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Let's Talk About Guns! Let's Talk About Guns!
by Leah Sellers
2013-01-16 23:29:58
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Imagine, rootin’ tootin’ pistol packin’ mamas and papas strolling the neighborhoods with their children and squeaky baby carriages, shopping at grocery stores (complaining and grumbling ever louder and more stridently about the rising food prices and occasional food shortages), and pumpin’ gas at stations for five dollars or more a gallon with hip and shoulder holsters and pistols strapped to their well-intentioned (but increasingly stressed out and, at times, over reactive) bodies. Each of them is nervously eye-balling one another, wondering if they’re 'making a strong enough statement' - do I look like a Pit Bull or a Chihuahua?

Now, that’s a sobering thought!

Why is this vivid scenario looming on the horizon? Why are Texans (and some other states) renewing discussions regarding repealing their "no open Gun(s) bearing" laws? Anger. Every creature’s response to Fear. Flight or Fight! Back some folks into a corner and their response will be, "Forget about legalized concealed weapons! Repeal the Gun laws! I want my enemies to see me coming with my six-shooters loaded and the safety off! I need to make a statement!"

Guns. I know a little about Guns. I am a Texan. I was raised with Guns. I still go target shooting, from time to time, with family members. In fact, I take pride in the fact that I’m considered a ’pretty good shot’. I spent summers and holidays with relatives, on both sides of my family, who, on occasion, hunted wild game on their own property in order to put food on the table.

My late uncle E.L. enjoyed telling the tale of my first experience with a gun - his gun - a large, double-barrelled shot gun. Growing up, I had always looked forward to tagging along with dad, grandpa, my uncles and cousins on their hunting and fishing adventures; not because I liked hunting and fishing, but because I loved hiking around in the deep forests and boating in all of the mysterious waterways. I also enjoyed all of their colorful jokes and family stories. So, when they invited me to join them for an early morning hunt in the Big Thicket, I jumped at it.

Uncle E. L. was the lead hunter. After we had walked deep into the woods for awhile, he held his hand up for us to stop, and put his finger to his lips. He pointed into the tall pines ahead of us. Then, unexpectedly, he looked at me and placed his gnarled brown hand on my shoulder. He squinted his mischievous brown eyes at me and said, "Alright, baby, you’re day has come." I was thirteen. "Are you right or left handed?"
"I shoot my bow and arrow with my left, Uncle E.L."
"Put the butt of this shot gun up against your left shoulder. Firmly now."
The shot gun was very heavy, but I wasn’t about to complain. I just listened and obeyed.
"Keep your eye down that double barrel."
"Where, uncle E.L.?"
"Down the center. Now, see that foxtail flippin’ his tail around in the air up there in that pine?" He pointed the gun barrel in the direction of the tree the squirrel was in.
"Yes, sir. I see him now."
"Take aim just below the little cuss. The gun’s gotta little kick to her. Now, take aim, and squeeze the trigger. Don’t pull. Just squeeze the trigger real gentle, like."
"Yes, sir."

I deliberately aimed a few inches above the squirrel. I had no intention of shooting it. My morning had definitely taken an unexpected turn. I held my breath and squeezed the trigger. There was a huge explosion. I was knocked completely off of my feet. I landed squarely on my backside with my legs sprawled out in front of me; a sharp, dull ache shooting down my left arm. White gun powder was still curling in the air above me and the shot gun lay loosely in my arms and awkwardly between legs. I heard everyone’s laughter (in my one good ear) and saw my Uncle E.L. holding up a dead foxtail squirrel. "I’ll be darned, child. You actually shot the thing. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes - ha!

While everyone congratulated me, I kept the sorrow of my having killed the beautiful little foxtail to myself. They would have thought me foolish. I graciously kept thanking everyone for complimenting me on my newfound ability to kill, but I was also preoccupied by the large, blackening pump-knot on my arm where Uncle E.L.’s shot gun had backfired on me. They all laughed at me about that as well. It was a lesson I would not forget. No pain, No gain. I joined in with the laughter of my Initiation within one of my family’s rituals and traditions. But I wondered (even as a child) whether or not the squirrel had gotten the ‘statement’ I was trying ‘not’ to make that day; whether I had.

That evening Aunt Margaret whipped up a batch of her famous squirrel dumplings, turnip greens, snap peas (both, fresh from her garden), and homemade buttermilk cornbread. I ate the turnip greens, snap peas and cornbread. It was delicious and graciously, no one said a word about my not eating any of the squirrel dumplings.

My next notable ‘Gun memory’ came when I was 19 and in college. I was still living at home. My brother-in-law (who was 18 at the time) had just had his birthday party over at our house. I was helping mom and my sisters clean up before leaving for a play rehearsal I had to attend. I had the role as the mother in the operetta Amahl and the Night Visitors.

My brother-in-law had had too much to drink at the party, and was making me a little nervous playing around with an antique Colt 45 pistol my mom had gotten him as a gift. When I asked him to put the gun away, he became belligerent. I immediately backed off and said,’ Listen, I’m sorry that I said anything. I’ve got to go anyway. Ya’ll have a good evening."

As I was walking outside to my car I heard my brother-in-law call out behind me, "Hey, Leah, let me hear you sing one of your high notes."

All of a sudden I heard a loud crack - a pistol shot - I flinched and jumped to the right. The bullet missed my left foot by barely an inch. It ricocheted off of a tree root and popped out the left front tire of my car. Shocked, I whirled around. My brother-in-law was staring at me in disbelief. He kept stupidly saying, "I was just playing - I thought the safety was on - I wasn‘t even aiming at anything....."

I was so upset I was speechless. He could have accidentally killed me in his drunken stupor; with his drunken joke. I refused to speak to him. I refused to speak to my sisters or mom, because they had been no help with him earlier. I refused to accept his, or anyone else’s help changing my tire. I changed it myself, by myself. I never called the police about it. He was family. But it was a long time before I would say more than, ‘hello’ and ‘good-bye’ to him. We have never spoken of his behavior that day, since then. I have Forgiven him, but somehow I think that it has remained his Unmentionable, Unintentional Sin. However, I have often wondered if he ever ponders upon the accidental ‘statement’ he almost made with his gift-Gun that day.

As a high school teacher, my early years were spent working with many gang members. I worked hard to make my room a safe haven for learning. A place of nurturance and sustenance. However, I could not guide all of my children safely to graduation and promising futures. I attended two funerals while working at my first high school. Young men who were shot to death by other young men. In my Eyes, in my Heart, Children shooting other Children. Why? Because they could. Because they had the Guns. Because their primary environments nurtured and sustained that ideology and those hatreds and warped ambitions within them.

I often wondered whether their last thoughts, before the triggers got squeezed and the bullets ripped through the air, ripped through their beautiful flesh and bones were, "I made my statement!"

As their Teacher, their Mentor, I had tried to instil within them other ways to "make their statements" in life. But the money-power and pleasurable escape in drugs - the gang culture had led them to the language of Guns. The stark reality of Guns. The abrupt, stunning, life altering, breathtaking, unforgiving "statements" made by Guns.

Times of Anger and Fear are not the Times to be espousing the "statements" made by Guns. It is not the Time to be touting Guns, shaking Guns, reaching for Guns, raising Guns, firing Guns and repealing laws which protect us from the more impetuous and growlingly primitive parts of our very human natures.

The Wild, Wild West is stimulating and interesting to watch and experience at the movies and on television. However, the reality of blazing Guns, dodging bullets and bleeding, dying bodies is very different. The rootin’ tootin’ six-shootin’ reality of Guns and Death always is.

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Emanuel Paparella2013-01-16 09:59:34
Well written Leah. Let us hope that "we the people" under the leadership of President Obama and vice-president Biden will prevail over the special business interests and the NRA this time around. Indeed the romanticizing of the Wild West and the reality of children massacred are two different things and only a lunatic does not perceive it. Unfortunately some of those loonies are now entrenched in Congress. Here again, we need to wake up that ultimately we the people will get the government we deserve.

Emanuel Paparella2013-01-16 14:37:57
P.S. To follow up on you anecdotal narration on your brother in law, Leah, I am here reminded of my own existential situation on the issue of gun control. I have two wonderful grandchildren, Sophia and Nicholas, whom I love very much. Their father, my son in law, decided some time ago that his children, my grandchildren, would be safer and more protected if he had a gun in the house. He says that he has the revolver locked in the garage, separate from the bullets and that there is no way that the children can ever get to it. We no longer talk that much about the issue since for him it is not a practical matter but rather a philosophical conviction, the conviction of the libertarian who needs to have a gun to assert his freedom, especially from a tyrannical government, should the need ever arise. In other words, he is a firm believer in the second amendment to the point of denying the first and allow other opinions to have their saying.

I can understand the philosophical argument on second amendment rights without necessarily agreeing with it, but what bothers me more however is that he claims, to reassure me I suppose, that his children, my grandchildren, are safer with a gun in the house. I asked him once if he knew that according to current statistics children are less safe and end up being injured when there is a gun in the house. He did not seem to know and simply retorted that I did not know what I was talking about and that in any case it makes perfect sense to want to protect one’s children. In other words, I was unconcerned about my grandchildren and I should simply shut up! And in fact I have since. What other option is there? If people do not listen to reason and dialogue with each other without on an issue resorting to ad hominem arguments than the only solution is a duel, with a gun of course since we do not wish to be medieval about it.... Welcome to the Wild West.

Leah Sellers2013-01-17 20:33:30
Dear Emanuel,
Sir, I do Understand and empathize with your Comprehensions and Frustrations regarding the Environment of your Grandchildren, and Others that you Love and Care about.
The World is Changing, and that produces Fear, Anxiety, Flight and Fright Re-Actions and Non-Actions from All of Us in various shades and degrees.
I am Looking Forward to the Day, when Our Responses and Answers to these Ancient themes move away from Self and Other Destructive Violence and Re-volution to Self and Other Constructive Peace-Making and Evolution.
This Ancient Theme toward Violence and Self and Other an-Nihilism (no matter what weapons of death and manipulation we Choose to use) just continues to repeat Itself, proving Human Beings to Be Mad.
I'm Looking Forward to the Day (and Hope that I Live to See it) when We Move Toward Enlightened Creation like a Sunflower springing from the fertilizing Dung Hill (the Old Negative Personal and Societal Cultures and Systems which keep Us from BeComing Our Truer Selves and Our Greater Potentialities)of All things from the Past.

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