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Weary Pilgrim – Guns

On my ‘best of’ CD album cover, there is a picture of me as a young cowboy, holding a toy gun...and why not? That was who I wanted to be someday, the very ethos of hero, a holster on his side, holding a toy gun, ready to kill Bad Guys.

Guns were a part of my youth. Whenever I visited my grandparents, I went to my grandfather’s gun cabinet, where I was allowed to handle and discover all the firearms my grandfather had collected – early muzzleloaders, a brace of Civil War Navy Colts, modern hunting rifles, shotguns, and the occasional sidearm.

My Uncle Bob is a famous gunsmith – he makes absolutely beautiful shotguns, hand-manufactured with great loving care, and enjoyed by hunters and sportsmen with deep pockets. This wonderful man taught me how to shoot, and how to respect firearms. So guns have been a part of my life since my earliest memories. I once bought a .303 Royal Enfield Mark III (a military rifle developed in WW I) from Sears and Roebucks through the the age of 12! It cost me about sixteen bucks, and they sent it to my home--no questions asked.

At various times in my life I have gotten rid of all my guns, or accumulated others, depending on my political convictions, or what I perceived as personal needs.

The thing with guns is they make arbitrarily sized, very sudden, holes in things. We are a culture that thinks you can shoot guns out of the hands of Bad Guys, the truth is, handguns are notoriously inaccurate: people can blaze away at each other from 10 feet, and never hit each other. And yet people carry guns, legally and illegally, assuming they can save the day (or their butt ) should some calamity arise. By and large, this is fantasy, but I can see where folks want to hold onto that fantasy.

So where do we turn for guidance in this tangled web? When I was a Boy Scout, I turned to the National Rifle Association. Back then, the NRA was there to instruct our nation on guns and hunting safety--classes were available to any age group--I took a number of courses , mainly through the Scouts, and became schooled in marksmanship and firearm safety.

Know where the NRA of the 70′s had it’s annual meeting? Marblehead ... Marblehead, Ohio, actually. It’s a peninsula jutting out into Lake Ontario, clearly named after you-know-what. When I visited there in the 80′s, the residents were proud of their affiliation with the NRA.

What happened? In the 90′s, the NRA was basically taken over by a bunch of slick fellows who realized a fortune was to be made by galvanizing the hunters and gun-lovers together with a class of Americans who knew little about guns but were gullible to paranoia and fear of being taken over by unknown forces. The new NRA melded together a lobby of citizens who began to see the 2nd Amendment as the only thing of value in the changing American landscape – regardless of the social change that was sweeping America over the last 20 years, one thing would stand firm: the right of the American to defend his home and his values with The Firearm. This was a brilliant move: the new NRA swelled its ranks, steeped in the American flag, and shorn up by a massive bank account thanks to a huge membership anxious to spend dollars in the name of patriotism and paranoia. They contributed to countless congressmen and senators. When Citizen V. United came along, the NRA was delirious in their jubilation– it was now legal to buy votes in congress ... and they did.

The pity here is that the NRA could be doing so much to protect us all. If they weren’t so paranoid in their belief any gun control is an impingement of the 2nd amendment, we could get rid of a lot more than ‘bump-stocks,’ we could remove large-capacity magazines from public circulation. I don’t know about you, but I find it a little hard to justify 50-100 round magazines for legitimate hunting purposes.

The conservative in me (oh yes, there is one) believes that the 2nd amendment actually did intend us to be able to form an armed militia to protect us from an overbearing government, but in a culture where our armed forces are pretty literate, I don’t actually think our standing army is going to be too comfortable arresting Uncle Ned on the authority of any president, however crazy ... and don’t look now, but crazy presidents aren’t that thin on the ground.

So here I am, a guy licensed to carry (concealed) in this state, who actually voted for Hilary (don’t get me started about Hilary, please ... it was hers to lose, and she did), who would be very upset if someone took my guns away, .but I don’t own a semi-automatic assault rifle, and have no plans to own one, at least until Bambi starts packing.

I enjoy ‘plinking’, which is what we call spending an hour target-shooting at my place in Vermont, with a single shot .22 rifle (also purchased through the mail from Sears, several presidents ago, for about 12 bucks). I don’t hunt, but I had the task of putting down a sick coyote a few years ago, and it would have been difficult without a decent rifle and yes, I called the local game warden when I spotted the animal sheltered in my barn. He asked if I owned a firearm, and it became obvious to me that he wasn’t about to set aside his dinner and drive 45 minutes because I couldn’t get the job done so I did.

So we have a lot of legitimate reasons to own firearms: in Vermont -good luck calling 911 – whoever answers is at least an hour away and hunting there (and here in the Commonwealth ) is often subsistence–driven. Some people like to put food on their table the old-fashioned way. Target-shooting is surprisingly common throughout the land. And there is a 2nd amendment justification to many people, regardless of whom they voted for.

As the Aussies say, fair dinkum. But there is nothing fair in the NRA’s refusal to allow a public forum that could result in at the very least reducing the horrific number of casualties in our rash of public shootings. I salute any politician who has the sand to say enough is enough.


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