I feel somewhat qualified to talk about guns. In my family home, there was a glass fronted cabinet that held my father’s guns. Shotgun, rifle, .22 … and hidden away, but not really, a Luger pistol he brought back from WWII. He picked off woodchucks in our cornfield, hunted deer in the fall, brought down pheasant and quail. Except for the woodchucks, the meat was dressed and cooked by my mother. The family income, with five children, was small enough that adding a side of venison to the freezer did help with feeding us all. But that was not the reason for hunting. My father enjoyed the solitude of the woods on his solo hunts and the camaraderie of his buddies on the annual fall deer hunt in New Hampshire.
I recently stepped back in time for a weekend at the family cottage, where some of my father’s guns now reside in that same cabinet. Overhead on the walls, deer heads. Deer skins, even a small brown bear skin. I resisted the very strong urge to gather them all up and give them a proper burial, asking for their forgiveness. The trophies had nothing to do with feeding hungry families.
Ask people why they have deer heads on their walls and they tell you it’s because they’re such beautiful animals. I think my wife is beautiful, but I only have photographs of her on the wall. George Carlin
It was my father’s hunting that inspired the opening of my novel NEELIE’S TRUTH. I had told a friend about a time when my father returned from his annual hunt, with a deer. He only did this one time, but on that day, he carried his trophy into our kitchen and laid out the whole animal on the linoleum. Beautiful. And dead. By that time, I was a young teenager. And from that time on, hunting seemed wrong to me. We were not starving for meat. My mother had begun working outside the home. There were two incomes. The deer died because of sport. That deer may even be the head that peers out above the field stone fireplace at the family cottage.
When I shared the deer in the kitchen story with a friend, he looked at me, stunned. You should write about that. So I did–not the deer but the violence in life that we come to accept, without question. While the violence in rural areas is a different breed than what occurs in cities, it is no less disturbing.
I see the continued use of guns for sport, guns where they are not needed. In homes where children can find and play with them, to disastrous results. Guns in homes, where unstable people turn to the fast solution for their own pain or dissatisfaction with life. Just recently, a Texas mother who killed her daughters, with the illusion to “saving them.” Or the teenagers who turn on the world that doesn’t seem to accept them.
If Texas or Orlando or Sandy Hook seem far distant, they are not really. Those same guns that were used for hunting only, took a different turn with my younger brother. A troubled adult, he was found with a family gun, threatening to take his own life. He was talked down. We all know that story could have taken a different turn.
There is little point in repeating all the quoted statistics. The U.S. having more guns than any other country. Countries, like the U.K., where police officers do not routinely carry weapons. Australia, where the reduction in guns has shown a reduction in homicides. Then there is the truly hideous side of trophy hunting, for big game, sometimes targeting species who need protection, not decimation.
It’s George Carlin’s wisdom that speaks to me because the level of discourse has no reason. I have friends who believe strongly in the right to bear arms. We will forever choose to disagree on things like automatic weapons, the need for background checks, proper training and licensing. I start with what I know — the deer did not have to die that day. Nor do the victims of gun violence.