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.