When I was a child, my parents kept shotguns and rifles in our home. My father had brought a number of them back with him from Europe after World War II and used them for hunting. My mother often went with him but I think she probably went along just to be in the woods. Though she did sometimes carry a gun, I doubt very much that she ever fired a shot at any animal. She could kill and pluck chickens, catch and clean freshly caught fish, without any problems. But there was something about mammals that caused her to hesitate before even thinking about pulling the trigger.
I remember one cold winter morning, as I watched them practice shooting at empty coffee cans. I was only five or six years old and was fascinated to see who was better at knocking the rusty cans off their perch on an old log. My mom complained about the “kick” of the rifle she used. When she pulled the trigger, the gun would jam back into her shoulder, as the bullet shot out of the barrel, causing her to lose her balance, sending the projectile somewhere above and beyond those old Maxwell House cans.
I loved being with Dad when he cleaned his guns, attracted by the fruity, banana smell of the oil he used. It seemed a sacred ritual. The guns always had to be cleaned after they were used, and every time he’d tell me how dangerous they were. He always emphasized that one should never ever point a gun at another person even if you know the gun isn’t loaded. I had no idea where the guns were kept and only saw them when preparations were being made to go target practicing or hunting.
During the same time, the meat on our table was most often, roasted rabbit or squirrel. We had only recently returned from spending a year or two in Germany after the war. My dad was getting his home building business up and running, and I imagine he was stretching every dollar that came his way. Rabbits and squirrels were abundant and free for the taking, saving money but also providing a source of protein for the family.
I was a curious kid and loved to watch as Dad skinned the bounty, marveling at the layers of fur, muscle and fat that clothed those tiny creatures. I had no problem eating them. It was what we did and how my parents fed themselves and their growing family. But I had no interest in guns or killing animals. And they never became an interest of mine. The only gun I ever held, was a cap gun I used when I played cowboys and indians with my friends.
Many years later, my dad took my brother, Reid, fourteen years old at the time, deer hunting. He spent lots of time teaching him about the use of guns and again, how dangerous they were. Reid was very excited about the possibility of bringing down a deer, until the day he actually did it. It was a large, twelve point buck, and since he was hunting alone, Reid had to cut the carcass into manageable pieces in order to bring it home. He trudged back and forth carrying deer parts on his shoulders until all of rested outside the kitchen door. For weeks afterwards, he was depressed and unwilling to eat any of the meat. He had broken his own heart by taking the life of another creature. He never picked up a gun again.
Last week, as I dug into a big bowl of soup at a nearby restaurant, a young father and his two adorable children, sat at the table next to mine. The kids were probably five and six. They were quiet and well-mannered. While they had their lunch, their dad’s cell phone rang several times.
I find restaurants wonderful places to listen in on conversations for material that I might want to use in my writing. But this one went further than just a good line or two. While he was cutting up his son’s meat, I heard him tell whoever it was on the other end of the line, that he was on his way to the gun show, in Richmond. He went further, explaining that he had two AK-47’s and another assault weapon he was interested in trading in.
This was one conversation I wasn’t expecting to hear. I sat there stunned and feeling afraid. I have mourned the loss of the many innocent victims of mass shootings all over the world. In 2007, it happened here in Virginia, just down the road, when thirty-two young people lost their lives in what is now called the Virginia Tech Massacre. To my knowledge I have never been in the presence of anyone who owns automatic weapons, until a week ago. The thought of it still makes me shiver.
Why is it necessary for anyone to own an automatic assault weapon? While I have respect for anyone who needs a rifle for hunting, and putting food on their table, I do not condone the owning of automatic weapons for any purpose.
I fear for those two young ones and the world they are growing into. The most unnerving part of the whole gun scene, is that when a mass shooting occurs, the sales of guns go up around our country. According to our constitution, we have “the right to keep and bear arms.” But this is a different world than the one those words were written for. As we keep learning every time innocent people are killed, these weapons are far too easy to buy. And they too often fall into the hands of those who use them to harm others.
I don’t make it a habit of posting words of a political nature on this blog, but I feel this is an important issue for all of us to think about, especially if you have children. I do NOT consider it a political issue. It’s about keeping our families out of harms way. I hope and pray that if you do own a gun or guns of any kind, that you keep you and your kids safe, by educating them and keeping your guns locked up and out of reach.
I support, Hunters For The Hungry, who here in Virginia, help to manage an out-of-control deer population, while feeding those who cannot supply food for themselves.