I was given my first gun around age 10 to 12. It was a pellet rifle, which I still have today. My second gun was a 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun, a gift at about age 14, which I still have but only as a wall piece because it has a Damascus barrel which could explode using modern powder.
I own several hand-built muskets all built by my grandfather after he retired as a mechanic.
In fact, I will admit that at one point up until five years ago, when I gave them to my sons, I owned about 25 guns. Some of these were inherited from my father. All were kept in a gun safe. And none were assault-style weapons.
You see, I grew up in a hunting family. Ducks, geese, rabbits, quail, deer were our regular quarry. We didn’t shoot anything we did not eat, and the freezer was always packed with wild meat.
Hunting went back generations in my family. One of my prized shotguns was a 16-gauge Remington passed on from my great grandfather, who hunted regularly.
In the wintertime, I would come home from school, grab my shotgun and walk for hours looking for rabbits or quail.
I passed on the hobby of hunting to my sons, one of whom killed his first rabbit with the pellet gun mentioned above.
Hunting was a hobby, and the first thing I learned and the first thing I taught my sons was never point a gun anywhere close to another person.
And, yes, I had and have pistols. Strictly for target shooting. I can’t explain the joy of shooting a target dead (near dead) center. But again, the rule: Never point a gun anywhere close to another person.
I never thought of a gun as a personal protection device. And I never have thought of my neighbor — or anyone passing on the street — as a threat.
“I never thought of a gun as a personal protection device.”
Now? A mother, after a Texas mall shooting, says, “I hid my kids in a dressing room, then I pulled out my pistol.” Good grief. Is everyone armed these days? It seems like it.
What is going on in this country when people see each other as threats? Or why do people pull out a gun to solve a disagreement or to take revenge? I confess, it is beyond me.
Another Texas man, also a gun owner, said, “It wasn’t mental health that killed these people (as the governor claimed) it was an automatic rifle with bullets.” With that I agree.
There has to be a solution, and I’m not sure what it is, but in the meantime drastic circumstances require drastic measures: We can get guns out of the hands of people. And yes, that includes me.
Drastic circumstances require drastic measures. That means:
- No sales of assault-style weapons
- Harsh penalties for ownership of assault-style weapons
- Harsh and quick penalties for deadly use of firearms
- Required courses in firearm use and safety before purchase or use of firearms (including hunting)
- Limiting the number of handguns one person can own at a time (three?)
- Reasonable buy-back programs for any guns ($300 each?) and immediate destruction of those turned in.
I know, I know: There are thousands of guns already on the street. I’ll leave it to someone smarter than me to solve that issue. In the meantime, we have to start somewhere. As one man said, “It’s not a Republican thing; it’s not a Democratic thing; it’s an American thing.”
Mike Harton is an educator and member of First Baptist Church of Richmond, Va.