Before my husband's Uncle Bill died, and Aunt Carrie got rid of them, there were quite a few guns in Bill and Carrie's home. Most of the guns, part of Bill's antique collection, were in locked cabinets. The only free-range gun was a shot gun resting next to the toilet in their downstairs half-bath. Bill used it to blast away at squirrels trying to get into Carrie's bird-feeders. I don't know if he ever actually killed one of them, but the warning shots were enough to get the squirrels to high-tail it.
Every time I used that toilet, I was extra careful not to knock the gun at all.
I'm sure there was a safety on it, but as I know absolutely nothing about guns, what do I know?
Bill was an outdoors man, a hunter, a farm boy who'd grown up on a tobacco farm -and who stayed a farmer through a good many years, until the farm was converted to a golf course, of all things.
He grew up around guns. His friends had guns. They hunted.
Sure, I was in culture shock when I visited, especially the first few times.
The places I frequent don't tend to have Ronald and Nancy Reagan calendars in the kitchen, let alone shot guns in the bathrooms.
But, hey, these were people who knew what they were doing around guns. And they were also extremely kind, decent, and generous people.
sMost of my family and friends don't go in for guns, with the exception of my mother's brothers, Jack and Bob.
For city boys (Chicago), they were really something: hunting, fishing, all kinds of outdoorsy stuff. And, come to think of it, it's not out of the realm of possibility that they had a Reagan calendar or two around. (My mother, from girlhood, was a political outlier in her family.)
Mostly, I think that if people aren't hunters, or cops, or soldiers, they don't really need guns. I don't want to live in a world where every civilian is armed (and dangerous).
I do, however, understand that impulse that would prompt someone to acquire a gun for self-protection.
I don't necessarily condone acting on the impulse, especially on the part of those who don't seem to be capable of keeping those guns out of the hands of assorted children and crazies. But I understand the impulse.
Not my cup of tea, but I get it.
I also get that there are folks who enjoy sport/target shooting on a rifle or gun range.
Not my cup of tea, but I get it.
That said, I think that there should be stringent licensing standards and conditions.
And I absolutely don't understand, for the life of me, why anyone who's not issued one when they join the infantry needs an Uzi, an AK-47, or any other sort of sub-machine gun/assault weapon - although it's easy to see the slippery slope incrementalism here: if the bad guys have Uzi's, then the" good guys" will need them, too. Gulp!
This all comes to mind because of a ghastly tragedy that occurred over the weekend in the western part of Massachusetts - not far from Bill and Carrie's home, in fact.
An eight-year old at a Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo was trying to shoot a pumpkin with a Micro-Uzi, when he lost control of the gun and shot himself in the head, killing himself.
(I am deliberately not mentioning the name of this little boy or his family. They are enduring an unfathomable grief that will last them a lifetime, and don't need one more entry on the search engine list when someone google's their son's name.)
The outfit running this shoot is something called C.O.P. Firearms & Training, which provides training classes, gun auctions, gun-smithing services, hunting trips, and other gun-related stuff. Including the machine gun shoots. (I'm not sure what the C.O.P. stands for - maybe nothing, maybe it's just "clever" marketing, to give the aura of police imprimatur to them.)
Machine Gun Shoots!
I was going to write "who could have imagined that there's a supply of and demand for such a thing", but there are, of course, plenty of thrill seekers among us. And for someone who's a "gunny", I can imagine getting to fire off an Uzi would be a thrill. Even - make that especially - for an eight year old kid, who's probably grown up on shoot-em-up movies and video games.
Yet there's something decidedly unsettling about the thought of very small children getting their hands on something this dangerous, even in nominally controlled circumstances, isn't there?
It shouldn't matter whether a parent gave permission.
There are a lot of things that parents might want to give permission for that are against the law: letting your eight year old kid drive a car comes to mind. I can think of plenty of eight year olds who'd like nothing better than tooling down the highway in the family SUV. They have, after all, driven virtually plenty of times.
But that doesn't mean we should let them drive.
It shouldn't matter whether the kids at the Machine Gun Shoot had really been looking forward to it, that they really wanted to do it.
The more I think about it, the more I have serious doubts about whether anyone should even be allowed to hold a Machine Gun Shoot.
What is the purpose of one?
Hunting rifles, target rifles, even the lousy hand gun.
Well, have at it.
There are purposes to those guns that don't scream "kill another human."
But is there any other reason for an Uzi, other than for a soldier to kill the enemy?
I can't think of a one.
You don't need an Uzi to shoot-up a pumpkin, that's for sure.
Yes, the death of this little boy was a hideous accident - but one that would have been easily prevented if there were a a law against Machine Gun Shoots - or at least a regulation setting an age limit on who gets to fire off an Uzi.
"Guns don't kill people"?
No, I guess not.
Except when they do.