When I got my first and last gun, I was in the morning kindergarten class. The bus dropped me off after school and I’d watch TV in the living room while eating my lunch. Old reruns of some of the best shows were on in the afternoon: Batman. The Lone Ranger and The Adventures of Superman. I ate my sandwich with Adam West, George Reeves or Clayton Moore, then I’d run off to read my comic books, or play outside.
I had no siblings, so I usually played make believe by myself. Sometimes I suited up in my Wonder Woman gear to save the world. Other times, I became Supergirl, flying around by fastening some sort of cape around my neck and hanging from my swing set. And when I had my little cap gun, I was just as brave and heroic as the Lone Ranger.
The only thing a kid needs to save the world.
In my mind, it wasn’t symbolic in any way of a thing that hurt people. It didn’t represent a killing thing. It was one of my toys, in no way separate from my other superhero/pretend toys.
Just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, when I played with my gun, I imagined myself as a ridiculous and child-like version of an old-timey hero.
Switch those glasses with pigtails & that’s pretty much what I was thinking.
I liked my little cap gun because I didn’t understand what a gun could do.
I lost that cap gun almost four years later because like most of my toys, it was left in another state when my mother and I got into a car and moved 1,200 miles across the country in the middle of the night. I’d like to tell you exactly why we did that, but I’m afraid I can’t, simply because I was quite small at the time and adults don’t always like to explain ugly, real-life details to small people. All I know is, my mother was a young mother who had gotten into all sorts of young person air-headed messes and one of those messes was a nasty man who pointed guns at people. By then, I knew guns were dangerous. I knew someone who threatened people was not a good person to be around. I began to consider the possibility that guns weren’t so great, either.
Fast forward another five years. I was in the 9th grade, so I didn’t spend much time wearing capes. I didn’t miss my cap gun or other toys much because I’d discovered weed, boys & Jim Morrison. My head was in a much different place; I had plenty of books & insecurity to keep me busy. Changing is just something that a kid’s head does, so it wasn’t any different for me.
Because my mother was young and prone to messes, we lived with her boyfriend, who was also a terrible mess. There was a lot of screaming in our house. There were a lot of bruises; a lot of punching and clobbering with blunt objects like golf clubs, or whatever happened to be lying around. While I managed to avoid flying golf clubs, I did do a lot of observing. When you’re a kid and adults are fighting their nightly battle royale, it’s best to say nothing, stay the hell out of the way and just watch.
So, I watched when he tore out the fireplace and installed a sliding panel over a hollowed-out section of the wall to build his “secret arsenal.” I watched as his collection (of legally owned firearms) grew. They weren’t locked away. They were sometimes loaded, sometimes not. They were often lying about, leaning against the wall or the floor. The “secret arsenal” wasn’t big enough for all of them.
One of the nights that the police came on a domestic violence call, he took out all the guns. He surrounded himself with a variety of loaded firearms. He swore he wouldn’t go to jail, that he’d die first and would “take at least one of those fucking pigs” with him.
I wondered if we were all going to die, if the walls of the house would be riddled with bullets and if the entire town would read about us in the paper the next day.
Luckily, he was all bluster and hysterics. Nobody died, but I decided I really didn’t like guns at all.
Except for Young Guns, of course.
Let’s move ahead again. A few months before I turned 19, I was attacked in my home by a man with two kitchen knives. Why two kitchen knives? Because they were the deadliest weapon in the house. I lost some blood, but not a serious amount. My body made more, so I was okay. I’ve got a scar on my face, but I’ve never minded it because a scar means being alive.
I’m not dead because the worst thing he found was a kitchen knife. If there had been a gun in my house, I would not be telling you this story. I lived because I was able to outrun a freak with knives. I am not able to outrun bullets.
Then… I lost a few of my friends (to legally owned firearms). They weren’t able to run from bullets, either.
We’ll time travel one more time before I bring you back to the present.
About ten years ago, I had my very own stalker. I did the usual things stalked people do. I took different routes to and from work every day. I got a restraining order. I moved. But, I lived alone and was afraid all the time, which pissed me off.
I seriously considered buying a gun.
I talked to several friends. I weighed different opinions. I gathered information. One of my very good friends took me to the firing range. He spent the day teaching me all the ins and the outs. I shot a rifle, I shot a pistol… we went to a sporting goods store where he showed me how to make a purchase and all about the necessary accoutrements like ammo and whatnot.
I went home. I gave the matter some serious thought. I learned as much as I could before making a decision. In the end, I bought some pepper spray. I kept it with me at all times. I have never — not even once — had any regrets about remaining unarmed.
In fact, I’ve always had a great deal of admiration for anyone who avoided guns. I adore fictional characters who detest and avoid guns.
So… why am I telling you this about me? Because I want all the guns to go away? No. Not the point. The point is something else.
Gun talk is everywhere. It’s nigh impossible to mention anything even remotely related to firearms or mental health without having people appear almost out of nowhere to debate the subject. It doesn’t even matter if they know your point of view on the issue — they are ready and more than willing to offer their own and debate it with tired arguments and sound bytes.
And, really — it’s okay if you want to debate with people. But, I’m not interested. Lots of other people aren’t interested, either. This isn’t because they can’t argue their viewpoint with you. It isn’t because they’re ignorant. (Okay, it that could be it, but often, that isn’t the case at all.) For many people, it may just be that they know how they feel about the issue and don’t feel the need to defend it.
Me, my mind was already made up. Life helped me to make my mind up on the subject over and over again. It continues to do so. The longer I’m alive, the more the world reaffirms my sentiment of: FUCK GUNS.
We are, each one of us, a story. A long story made up of thousands of tiny stories. It’s our stories that shape the way we feel about things. My story has led me to harbor a disdain of firearms. All the arguing and shouting at me about your rights won’t change my mind.
And why would you want to?
My point isn’t to convince you that “gun people” are bad. They’re not all bad. My point is to ask you to have some understanding when people don’t want to argue with you about it, (or anything, really) regardless of which side of the argument you may be sitting on. You probably don’t know their story; the reasons they have for their opinion.
Maybe… a little more listening and a little less shouting. Find out why someone feels the way they do, instead of trying to convince them to feel like you do.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got: stop looking to pick a fight. Take a deep breath. Use your goddamn head. Stop shouting. Listen to people’s stories. Tell them yours.
But… I’m not that naive. I know no one will do that. They’d rather argue. So now that I’ve got this bit of frustration purged from inside of me, I’ll go on about my day, to the weekend. And on Sunday morning, I’ll wake up to the sound of guns being fired in the fields behind my house where during the 7 months out of the year that it’s not hunting season, I walk my dog. I’ll walk her along the paved roads on her leash instead, even though she longs to run free through the fields and the forest beyond.
We’ll pass a few surly red-nosed “hunters” toting rifles. They won’t smile, nod, or say, “bonjour” because they never do. We’ll pass by some joggers or kids playing in the street who are wearing fluorescent safety vests so that they’re not accidentally shot while playing near their house.
Then we’ll come home, not completely satisfied with our little walk, where I’ll enter through the front door muttering something about hating guns before I plop down on the couch in front of the TV to watch something good. Maybe Batman or Superman. Or maybe just a few reruns of The Lone Ranger.