Thursday, January 13, 2011

'Strap On Your Gun and Be Somebody!'

Like many of you, I've had my television on in the evenings for the first time in quite awhile, to get an accurate update on the state of the country. I find myself reeling from one emotional extreme to the other, thankfully, culminating to the way I felt after hearing our president speak in Tucson. The most touching moment for me, was listening to the president talk about nine year old Christina Green, who I knew was born on 9/11, but didn't realize she was also born in 2001. It's remarkable in its irony, and so very poignant in its impact, in so many ways, another victim of that day. For me, I don't see a vast difference between the extremist dogma that created terrorism on a grand scale, and the deranged dogma that produced it on a domestic scale. Both forms of terrorism appear to me to be forms of mental illness, one collectively, and one individually. Call it western thinking, but whenever I watch footage of members of terrorist groups or individuals, I get the same chill I do when I see someone who has clearly lost their mind. Further, the differences between a self-imposed brainwashing and a brainwashing that is perpetrated within the confines of religious or political extremist groups, look pretty much the same, although the costumes are a different. It's also what frightens me about the repetitive rhetoric that is springing from the far right, its foundation wrought and wrapped in patriotism. Call me irresponsible, but I was not aware of the tea party penchant for coming to rallies strapped with their weapons, and well, is it farfetched for me to say that it also caused a chill to go up my spine?

There were many facts I heard for the first time connected to this story, one I heard was the fact that the NRA is an organization unlike any other in their diligence and allegiance to their cause, which is to make sure that any legislation fails that in any way disarms or disrupts the laws in this country regarding guns. I'll tell you what I know about guns.

Both my maternal and paternal family lines are LDS, or (Mormons), in fact both sides of my family were folks who came into to Utah in the 1800's during the Mormon migration. If you know anything about Mormon history, you know that for several years after the Mormons settled in Utah, the guns they had were not just used for hunting, but were also ready in the event that the U.S. government might impinge upon their religious freedom, and in fact, the breakout of war between the two came very close. The founder of the church, Joseph Smith, (before the Mormons came to Utah) was also in fact, killed by gunshots in the Carthage jail, in Missouri, as was his brother and my grandfather, Hyrum Smith. There is no shortage of 2nd amendment rights history in my family, and I am well aware the role guns played.

It was normal to have loaded guns right in the closet when I grew up, it was also normal to ride from state to state in the back of pick-ups. It was normal. There were no safes that locked the guns away, in fact, most of the houses I still sometimes frequent in my home town of Boulder, UT, have bullet holes somewhere in the walls or ceilings, and there is always a story behind the bullet holes. I still have two of my father's thirty-thirties in the closet of the trailer I stay in when I go home for the summer, and they are both loaded, it seems normal. Guns were part of the culture. Of course, they were mostly used for hunting, and growing up, it was normal to have a thirty-thirty Winchester as a saddle rifle whenever there was a ride at gathering or moving cattle. Growing up, a gun rack in the window of the truck was normal, and there was usually a gun on full display. You didn't think anything of it. Further, in most homes, it was also common to have a gun right there in the corner of the family room. As a kid, you were taught that until you were old enough to shoot it, (which was very young) you didn't touch it, and that was drilled into you pretty hard. Still, it didn't stop me from finding a loaded thirty-eight in the back of my uncle's car and pointing it straight at my mother when I was probably six years old. (It wasn't out of anger, I was playing cowboy). My point here, is that I think I have a pretty good history of guns and culture. Guess what. Times change. We don't let our kids ride in the back of pick-ups anymore. Statistics show us that riding in the back of a truck in an accident can be dangerous. As the culture evolves, hopefully, we do too.

I'll be honest with you. Up until last year, I always kept a loaded thirty-eight revolver under my seat. (Sorry Mom) It seemed normal. On the road, I have run into some pretty savory characters, and I felt safer having it with me, and, I know how to use it, its normal. One morning last winter, I got up and took it to a pawn shop in Texas and sold it. For about a month, I felt strangely naked, and then I felt much better. That's just my experience. I'm not here to advocate what you do with yours, I'm just telling you what I did with mine. I'm just sharing with you my experience. I am a product of a gun culture. Perhaps I fall into the category of a responsible gun owner, but perhaps I also came to a point in my life where I felt that like riding in the back of a pick up truck was dangerous, I didn't need to do that anymore. In an extremely violent society, perhaps one day I will come across a situation where having it might give me an advantage. But, I'm making a choice here. If I were to have been at that political rally and had that gun in my pick-up would I have been able to make a difference? I don't think so. I don't think anyone at that rally with a gun 'locked and loaded' could have stopped what happened, it happened to fast. I know there is an argument here, and I know there are lots of Wyatt Earps out there who think they could have stopped it if they would have been armed. Remember that Wyatt Earp was an exceptional human being under fire, but it still didn't stop the deaths of many whom he loved. What makes more sense to me is to take the guns out of the hands of those who use them for criminal purposes, or those who use them to kill other people. That makes more sense.

In my opinion, the most dangerous gun advocate folks are the percentage of people who are politically, religiously, and machismoly charged with owning a gun. People who see guns not as tools for protection and hunting, but people who see guns as a means of power. These are the people, in my opinion, who wear their guns to political rallies. You can't tell me that they wear guns to make a point about anything other than one of asserting an arrogant display of power. They want you to know how tough they are, and what patriots they are, and what idiots they are. Yes, I said it, idiots. No one with a thinking brain in their heads has to wear a gun in public but policemen who are hired with that force of power. When I see Sarah Palin advocating her God given right to hunt and bear arms, I think its just plain silly. And that is the accurate word for it. And, from my point of view, there is something less than authentic about the way she talks about it. And I've seen this in many of the gun advocates. Charleton Heston was an early film hero of mine, and Ben Hur is in my top three movies of all time. But when he started swinging his rifle around at NRA rallies, I lost all of my respect for him. When I would hear him talk about his own family history of guns, something always rang as false. You know what? People who have respect for guns and have a deep understanding of the history of guns do not have to ever really talk about it. These people, it seems, have to talk about it all the time. Something is rotten in Denmark.

Oh, there is so much more I want to say, but the day is a busy one and I have to leave you with lots of half thoughts. And I know now its been said a hundred times the last two days, but why do we need clips that hold thirty rounds of ammunition? Something to think about. Another part of the lunacy that was George Bush. I don't think it to far of a stretch to say that this latest massacre is part of his doing. He could have prevented at least, some of the carnage, but he let the law on this clip issue lapse, and don't think it wasn't fashioned ahead of time, the gun lobby is to strong in this country, and well, Mr. Bush could not resist a little more money in his greedy pockets. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know how these things work, and I'm certainly not one, but it's ludicrous to think that an average thinking person doesn't see what goes on. It is lunacy, and there are some days that I become completely cynical about it ever changing, and then something like this latest shooting happens, and we all can't help, to at least think about it.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Some gun happy neighbors went out and shot Heirst Zebra's that had hopped the fence. They said that the Zebra's were terrorizing he horses. (Isn't a horse bigger than a Zebra?) Anyway, they did skin them and take the hide to be cured at the taxadermist. So much for Zebras in America. All done with a gun.
I like the painting at the top of your blog. Who is the artist?
Linda

Gerry said...

So far people in our complex have not brought guns into the difficulty of having mentally ill residents who do sometimes have meltdowns. There are other ways to terrorize people besides with guns, but gun kill people so much easier. I remember how terribly gun accidents impacted our world for years. A little boy ran to get his father's hunting rifle from the truck and accidentally shot and paralyzed his older sister. Well, every time you saw her, you thought gun accident because everyone knew the story. I think because everybody knew everybody the lesson that guns can maim and kill came home to people more. Like when a local hunter shot the guy he was hunting with, who left a wife and a lot of kids. That affected people so much so many years I think it helped to keep gun accidents at a minimum, too, but unfortunately in the city people might never see the people they shoot again. I know the hunter who shot the other hunter took it upon himself to help out his kids for years to try to assuage his guilt over the father he killed. But I feared the gun so much after I heard Daddy threaten to go home and get the gun and kill someone who rustled his cattle I did not think he could be trusted with issues that might make him very angry and murderous. This had grave consequences for my mental health. That wasn't the first time that I pictured a shooting between two angry men and feud that would divide families for years, which caused me to stay silent about a crime I should have been able to talk about. You have to be able to trust the people with guns not to lose control of their emotions.

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

You are not like the hunter at home who never carries a loaded gun unless it is deer season and they are out hunting. He has put in some bullets in a 22 rifle if he wants to shoot a rock chuck over to the pasture, but makes sure bullets are out when finished.
Tom's guns are not loaded in the house. He warns his kids to never have a loaded gun where a child can find it. He is careful around guns, always. I like that. He believes we have a right to our guns, but also the responsiblity for their care.
I'm sorry to hear about the Zebra. There are some sad gun stories out there.

Bohemian Cowboy said...

I think the most amazing thing about writing a blog is that it forces you to think, "What do I think?" I never tried to articulate my own personal history of guns or what I really thought. I was a little surprised. Aunt Ann, the thirty-eight piston I pointed at Mom was Uncle Tom's, and it was loaded at the time, but it seems like in those days everything was loaded. I do want to write more about this issue, as this latest shooting really affected me. The statistics on gun deaths in this country are astonishing, and the thinking that goes on in its regard is equally astonishing. Like alcohol, there is a collective thinking on guns that is as deep and long as the invention of fire. There is a correlation of both of these issues. 85% of compulsive crime is alcohol influenced.

It's interesting to get to know yourself through writing, and the issues deep down that so influence your own actions. Aunt Linda, I don't know the name of the painter. I found it by googling Cowboy paintings and sifting through the images. You can look at any painting in the world with the touch of your computer...amazing.

V said...

Thanks for bringing some subtlety to this crazy topic, Raymond. I hunt and own a few rifles and a handgun, but I have three kids, so I don't leave them lying around loaded. Two fo the three have gun safety training. I keep the ammo locked. I'm 44 and I've only been in 3 scrapes in my life that a gun might've helped me out of, but I can't hardly picture actually FIRNG it at someone. I think there's hardly any real need for handguns at all, unless someone can convince me they're good for hunting.

Best,

Van. When do we get you back in Boulder?

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

Wow! Sorry, I was wrong. Was this an ordinary day or was it on one a hunting trip? Someone could have been killed. Maybe it was me, who thought that a loaded gun was not needed in the house, that caused a change. I guess your uncle was part of the Morman culture.

Larena said...

iI remember taking a defense class one time and the officer giving the class said ," Are you the type who would swerve on the highway to keep from hitting a dog?" Of course my hand went up, and he said, "Then don't buy a gun, in time of danger it would be taken and used on you" I think of the accidental deaths caused by having load guns around and it makes me cringe. My mind turns to Ben McNelly who was only 15 or so and accidentally shot by a friend while they had rifles down in a swampy field. (I assume hunting birds.) I can never forget the devastation of his mother who happened to be our neighbor at the time.

These accidents are so bad ,it is hard to wrap your mind around the the thinking of a person who deliberately sets out to kill innocent people on a lovely day in Tucson Arizona. Do I think the acquiring of a hand gun is too easy. I certainly do. I was shocked and appalled when it became law that anyone can carry a concealed weapon. It's okay to take them into a bar. Mixing alcohol and guns seems like the epitome of stupidity. As if a shooting almost every night in Phoenix is not enough.The mentally ill can be difficult enough to figure out without giving them guns and foolish igniting ideas to add add to the obsessive thinking. I'm just not fond of guns and glad to never have owned one.

Chuckh said...

Im keep a loaded Walther .380 under my bed. I don't think about it. I don't have one in the chamber, but I know where it is and that I need to chamber a round if need be. The only place I've ever wanted a gun is Phoenix. There seems to more break in s here than I remember hearing about in other cities. There were some house invasions near where I live. That's why I have the gun. Maybe it's just for my own piece of mind. But now I find I am just a bit edgy about having the gun, too. I don't like shooting that much. Too much concussion and noise.