"Ask an impertinent question, and you're on your way to a pertinent answer." —Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man
As of October 2015, my goal for this blog is to ask 101 impertinent questions.

Monday, October 5, 2015

2—Even beyond the epidemic of mass shootings, what is the real danger of guns in our culture?

On Saturday night, I decided on the spur of the moment to drive into town to see The Martian. As I walked into the theater, I thought, well, I hope this movie is good enough to risk getting shot by a mass murderer. After settling into my seat, I wondered how many people in the crowded theater were carrying concealed weapons. The thought of this didn't comfort me as I imagined guns being fired from five or six directions.

Back in my days as a teacher in Las Vegas, life became unsettling with the growing number of guns and the constant threat of gang violence permeated the school. I decided to take up the offer of a local gun shop for free shooting lessons—not because I wanted to own a gun but because I wanted to understand what shooting a gun felt like. Just six years before, I'd gotten to know the students by listening to their music and going to a couple music events. Times had changed. Now their lives were defined increasingly by violence—even the nonviolent. Also at that time, I was writing Home of the Wildcats and had been interviewing many students including one of my eleventh-grade drug dealers on house arrest who described how easy it was to get guns and that if I ever needed one, he could get me a small terrain tank. 

Anyway, the gun shop owner gave me the wrong date when I signed up. So to make up for the inconvenience, his instructor gave me a private lesson in addition to the class. As it turned out, my martial arts training made me remarkably steady and focused and therefore a highly accurate shooter. The teacher would then move a life-sized paper figure up and down the indoor shooting range. As it moved forward, I was supposed to yell the warning, "Stop. I have a gun." If the target retreated, I didn't shoot. If it did, I shot non stop until the paper dude stopped. And as I unloaded the handgun into the paper target, an adrenaline rush flooded away all the words of Gandhi and Thoreau to which I aspired and filled me with the worst version of myself. When it was all over, I'd shot the paper dude 22 times in the heart and 12 times in the head with a scattering of holes through his various body parts. Highly impressed, the instructor gave me the target to take home as a souvenir.

Following the class itself, all five students got certificates and the right to buy a gun. One of my classmates was a little white-haired grandmother in a pink sweatsuit who wanted a gun so she could "shoot snakes in the night" while she and her husband were camping. She also wanted a gun in her car so she could protect herself against "suspicious people." 

More recently, I know of a delightful five-year-old girl who took great interest in keeping a journal about her ladybug farm and asked very philosophical questions about death following the departure of a family friend. She enjoys meeting new people, loves dressing up in outlandish and colorful costumes, cannot get enough of reading, and, emulating the love of her parents, is a thoughtful and caring big sister. Then out of the blue one day, she announced that she wanted to buy a gun.

No comments: