Have Gun, Will Worry
Updated: Mar 29, 2019
“If ever America feels so scary to where I think I need a gun, shoot me now.”
Until just months ago, the above quote was my glib thought about gun ownership.
But a number of conditions, both political and personal, have adjusted my attitude. On some weekends you can now find me firing 9-millimeter bullets at cardboard targets that suggest a head and human torso.
What has changed my mind after all these years? The universe has been giving me “signs” that it was time to buy a gun. Call it fate. Call it synchronicity. But there’s no denying that a Smithfield Armory semi-automatic now waits in its case for our next trip to the shooting range.
What “signs” nudged me to join the family of the fully armed? Let’s start with growing up watching TV Westerns filled with heroes and villains — all toting lots of guns. Most every boy had a collection of toy guns marketed on the fame of such shows. How fondly I remember my Lone Ranger silver six-shooter with the pearl handles at age six and my Rifleman’s rapid-fire rifle at age nine.
It’s true that Political Correctness has long-stifled toy gun manufacturing in this country. However, every year during the 50s decade Mattel advertised its latest cap-firing machine gun with the same kind of excitement car companies reserved for their newest models.
But no matter how hard I begged my mother, Rose, was firm in denying me the Daisy BB air gun. “You’ll put your eye out,” she warned. Perhaps she had a bit of prophet in her as I almost did, in fact, put my eye out with a friend’s BB gun. And yet, even that close call didn’t dissuade me from gun lust.
One of the strongest intuitions I’ve ever had was knowing at age nine I would be a “deadeye” when I got to shoot a real gun. My chance came that summer at Camp Conestoga where campers could partake in swimming, canoeing, archery and, best of all, riflery. The rifle range became my main haunt and my hunch proved correct — Hitting the bullseye came as natural to me as home runs to Babe Ruth.
By my fourth year at summer camp I had earned all the NRA marksman medals available but my fascination with guns was waning. Even though by then I was “captain of the rifle team,” the thrill was gone. Girls were becoming interesting just as shooting was becoming boring. My gun lust seemed forever sated.
The ugliness of the Vietnam War and its roiling of America’s political and social scenes further alienates me from our culture of violence. After college my spiritual adventuring begins, compounding my distaste for anything smacking of brutality. The more the NRA and its members insist on the sacredness of the Second Amendment the more I turn away in disgust.
Fast forward 40 years or so to the birth of my son, Ben. In spite of the politically correct grownups around him who discouraged imaginary gunplay, he persisted. Richard, a career child psychologist and my next-door neighbor, suggested that archery would be a good outlet for Ben’s need to feel powerful. And so with his parents’ permission, Richard gave Ben his old childhood bow, arrows included.
Over the years Ben had shown a talent for hitting targets, whether with darts, arrows, or even spears. By age 12 he’d amassed a knife collection and had become a master of sharpening them. For his sixteenth birthday his godmother, Kathleen, gave Ben her old 22-caliber rifle from her childhood. Carl, another adult mentor and sometimes hunter, offered to take him out for target shooting.
By then, Richard retires from his psychology practice and starts a company marketing his patented gun sight he’s invented. He is having them custom-built for America’s most popular handgun models. Richard’s sights become a hit and he contracts to have them manufactured in China.
Soon Richard finds he must continue to add to his line of sights for other gun models. A long-time competition shooter, he begins ever more frequent trips to the shooting range for testing his latest sights. It’s only natural that Ben goes along to get in on the action. On several occasions I accompany them for the sake of the “bonding experience.” I missed the target as many times as I hit it.
When Ben turned 21 last spring, he could legally own a handgun and Richard sold him one from his vast collection. Right about then I began considering buying a gun. Richard, who has thoroughly tested his sight fitted on the aforementioned 9-millimeter, offered me a deal. I hesitated. But a number of things lined up that pushed me over the edge.
First was Trump’s ascendancy into the White House and the mainstreaming of hate. Then there was that conversation with a woman college professor teaching race relations. I had mentioned my distress over Ben’s buying a gun and she replied, “They’re not going to stop making guns. It’s good for progressives to have guns. If conservatives know that about progressives it brings a balance.”
But the final shove was a Google search initiated by a discussion regarding activities that produced the “feel good” endorphin called “oxytocin.” That random internet hunt turned up a list of the top ten oxytocin producing activities. Between “petting a dog” and “hugging” was “shooting guns.”
I called Richard the same day and we sealed the deal. Last weekend, Richard, Ben and I went out to the shooting range. We all had a fun time and I’m getting my deadeye back.