How I Ended My Lifelong Love Affair With Guns
As a child, the author fired rounds with his father and believed owning weapons made people safer. Here’s what changed his mind.
I grew up with guns around the house. Firearms were an integral part of everyday life, as commonplace as bicycles and silverware. I always expected to hand my guns down to my children, a generational rite of passage among the men in my family. But I can no longer ignore the obvious: The conditions that once allowed owning a gun to become a rite of passage for American men have changed.
My dad was a champion marksman and gun collector, and I was a 6 year-old boy version of Saoirse Ronan’s reindeer-hunting Finnish girl in last year’s movie Hanna. By the time I entered fourth grade, I knew how to field strip, clean, and reassemble several types of revolvers, semi-automatic pistols and rifles. I knew wadcutters from hollow points. I knew how to ease my breath and relax my trigger pull for a better shot.
The cumulative effect is an unrelenting jumpiness that must be overcome in order to hit the target, a twitchiness that remains even after you’re driving home in the now-surreal sunlight. The not unpleasant tang of gunpowder stays in your nostrils.
When we got home, my dad would immediately set out cloths, solvents, and gun oil. Like samurai, we laid out each weapon, checking to see if it was loaded and then taking it apart step by step. We’d wipe the powder residue from the firing pins and the cylinders. We’d push solvent-soaked cotton squares through the barrels till we could see the tiny spiral grooves inside, then used an oil-soaked square to set the surface reflective and perfect.
Piece by piece, we’d reassemble each weapon, the parts joining with delicious metallic clicks and ka-chaks, the satisfying sounds you hear in movies when someone pulls back the slide on a pistol to rack a new bullet. The object-oriented and tinkering part of the male experience was deeply pleasing. After firing these weapons, their awe-inspiring power could now be appreciated on a different level.
At first, I found it difficult to reconcile all of that with this country’s increasing numbers of violent murders. There was the Virginia Tech shooter. And the woman who was denied tenure and blasted several of her colleagues at the University of Alabama. The Columbine killers, of course. The D.C. sniper. The Fort Hood killer. The term “going postal,” a reference to a rash of postmen and office workers who shot up their workplaces in the ’80s and ’90s.
Whenever America experiences a gun massacre, the media wrings its hands and calls for modest restrictions on firearms. The NRA hits a defensive crouch. And hordes of Second Amendment absolutists emerge from the blogosphere with the certainty of zealots in the desert and the shaky knowledge of junior high kids in a summer civics class.
But the sad fact is that American society can no longer handle the responsibility of private gun ownership. We’ve lost whatever internal gyroscopes enabled us to monitor ourselves and our conduct. We need stronger legal controls on gun ownership, including not only background checks but mental fitness exams and mandatory training. There should be at least as much required to own a gun as there is to obtain a driver’s license. Instead, even people on the government’s terrorist watch list are legally able to purchase firearms.
There are obvious reasons that firearms in the hands of civilians make less and less sense: denser populations; higher powered weaponry; ever-looser regulation that prevents weapons from being effectively tracked from owner to owner, better enabling sales to criminals. But just as important is the dissolution of the social
the gearshift — it was a thick leather strip with a heavy weight sewn into one end. I’d play with it when we were driving, slapping it against my palm until it hurt, usually about two or three strikes.
One day, my dad got angry at the driver behind us, yelling out the window at top-volume. The light was green when we suddenly came to a stop in the left-hand turn lane. My dad grabbed the blackjack and swooped out of the car. I was afraid to look back, keeping my gaze fixed on the dust motes on the dashboard. As far as I know, he had no physical contact with the person in the car behind us. He came back and slammed the door, glaring into the rearview mirror as the traffic light went through another cycle. Then we drove off.
Would he have behaved the same way in Florida in 2012? Might the man in the car behind us have “stood his ground” and shot my dad dead in the street? It’s
See the compete original article at : https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/07/how-i-ended-my-lifelong-love-affair-with-guns/260327/