. It is considered normal to have a shotgun or a .30-30 in the truck in case you run into bears or coyotes in the back 40. During deer season, every muddy truck down at the old country store has a deer rifle or two on the gun rack inside. Many have been passed down across generations, the wooden stocks worn by decades of hunters, many of whom have passed on to the great tree stand in the sky.

Like many other kids, I received a used lever action Westernfield .22 rifle for my birthday. Mine was at the age of 7 by a scruffy, dip spitting old hillbilly from the hollers of West Virginia. That day, my father (who was uncomfortable and unfamiliar with guns) nearly shot himself in the foot with it.

"You didn't check to make sure there wasn't a round in the chamber?" they asked him as they snickered and my mom rolled her eyes. Unlike my father, my mother knew how to use a gun, quite well actually.

He didn't want much to do with guns before, and he certainly didn't after that, but he would stand by as "adult supervision" while I blasted paper targets and tin cans as I got older. He owned a pearl-handled .45 pistol that belonged to his father, but never once shot it as I can remember.

By the time I was 12, I was allowed to handle and use firearms with minimal supervision. I could wander the fields, nearby woods and the river with a various assortment of .22 rifles and pistols. Often, at night, I could venture out with a flashlight and a pistol. There was an multitude of rats that dashed from feed cans and opossums that tried to sneak into the chicken coop right at dusk before we could lock the hens up. I was incredibly accurate with a pistol and it served as a diversion during a childhood that didn't include TV, pop music or the other things that kids of my generation took for granted.

Some people would be appalled or disgusted by this story, but you have to realize that this was the way I, and many others were raised. In fact, it could be said that having been exposed to the use, and consequences of guns actually gives people a respect for weapons that those who haven't had the same experiences wouldn't necessarily grasp. We have a couple of generations who have only experienced the virtual "reality" of shooting guns in video games. Many of them have never shot a real gun, at an actual living creature, and seen what a 150 grain ballistic tip .30-06 round will do upon impact and penetration at 2800 feet per second.

You don't hear about kids in the country shooting each other as much as you do in the city. I believe responsible gun experiences contribute to that, in addition to other factors. To attribute this to country living alone is intellectual laziness and a need to oversimplify a complex issue in order to fit it on a bumper sticker.

I have only brandished a firearm towards another human being once in my life. It was a cold, rainy autumn morning as I exited my upstairs apartment to find a suspicious character trying to pop open the gate to my back yard. I lived on the edge of a bad neighborhood in Savannah, Georgia and I wasn't taking any chances as I saw his accomplice begin to possibly fumble for a weapon in their vehicle when I confronted the intruder. I got the drop on both of them with my conceal carry .380 that I pulled from the inner pocket of my flight jacket, and they knew it. Their tires squealed as they took off down the street, and I called the police to report the incident and give the tag number.

Would it have bother me to end the life of another human being? Absolutely, but when you have your back against a locked door and a criminal with a weapon between you and your vehicle, I'll choose my life over their life every day of the week.

So, as many of you have been wondering, what is my opinion on gun ownership and gun control?

To be honest with you, I'd like to live in a society that doesn't feel that owning weapons is the only way to fulfill a sense of personal safety. It would be nice if criminals could be kept from getting guns, but an outright prohibition wouldn't work. Look how well that worked with the war on alcohol or the war on drugs. If there is a demand for a product, no matter how many laws there are against it, there will always be a supplier. I suppose this is where my "Libertarian" philosophy sets in to some extent. Personally, I don't feel the need to own an AR-15 with a 30 round clip and therefore, I don't own one.

As for the 2nd Amendment....As currently interpreted, the "keep and bear arms" part theoretically means that an individual could own any type of "arms" up to, and including, a nuclear missile. At the time the 2nd Amendment was written, the weapons of war were inaccurate flintlock muskets with bayonets, tomahawks, cannons and swords. The rate of fire was, at most, maybe three rounds a minute if you were really, really good. You could probably actually kill more people with a sword or bayonet in close quarter combat than you could with a musket.

With that in mind, the Founding Fathers probably figured that even if someone owned a cannon, they couldn't do too much damage before the rest of the village took them out. A "well regulated militia" was written in because at that time, there wasn't a standing professional army and if you were male and could fire a weapon, you need to have one to protect the fort. Also note, they said a "well regulated militia" which infers that it is one that is overseen by government authorities. It doesn't mean let any conspiracy theorist off their Thorazine be able to purchase weapons without paperwork at a gun show.

Some people like to believe that the Constitution and Bill of Rights were perfect documents that were created by perfect men. This is simply not true. They were progressive, radical even, for their time but they were not perfect. If they were perfect men capable of creating a perfect document that would still be 100% relevant to current matters, after almost 2 1/2 centuries, they would have been able to foresee the future, and I don't think anyone has that ability, last time I checked. Also, if they had been perfect, they would have guaranteed equal rights for all people, regardless of race or gender. As I recall, it took two different courts with "activist judges" to fix that.

So what I am saying is that the 2nd Amendment applied perfectly at a time when an individual wasn't able to release hundreds of rounds in a minute. If that had been the case, I'm sure the Founding Fathers would have thought to write it a bit differently.

I believe there needs to be an honest, and sane discussion on what people should reasonably be allowed to own. We require training and licenses to own a vehicle. Why? Because an untrained or unstable person behind the wheel of a multi-ton vehicle can cause great damage to themselves or others. Now think of an 18-wheeler. They don't just give the keys for a rig to anyone off the street and let them head off down the highway. Imagine the potential carnage a tractor trailer load of propane or gasoline would cause if it crashed in an urban area? Same thing with a gun.

There is a difference between a .22 rifle used for shooting woodchucks and an AR-15 which was designed for no other purpose than killing human beings. If you absolutely have to own one, fine. However, you should be required to show a reasonable purpose for owning one, other than your irrational fear that the UN troops in black helicopters are coming to take you to re-education camps and force your kids to get library cards. I remember one of the parents of some kids I used to know who owned a "street sweeper" among others because of his paranoid fantasies that drove him to build a log cabin on top of a mountain in West Virginia because he was preparing for a "racial holy war".

I believe that in addition to demonstrating a legitimate need to own such weapons, a psychological test should be required for the license. If you are found in possession of an assault weapon that you don't have the permit for, you would forfeit the gun and face stiff penalties.

I believe in concealed weapon permits. They should be issued to people who are of sound mind and character. If you shoot someone who is committing a violent felony to protect yourself or someone else from imminent bodily harm, you should be immune from civil and criminal penalties. However, if you instigate a confrontation, then shoot someone because you are a gutless punk like George Zimmerman, you should go to prison for life. I also believe that persons found guilty of violent crimes involving a gun should do life with hard labor. Put them in Angola, no possibility of parole.

We need sensible gun laws that protects the rights of responsible people who have guns for hunting or protection and laws that severely punishes those who use them to commit crimes or intimidate others. There is a reasonable middle ground, and we need to find it fast. I am a gun owner, and the NRA does not speak for me. Not now, not ever.

14 comments:

  1. Sanest commentary on gun ownership I have read yet.
    One point I'd like to mention is that "back in the day", the town fathers were REQUIRED to ensure that all guns/gun owners were registered...to the point of house to house inspections of said weapons...All gun owners were required to keep their arms in good shape, and were required to show up for shooting practice, I believe once or twice a month.
    There are over 300 million people in America now. We don't all need to have guns. It is ludicrous to think we do.
    My husband and I live out in the middle of SERIOUS backwoods Kentucky...we don't have a weapon yet, but we are planning on getting one, because there are a LOT of predators out here...bears, coyotes, wild cats, who knows maybe even the Hillbilly Beast...The longer we live out here, the more we see the need to have something to protect our pets and ourselves from these predators...And, given the fact that my husband is a disabled Veteran, and probably couldn't fight off an intruder as easily as he used to be able to, it would be nice to have a weapon...just in case. We could be lying dead or injured out here for WEEKS before anyone thought to check on us...I'm sure it's not probable...just possible. I would have no problem shooting someone who tried to do us harm...the cops are at least 20 to 30 minutes away, and I understand that sometimes one has to do what one has to do. But I should also add that my first shot would just be a wounding shot...I would not want to kill someone who was just trying to steal "stuff"...I guess that's the bleeding heart liberal in me...lol.
    Thank you for this insightful article.

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  2. Lovely. :) The first time I held a 22 I accidentally aimed it at my Dad. I got a tongue lashing in a major way. You NEVER point a gun, even unloaded, at something or someone you weren't ready to kill. Period. No exceptions. It is a rule I have taught my children who have grown up gun free. Partly this is due to my not being sure that I am stable enough to have one in the house, and also because most kids are not taught gun safety and I feel that they and my family could be put at risk. It is all about teaching folks about weapons and, as you pointed out, what kind of damage they do.
    You are very right, there need to be limits on the types of weapons we are allowed to carry. Even if the 2nd amendment was referring to protecting yourself from the government (which many believe for some reason), there is no way that we citizens could ever out gun our government. The entire armed forces would have to revolt in order to have a snowballs chance.

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  3. Michelle, have you ever considered that governments all over the world have had hundreds of millions of people put to death? Why not America? What kind of imbecile nation would invade a country that has a military as formidable as ours AND the not so popular with the media "gun culture". Something about a gun behind every blade of grass... If you want your kids to be safe around guns teach them about the dangers of them. The same goes for drugs, traffic and falling out of tree houses...mist people just hope and vote to take them away. Education is paramount...

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  4. "I believe that in addition to demonstrating a legitimate need to own such weapons, a psychological test should be required for the license."
    YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. "A Legitimate need" I mean do you need an M60 to hunt deer? No.
    Do you need a Remington 870 to hunt deer? Maybe.
    Do you need a Desert Eagle to hunt deer? No.
    Now, do you need a Remington 870 when you live in an urban area, and have no history of hunting? No.
    Do you need a Desert Eagle in the same parameters? No.
    Then we get things like the TEC-9, I mean..aside from shooting other people, where do you need a 9mm with an optional 100 rd. drum magazine?
    Overall, I found this a very interesting, as well as through provoking article.
    Thanks Whiskey!

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  5. Wonderful post, sums up everything I ever wanted to say about my thoughts on guns. The NRA has never spoken for me either, but I sure wish I could change it so it did. I think it is hgh time there was some sanity in America about the issue of guns - specifically military style weapons and the question of who NEEDS to own those types of weapons, along with CHL's. I don't need a Barney Fife with no police training on my neihborhood watch either.

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  6. Good piece, you just need a few corrections. 1. "Regulated" in the 2nd amendment means "trained" The Second Amendment restricts the federal government from stopping townships, states, 4H clubs ect... From organizing and training militias 2. You are allowed to own a vehicle (18 wheelers included) without licencing and registration. 3. Any one who has intelligently studied human history will tell you that concern about black helicopters and holding camps is not paranoid. The democratic party is already guilty of such terrors, IE; "Trail of Tears" "Waco Texas" "Gulf of Tonkin" In fact you could say that our founding fathers were concerned (not paranoid) about "Black helicopters" and "holding camps" 4. We all know that many police departments across the country are corrupt to the core. They can not be trusted to pick and chose who has rights and who does not. 5. We already have a "psychological fit" bar that filters out the mentally ill.

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    1. You cannot drive any of the named vehicles without training and licensing. Good luck to anyone who tries to drive an 18 wheeler without training!

      When did "regulated" come to mean "trained"? Training may be a part of regulation, but regulation is a form of control, not training. Your list of Democratic Party events takes in some nonsense...Trail of Tears is the starter, because today's political parties are entirely different than they were during that political period. Waco was a royal screw-up, but so was Ruby Ridge. Neither was a massive takeover of the country attempt, nor was the Gulf of Tonkin.

      Your psychologically fit bar is unevenly applied: in Virginia, where I live, there is no psychological, or other, evaluation for weapons sales at gun shows, nor is there in private sales.

      There's no doubt some police departments are corrupt, but "to the core" is nonsense. Individual members or even groups of members do not constitute an entire department. Some may be badly infested, others are not.

      We need some effective and efficient methods of determining the psychological abilities of a eprson buying a gun. It needs to be applied universally, including at gun shows. I doubt there's much that can be done about private gun sales without registering every single gun in the U.S. That is impossible. But we can do better and we must.

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  7. My son and I could have re written this (not as well as you of course)almost to the letter. Today's horrific events will not change the way I feel about my own firearms but it does hurt me to the point that I do think the NRA has no right to be such a strong lobbing entity as it is. Taking no responsibility toward changing gun laws and fear mongering among their sheep. Washing the warm blood from their hands with ice cold water,watching it go down the drain saying "Not my problem,more guns is the solution." Screw them and all that think gun control would not have changed this day and these 18 children that should be in their parents arms right now. I am going to become active here in Texas on this issue. I love your posts and blogs. Don't ever stop!

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  8. You say: "Look how well that worked with the war on alcohol or the war on drugs"

    Alcohol and drugs can be manufactured in the back yard or basement.

    Manufacturing AK47s much more difficult.

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  9. I can't remember my first experience with guns because they were always part of the environment I was raised in. My father was ex-military and we lived in a remote area on the Canadian border. I think I may have been 10 or 11 when I began walking a trapline on the way to school and back and that required a gun to dispatch the animals in the traps I strung along the creek that meandered roughly in the direction of the school. I was one of a few who did this in the one room school and the teacher was quite proficient at checking the rifles to be unloaded and stashing them in her supply closet off the coat room until time to go home.

    Somewhere around the age of 13 I encountered a badger that had become trapped and the .22 semi auto was marginal for the job and it wasn't pretty. Had he been loose, both I and my horse would have come out losers in the encounter. My dad decided it was time to upgrade, especially since bears sightings in the area were becoming more commonplace and the creek was a natural attraction to them with it's prolific wild berry patches. That year I inherited his lever action Winchester 30/30.

    All went well that year, but the next year I made a bad judgment call and shot a sow bear that I spotted across the creek. With no real use for the greasy meat or the hide, this was just a sport kill, which my parents both abhorred. I dressed out that bear while my dad sat on a large rock and gave instructions. I also packed it the mile or so to the house because my horse was having no part of letting me toss bear meat over the saddle. Altogether, I spent the better part of a day of hard labor and 4 or 5 trips of 2 miles round. That was a long winter as I ate bear while the folks enjoyed beef, venison or chicken. I'm also quite sure Mom made no effort to make it any more palatable than a shoe soaked in grease. Lesson learned and some important values instilled that I did my level best to pass onto my kids, including the girls who could out shoot most of their boy friends.

    Over the years I've owned just about every type of legal weapon available, including a couple of "assault" style rifles. These pseudo military weapons are useless and are only produced to sell to a market that was largely groomed by the gun industry via the NRA propaganda machine. Give me an old Ruger ranch rifle .223 any day over the AR look alikes. It's more accurate and has the same rate of fire for any practical purpose. The only limitation is the clip capacity, which I can't imagine needing more of. If I'm thinking of having to defend my homestead I'm reaching for my 870 12 ga pump anyway. From birdshot to slugs it will do the job better and with less collateral damage than any assault rifle. If the perp is out of shotgun range I have no business shooting at him anyway.

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