As it turns out, that Red Ryder signature air rifle is the only gun in my arsenal to which I’m emotionally attached. The others are just guns that I’ve inherited and haven’t yet gotten rid of. One is the 30-30 caliber carbine my father carried during the annual deer hunt, and a single-shot Iver Johnson shotgun that once belonged to my grandfather. The Iver Johnson is missing its firing pin, which is probably a good thing, because I suspect it’s more dangerous to stand behind the thing than in front of it.
In my whole life I’ve only bought one gun—a sixteen-gauge, bolt action shotgun with a variable choke that l thought looked pretty intimidating. I paid twenty bucks for it in 1963 and traded it three years afterward for a Sony transistor radio. By that time I had figured out that a radio is a much more practical appliance than a shotgun. Especially in the city!
If I lived in a log cabin in the woods and needed something suitable for harvesting venison or fending off wolves, the 30-30 carbine would be just the ticket. It’s portable and powerful enough to drop anything—including myself, should I become depressed as a result of spending too much time by myself in a log cabin in the woods. But where I live now, it’s not something I would ever have a need for.
Where I grew up, there was a gun or two in each and every household, but these were strictly for hunting never thought if as instruments of diplomacy or self-defense. Unlike BB guns, you never, ever played with them. As a result, we had no homicides and only one school shooting, which happened the day John Brinley, in a fit of rage, brought a .22 to school and shot up his French textbook. We, his classmates, all agreed the shooting was justified.
Times have changed, and not for the better, evidently. Nowadays there are people who argue that the solution to the ongoing plague of gun violence in America is MORE guns. Guns in schools, guns in movie theaters, guns in shopping malls, guns in restaurants, guns in churches, guns wherever people congregate. I’m here to tell you that those people—and I say this as a person who grew up in the West and who spent a large portion of his boyhood riding around in pickup trucks, sandwiched between rough hewn, bewhiskered men wearing plaid woolen caps with ear flaps—I’m here to tell you that those people are all stark raving mad.
Let me give you an example. Some years ago my wife and I moved from our apartment in the Avenues to a little house in the suburbs—a section of Salt Lake City south of 21st South Street that I shall call “the gun belt.”
Our thinking at the time was that we would enjoy growing our own fruits and vegetables in a spacious backyard that adjoined an irrigation ditch. As homeowners, we were entitled to a share of the irrigation water, an hour and a half’s worth each week. I figured that was more than enough to support our apple, peach and pear trees, raspberry patch and vegetable garden.
All went well until our upstream neighbor, nice old lady Madsen, died. Shortly afterward, the house was bought by a large fellow I shall call Rambo, and his wife Susan.
Susan was by far the friendlier of the two, and we got along just fine until she was killed, along with Rambo’s best friend, in what was described in the newspaper as a combination auto accident/suicide.
I ventured next door to console Rambo, but came away wishing I hadn’t. I suspect it was his politics that turned me off. Or perhaps it was my response to his comment that “Hitler had some good ideas,” that set him against me. Whatever, we two never had anything in the way of a pleasant conversation after that. Still, I figured we could co-exist; that is, until the gunfire erupted.
Turns out Rambo was a gun nut. He had tons and tons of weapons and rounds and rounds of ammunition. One of the things he liked to do was get drunk on weekends and blast his AR-15 at beer cans in his backyard. Sometimes I would look out my kitchen window and there’d he be, dressed all in camouflage, glaring at my house. Next thing I knew, my vegetable garden was under water.
“I’m gonna flood them Jews out,” Rambo confided to his other neighbors. “And then I’m gonna move in some A-RABS!” he shouted at me one day across the fence. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I gathered from the tone of his voice, and the fact he was again wearing camouflage, that it was some kind of a threat.
To make a long story short, we decided to move, following the advice of a police officer I had called upon for help. “We really can’t do much about the situation until after he finally kills you,” I was informed.
So we moved, away from the gun belt and back to the inner city, where we now sleep soundly surrounded by neighbors who value the first amendment more than they do the second. At any rate, they know the meaning and appreciate the significance of the term “well regulated.”
As for Rambo, having rid my old neighborhood of troublesome Jews, he packed up his guns and relocated to northern Idaho, where I understand there are quite a few havens for like minded lunatics who frequently use the word “freedom” to describe a situation whereby those who have guns can lord it over those of us who only have brains.