In the wake of recent mass shootings, President Joe Biden managed to avoid being blown over by a gentle breeze in the White House Rose Garden to announce several marginal executive actions on gun control that were met with tepid applause from the left and bulging forehead veins on the right.
My intention here is not to wade into the brain-eating-amoeba-infested waters of the gun control debate, but, instead, share a few anecdotes related to my own embarrassing history with the second amendment.
My earliest memorable encounter with a “firearm” was in the 1970’s when I was creeping around in the backyard hunting birds and squirrels with my Daisy BB rifle- while strategically camouflaging myself in a pair of Sears Toughskins jeans and a Muppet Show T-shirt. The soil of the surrounding area is still contaminated by the thousands of BBs from my missed shots, but I did occasionally hit my mark and bring down a specimen of the fierce and deadly East Texas house sparrow. I may or may not have cried every time I killed one.
Speaking of hitting my mark, as a kid with crooked, Coke bottle glasses, I wasn’t exactly the Doc Holliday of pre-pubescent dweebs — more like a myopic Barney Fife. However, I did experience one surprising victory in the world of sharpshooting when my dad took me to a local hardware store that was holding an annual turkey shoot for youngsters. I remember being a little disappointed that there were no actual turkeys there to shoot (or pet), but I did somehow hit a paper target with the accuracy required to take home some Grade A frozen poultry. (I’m pretty sure I sneezed when I pulled the trigger.)
My feelings of triumph were cut short, however, when I confidently challenged my big brother to a backyard BB-gun duel. (What could possibly go wrong?) After we positioned ourselves behind a couple of small bales of hay, the contest lasted for exactly five seconds and consisted of one volley from my crack-shot brother that landed dead center on my partially exposed right love handle. My wails of anguish were only slightly eclipsed by my brother’s repeated desperate pleas that I “Don’t tell Mom!” Despite his appeals and my own fear of punishment, I did bravely confess the incident to our parents — shortly after I turned 30.
I didn’t have many experiences with firearms during my teen years, other than my parents (and my girlfriends’ parents) fantasizing about putting me out of their misery. But when I began dating my wife, my future father-in-law introduced me to the wonderful world of sitting out in the woods at dawn and trying to avoid ticks—otherwise known as deer hunting. It only took two outings of sleeping in a rickety aluminum lawn chair and being driven out into the wilderness on a four-wheeler at 5 a.m. to be left for dead for me to prove that I just wasn’t hunting (or fishing, or camping…) material, and that he’d have to find some other way to get rid of me.
Today, I possess two firearms, a .38 Special and a .22 rifle, both on loan from my dad — out of pity, I think. And I only get them out to brandish around my teenage daughters’ boyfriends, who usually ask why they’re so dusty. I should probably take the guns down to the firing range and see whether they still work — if I can figure out how to get the safety off.
Who knows where the American gun control debate will take us in the next few years? I tend to think that gun violence is as much a matter of the heart and soul as it is a matter of the law, but what do I know? For now, I’ll stick to watching “Tombstone” and reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.”