What kind of gun control makes sense? The national conversation tends to be polarized between staunch pro-gun or anti-gun positions. To break up polarized thinking and open dialogue, sometimes it helps to begin by asking people to tell their personal stories relating to a particular issue. I’ll start this conversation with the story of my introduction to guns and maybe you’ll join me by telling yours.
My story starts way back because I’m old. Just after World War II, there was a housing shortage and my family was forced to take refuge in a relative’s summer cottage in rural Illinois. This house was set amid fields of tall grass, Illinois prairie. My mother was shocked the first fall we lived there to see pheasant hunters with guns walking through the yard where her children played. I don’t remember what she did to bring this problem to official attention, but afterward we did not see any hunters in our yard. Apparently, some boundaries had been set.
We adopted the local gun culture, though. My father acquired a 12 gauge shotgun and my mother a .410 over and under, which I also learned to shoot. To make friends and socialize, my parents joined the pheasant hunters wherever the legal hunting grounds came to be.
I made a friend named Sharon whose Dad hunted raccoons; he collected the skins and was saving for a raccoon-skin coat. The family ate raccoons, too. My father went along one time on a raccoon hunt but refused to go again because he thought it unsporting. The raccoons were chased by hunting dogs into trees and then shot once they were trapped there.
This man once brought home a baby raccoon to keep as a pet. The family called him Billy Coon and kept him mostly in a big wooden barrel. When he got older he was not so easy to handle. One day when Sharon let him out of the barrel to play Billy turned vicious. Sharon found her Dad’s shotgun and fired. Her aim was perfect even though she was pretty scared and really didn’t want to kill Billy.
I had a cousin, Bob, who liked to visit us so he could hunt squirrels in a nearby farmer’s woods (with permission). My mother, who did not approve of shooting small animals for target practice, gamely stewed the squirrels for dinner. They were not at all bad eating.
Living in the country, owning and using guns seemed normal. And back then, the ideas of vegetarianism and animal rights I entertain today were unknown, at least to the people we knew.
What was your early experience with guns like? Please comment.