Stay Informed

Stay Informed

My Dad and Guns

[The following is a guest blog post by Jeff Mitchell, Ph.D.]

My father hunted game regularly when I was a kid, and we ate venison and pheasant every autumn. I shot rifles and pistols in target practice when we vacationed in the mountains. Guns were part of my life growing up.

When I was eighteen and going off to college, my father showed me where the family’s guns were stored (I am sure I had looked for them when I was little, but found no trace). He revealed that he had built a hidden cabinet in the base of his workbench, where several long guns and a World War II pistol were wrapped in canvas. I had stood at the workbench for hundreds of hours, and never guessed the guns were right there at my knees.

I don’t remember my dad talking to me about gun safety (he didn’t talk much). I do remember the way he silently placed guns in my hands beginning when I was five years old. His manner somehow made it clear to me that guns were a threat. His slow movements and frequent checking of the status of the gun told me that the gun’s threatening nature was its most important quality, and that only secondarily was it a capable tool and a way to show manly prowess. No matter how skilled he was at maintaining and firing weapons, his attitude toward guns remained one of humility—he knew more than me and more than most, but he acted as if they were as much of a threat to him as they were to me—no bravado involved.

When I read the news about gun violence and gun deaths I always compare my father’s understanding that guns threaten to take away the life we cherish with the prevailing attitudes in our culture. I feel a little sorry for ‘liberals’ who never learned about guns. But I am sorely embarrassed for those who wield guns without sense, without caution, without humility, as if to fear a gun is cowardice rather than an act of love for those around you.

Sweaty excitement about guns has pushed aside the love and care that should guide every hand that reaches for a gun. There are too few of those hands these days.

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The Discussion

  • Timothy in Alaska: July 11, 2016 5:19 pm

    After Charles Whitman finished with the Marine Corps, went to college, and climbed to the top of the UT Tower with a foot-locker full of weapons to kill as many people as possible on August 1st, 1966, history will shake its head at our culture in amazement on why on August 2nd, 1966 our country didn’t figure out that while the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms it obviously doesn’t guarantee the maturity, the education and the sanity of the individual citizen. Beginning in 1966 at least, if you read the news, a right and an ability are two completely separate things. A person should have proven that they can manage a bb gun for several years before even being considered for a .22, never mind a .223 Remington. Again, “handle” and “manage” are also two separate things. The current “questionnaire” to buy a firearm is a travesty of civilization. It should be a license system based on level and an associated battery of questions that test the applicant on Firearm Safety, Ballistics, Physics, Mental Stability, Anger Management, Firearm Maintenance and American History. Why American History? The 2nd Amendment was intended for American Citizens only. So you say you are an American Citizen? Great, sit down, pull out a pen and PROVE it. We may have the right to own and bear arms, but it is time for us to prove that we can manage them. We should have figured that out on August 2nd, 1966.

  • James nagy: February 8, 2016 9:37 pm

    I have a neighbor that i ask when he was going to mow his yard? This every other word out his mouth is god is great god bless you, well let me tell you this false christian has given my wife and i hell for over 2 years. Just from asking when he would mow his yard. From calling police for false allegations hes done that 3 times, from standing in his yard staring, or in his vehicle mean mugging our place, following or friends to their house talking shit and our neighbors making up lies. Even him and the old lady that believes his crap put 8 camaras facing my house. To even threatning people women and men that doesnt agree with him. AND TO BOOT HERE IN TEXAS HE WAS GIVEN A CONCEALLED CARRY PERMIT AND OPEN CARRY, this child man is dangerous. This is why im against the wild wild west. And im a hunter with limits on the guns that should be legal, and who should have one. I would love to get my story out to the whole world, and hopefully get my asshole neighbor exposed for what he is.

  • Jeff: January 1, 2016 3:30 am

    I was taught gun safety at a young age. My parents purchased a co2 pellet gun archery set and we had several high powered rifles and handguns in the home. I was taken to family target practice outings and taught rules that I never break even to this day as an adult. I never break them because of the seriousness and “humility” or respect that my parents exemplified. These values were strengthened as I was a Boy Scout and we would go shooting. I’m great full I had parents that could teach me these values because there are so many ppl including kids who’s teacher is there gangbanger friends or call of duty. To me- martial weapons like firearms need to hold the same reverence and respect that martial weapons like the sammarai sword sword has had since ancient times. Everyone should know and understand the rules whether you plan to pick up a gun or not.

  • Bob Kelley: December 30, 2015 11:32 pm

    Lots of passion on both sides of the issue. As a mid 60 guy who grew up with weapons, ate a lot of small game from hunting and still own some family heirlooms, I understand the need for greater responsibility from weapon owners. We should support background checks, training, eliminate weapons or magazines not suitable for hunting or target shooting and demand maximum penalties for those who use weapons for criminal purposes. Responsible owners should not be vilified by those who oppose “gun ownership”. Our history, right or wrong, is permeated with a culture of weaponry. Who doesn’t know the names Colt, Remington, Smith and Wesson and others? Fact is, there are so many weapons in circulation that it will be impossible to confiscate them.. Plus, criminals WILL find a way to continue their way of life and would never surrender anything they have. It seems the best we can do is to educate, train and require accountability from gun owners. I get concerned reading posts from people who say things like “my daily carry gun is a (fill in the blank) and my back up is a (fill in the blank). Really? People need two weapons to feel safe in America? Having said all that, I am going to take our states concealed carry class because I want to know what is taught and I want to be legal with my little .22 plinker, which will never be carried concealed. It just seems the responsible thing to do. Plus, a police officer I respect reminded me that he and his ilk cannot provide protection for a citizen, they can only respond when called. Between the call and their arrival, we are on our own. His point was to do what you feel is the responsible action on your part to provide protection for your family. For some, that might be a legal firearm. For others it might be a baseball bat or a noise maker or a dog or whatever they feel is best.
    Bottom line, as long as the second amendment is interpreted as it has been, then citizens have the right to own weapons. With that right should come responsibility. And with that right, there should be restrictions on what sort of weapons are allowed to be owned. I can’t imagine T. Jefferson dreamed of street sweepers and fifty caliber rifles that are lethal at nearly a mile! Maybe we just issue every household a musket and a flintlock pistol and be done with it.

  • Angela Ekhoff: December 26, 2015 7:11 pm

    1st off great article. The only part of the article that I don’t like is the stereo-typing of “the liberals who never learned about guns.” I am a liberal who did grow up in a household where guns were present. My father taught both my sister & me gun safety. I also went to a gun safety class which taught not only proper shooting technique but about proper cleaning & care. I am not anti-gun but do support gun control laws/regulations. If someone is a responsible gun owner that person shouldn’t be afraid of common sense gun control/regulations. Instead of both parties playing the blame game we should ALL being working together to make this great nation safer for all.

  • Logan Gardner: November 2, 2015 1:54 am

    I highly appreciate your opinions on “those who wield guns without sense, without caution, without humility.” In fact, I made a video for Temple University to shine a light on this very issue. Please watch and share it to as many people with similar views as you. My grade depends on the amount of views I get.

  • Mary Jean Hayden: October 20, 2015 10:49 pm

    Guns and automobiles are involved in a horrific number of deaths and the user is responsible over 90% of the time. Car manufacturers are mitigating user error and misuse with crash avoidance technologies such as back up cameras, blind spot warnings, automatic braking, etc. Why aren’t gun manufacturers doing the same? Responsible gun owners must demand such technologies as a tracking devise to locate stolen/lost firearms, fingerprint recognition limiting trigger access to persons licensed for that particular firearm, an alcohol detection mechanism that locks the trigger if the user is above the legal limit, a device within the gun that allow use of a large capacity magazine only when it is scanned for use at licensed gun ranges.

  • Tara: October 15, 2015 11:25 am

    I agree that the stereotypical “must be liberal because you’ve never shot a gun” thing needs to stop. I’m a liberal. I also grew up around guns. I participated in 4-H shooting sports for several years, hunted with my dad every once in a while and hit the shooting range every week or every other week for a good majority of my childhood. I’m a liberal and I can outshoot my husband and (few ex boyfriends) but I also believe we need to get a serious grip on our gun culture before it spirals anymore than it already has.

  • Ronald Cox: October 15, 2015 10:54 am

    Many so called liberals are not anti-gun and have used firearms respectfully and responsibly. Right wing trash. We need to restore the meaning and intent of the 2nd amendment, and not the lies the NRA has told for the last 40 years. Not everyine has a constitutionally protected right to firearms. We need sensible firearms legislation suitable for society in the 21st century, not the 18th century. No one should have firearms without a license and full backround check, certified safety and competancy training, mandated hours of instruction and exams successfully passed. Every owner must carry liability insurance on each firearm possessed. All automatic and semi-automatics banned from civilian purchase.

  • Robin: October 15, 2015 10:02 am

    Thank you for the consciencous thought process delivered here. I, too, was raised in a family of hunters with this same exact mentality, and now an active part of The Sandy Hook Promise, to raise awareness about the abuse of the 2nd amendment. Every amdendment has modifications, appropriately enacted to protect people. We are not allowed to say anything about anybody just because we have Freedom of Speech. There are libel & slander laws that protect abuse of the first amendment. So, while I’m an advocate of far stronger laws, most people on this side of the fence DO respect gun ownership and we are not as near sighted as the sweaty gun enthusiasts you refer to. We went rogue, and this slipped through the cracks into a national crisis…

  • Linda Murphy Rau: October 15, 2015 9:42 am

    My three daughters were raised with guns in the home. Their father was a hunter, and sportsman who hunted all their lives, and does to this day. The guns were kept in a locked gun cabinet and the ammunition in a locked box in a separate room. They would watch him clean and maintain his guns, and always when they questioned he gave them information and also great safety advice. His respect for what the guns could do and their power was translated to them. In our state he had to apply for licenses and register his guns and show reason and valid hunting licenses in order to obtain the guns. When he worked in a company that had him distributing large sums of money, he applied for a license for a concealed carry pistol. He still had to have verification that he needed this gun for protection. The current climate of macho, egotistical, gun-totting men and women, has no resemblance, or anything in common, with the man their father is or any of his hunting and shooting friends. These second amendment screamers do not represent men like Jeff Michell, his father, or my daughters’s father. and it is insulting to lump these good and responsible men, into the same class as these irresponsible vigilantes, and self proclaimed defenders of the constitution. The fact that mass murder in schools, theaters, churches,and malls are being heralded as an excuse for more guns is reprehensible. That children are shooting other children because guns are not locked and kept safely in homes, is horrific. And the fact that we are becoming immune to this horror is beyond describable. Things have to change. They have to. Thank you Jeff for this statement. It does help. And, just for the record, all three of my daughters, having been raised in a safe gun house, are liberal and demanding stricter gun laws. But then, two of them are in education and put their lives on the line for the children in their care everyday. They carry fear to work with them, and one also carries fear for her three children as they attended school. Does having to live in fear for your own life and your children’s lives come after someone’s right to own and carry a semi-automatic rifle?. Sad.

  • Sandra: October 15, 2015 9:38 am

    Sane & Sensible Gun Ownership.

  • Jerry McIntyre: October 15, 2015 8:19 am

    A really great post. I grew up in Oregon in much the same way. My dad kept his hunting rifles locked in “his room” in our basement. The only time those rifles came out of that room was during hunting season. All ammunition for these rifles was kept at his shop 10 miles from our home. Like you, my father taught me about guns from a very early age. He taught me how to hold them, carry them, and clean them. As hunting season approached it was always a big deal to sight the rifles with live ammo, which meant a trip to the shop to get the shells. My first rifle was a Remington bolt action single shot 22. All bullets were always accounted for the ammo was returned to his shop and the rifles were placed back into his “locked room” in our basement.

    I was 17 years old when my dad passed. It was then I discovered that he kept a revolver in our home. It was kept in a sock in his bottom dresser drawer. There was 6 loose bullets in the bottom of the sock.

  • Gary R: October 14, 2015 10:00 pm

    i’m a liberal who grew up around guns in a family that hunted. Got a 12 gauge as a teenager. I never liked gun culture or hunting. Want nothing to do with guns as an adult. Don’t feel sorry for me. Let’s repeal the second amendment

  • Dee Ford: October 14, 2015 2:32 pm

    Thank you for this post. You are absolutely, 100% correct! Your father was a great teacher!!

  • Dawn Hutchinson: October 14, 2015 1:57 pm

    You are the kind of person who the gun nuts and gun haters don’t get. The man who understands through quiet teaching and example. What you learned is what should be taught. Not a love of guns for their own sake, not a mad desire for them just because they are there, and certainly not the craziness that makes some people feel that they are trophies to be flaunted in public.

  • Patiod: October 14, 2015 12:13 pm

    Good post which represents how a lot of responsible gun owners think and behave.
    The only part that was off-putting was the “I feel a little sorry for ‘liberals’ who never learned about guns.” Ugh. Positioning liberals as knee-jerk anti-gun freaks because they never had the privilege of shooting (otherwise they’d surely be gun/hunting fans, too) is ridiculous. I grew up in a Northeast suburban area (where most parents were Republican), and very few people shot or owned guns, because it simply isn’t part of city/suburban culture. The first day of hunting season wasn’t a holiday, like it is upstate. But please, don’t feel sorry for us. We have our own rituals that don’t include getting up at 4am and freezing our asses off in a gun blind.
    I ended up learning to target shoot with my dad’s little Baretta (from his father’s State Police days) and enjoyed it. But not enough to endanger my family with it. We have adults with depression in and out of our house, and statistics show that having a gun around, even if it’s locked up, is not going to increase our chances of survival. When my dad died, I gave it to a friend of his who lives upstate and loves to shoot, who shows many of the same gun-respectful attributes as the dad in the story. Two people in our family who suffer depression wanted it, but too bad.

  • Pat OGrady: October 14, 2015 11:40 am

    Thank you for this thoughtfully written piece. My father brought meat to our dinner table as well. He had great respect for guns and taught my sister and I to understand that guns can be useful and very dangerous. Guns are not to be played with. I am a “liberal,” and believe in strict gun legislation, but I support second amendment rights. There must be some way for people to come together to recognize constitutional rights and individual rights for safety.

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