I have never shot a gun. I know, weird, hey? Considering the euphoric joy many proclaim from simply owning such a device, let alone firing one, I’ve paid myself quite the disservice by shunning this grand sensory experience.
I should qualify the rather blanket statement I just made by saying I’ve never shot a “real” gun. Real, as in designed to kill. I’ve fired a BB gun. Hard to be a 70s kid and not have. Likewise, I’ve fired a paintball gun. And while the intent may not be death, the welt from a point-blank paintball shot to an exposed, fleshy region is, if momentarily, almost as bad.
Other guns in my decorated history include glue guns, staple guns, nail guns, caulking guns, water guns, and cap guns. Considering that the last time I used a nail gun I impaled a finger, it’s perhaps best that this is the most dangerous type of gun I’ve used.
I’ve found sticks with ideal branch notches and pretended they were guns. I’ve raised my thumb and extended my index finger to rob imaginary banks, arrest imaginary criminals, and faux-terrorize many fellow human beings, including my children. And, as young boy, I was gifted the classic Wild West pistol and holster set.
I’ve shotgunned a beer. I use the singular because it truly occurred just once and is best described as an ill-fated attempt. And I’ve imbibed a shot or three at the local rod and gun club, thanks to a co-worker’s stag party. All of which is to say, I’m wholly unqualified to speak about gun control, but will anyway.
Only twice in my forty-eight years have I witnessed a genuine firearm in use with live rounds. The first happened when I was maybe nine or so. A rabbit decided our flowerbeds were an all-you-can-eat buffet of exotic perennials and obliterated the colourful plants my sister and I lovingly picked at our school bus driver’s greenhouse down the road. I don’t care how cute you are, mess with a kid’s snapdragons and the penalty is harsh.
My father, while not a hunter, owned a shotgun and a rifle, holdovers from his younger days when he and his brothers/friends spent afternoons shooting groundhogs and other critters deemed pests in nearby fields. The two guns, along with an assortment of ammo, resided in a gun rack affixed to a bare wall in our basement because we didn’t own a pickup truck.
Determined to avenge our decimated flora, dad snuck up our driveway and slowly lay himself down on a sloped portion of our lawn, staggered hands steadying the rifle in front of him. My sister, mother and I huddled in the master bedroom watching through the bay window as the ravenous bunny paused and lifted onto its haunches to survey the mysterious now figure thirty feet away. With a single shot, Dad dispatched the fiendish herbivore.
I was not scared, or scarred, but I do remember it vividly. For all the slow, tense drama in the lead up, the act of killing was remarkably understated. The pop of the rifle firing and the rabbit falling over dead. Quick. Clean. Permanent.
Years later, in my teens, I was nearly the rabbit. My neighbour and good friend at the time was out in their horse pasture with his family skeet shooting. They had a hand launcher for the clay targets, an odd, spring-loaded device you flung forward side-armed and quickly snapped back releasing the skeet in a skyward trajectory to be blasted into shards on its maiden, and with a skilled shooter, only flight.
I was too timid to shoot the shotgun, but the skeet launcher seemed innocuous enough to try. As a softball player, and sometimes pitcher no less, how hard could it be? After a brief lesson on operation, I prepared to launch the clay disc, my friend with gun at the ready to my left. I thrust my right arm forward but snapped back too soon. Like a horribly sliced golf ball, the skeet arced fiercely to my right as the barrel of my friend’s gun panned in sync until it pointed straight at my head.
The adults yelled and leapt to prevent him from firing while I hit the dirt faster than that rabbit did. Thankfully, my friend did not pull the trigger. I’ve not been near a real gun since. Haven’t launched another skeet either. To be fair, I never was that good of a pitcher.
It’s likely no surprise that I support gun control. Not in a virulent, dogmatic way, mind you. My anti-gun stance is simple. Built upon the twin footings of “doesn’t affect me so I don’t care” and “your obsession with guns is scary,” it’s surely the bane of every law-abiding gun owner.
Still, when in the wake of a horrific murder spree in Nova Scotia, during a global pandemic, no less, Prime Minister Trudeau announced sweeping new gun control measures, my initial reaction was a genuine “Seriously? Now?”
The way I see it, if gun control is worthy legislation (it is) with overwhelming public support (it has), then have the bloody guts (poor word choice) to table it without the cynicism of exploiting a tragedy coupled with the distraction of a generational public health panic.
If nothing else, it would curtail the wails for “democracy” from gun proponents filling my social media feeds. Okay, it wouldn’t. But honestly, combined with the patronizing “we need to educate Canadians” posts, these pleas of a lack of democracy are a bit tiresome. It strikes me as a rather fruitless argument for the pro-gun crowd to make, ideologically noble though it may be.
For starters, there will be a vote. That is our democracy, warty and frustrating though it may be. But more to the point, does anyone really believe a vote in the house of commons would result in anything other than majority support for gun control? Even a free vote would. Same with a national referendum.
Education won’t change any of that. Teaching layfolk the minutia of barrel diameters, magazine capacities, and bump stock functionality is not the panacea of gun rights enlightenment some seem to think it is. Nor is a deluge of statistics, as anyone with even the slightest, vested interest in any number of hot-button issues can attest.
The gun debate has long moved beyond logic and fact. It’s solely in the realm of emotion, ideology, and, if I can be generous, philosophy. On both sides.
I’ve succumbed. To fear, yes, but more so to my revulsion towards perceived and blatant gun lust. It’s the embodiment of “we fear what we don’t understand.” I get guns in a pragmatic sense but the obsession with them as adult toys, collectibles, rights, and/or self-aggrandizers is lost on me.
I’m under no delusion that any of this gun control legislation will prevent the next mass murder. Only a fool would think it’s that simple. But resisting, if not eradicating, the frothing gun culture continually leaking north from the United States does feel like it could.
I think lawful gun owners underestimate or outright miss this part of the gun control equation. Unfair though it may be, the public face of gun ownership is not that of your friendly neighbour who goes deer hunting with their pals each year and gives you a package of venison sausage as thanks for shovelling their sidewalks while they were in Mexico during spring break. It’s the camo-wearing, libertarian militia fanatic draped in ammo and weaponry worthy of first-person shooter gamer cosplay (but real), brazenly intimidating an elected official in a public, government building.
Yeah, I know, “FREEDOM!” Call me a sheep all you want, but those guys worry me far more than Big Brother does. Their version of liberty looks awfully insular. If we do end up in some post-apocalyptic, dystopian hell, I’m confident my freedoms won’t mean jack shit to them.
Hey, look at that. We have something in common; trust issues. Maybe that’s what this all boils down to in the end. Trust. Does society trust people with exuberant affection for devices designed solely to kill? It appears more and more that the answer is no. Even I’m struggling to answer differently which is a rather unsettling revelation in itself.
I have many family members and friends who hunt. Some avidly. Not a single one of them is anything but kind, helpful, and, sane, certainly no threat to me or anyone else. And my eating of grocery store meat hardly makes me a saint when it comes to animal welfare, so I generally keep my mouth shut about hunting.
Still, there’s always a nagging unease when the pictures come out. Those big-smile, posing-with-the-bloodied-corpse-of-their-kill shots. I find them distasteful. Abhorrent in the case of big-game sport hunting.
Killing shouldn’t be fun. And it most definitely shouldn’t be boast-worthy. I just cannot reconcile killing with pleasure (mosquitoes excepted), no matter the justification. And I fully accept that there are justifications.
This is also why I struggle understanding the collectibles argument from gun owners. What is the purpose, let alone pleasure, in accumulating weapons? Lots of people collect lots of things. Strange things. Things that make me wonder about them. But rarely am I moved to question their motives or my safety. Guns do that. It’s the trust thing.
And I do appreciate the power and importance of family heirlooms. I have a hundred year old printing press as proof. But again, why a gun? I feel that the last thing a soldier should wish to lionize is the very tool they used to kill. Perhaps I’m over-philosophizing this in a “swords to ploughshares” kind of way.
As for sport shooting, particularly the getting-off-by-shooting-military-style-weaponry-in-the-back-forty variety. Can we not all just agree to stick with burn-outs, mods, and cranked stereos to broadcast our machismo to the world? It’s worked well for generations and has, for the most part, achieved a perfect balance between annoying and harmless. Firing guns for “sport” seems far more about appearing dangerous than simple gorilla-esque chest-thumping.
I guess what I’m saying in my usual rambling way, is that my support for gun control is not so much about taking away your guns as it’s about taking away your infatuation with your guns. That’s little comfort, I’m sure. Now that I’ve written it, I’m not sure it comforts me either. But then nothing about guns should ever be comfortable.