My First Gun. When I was a child, my hero was Roy Rogers. I watched him on TV whenever I could. He was the good guy in the white hat. He used his six-guns to bring the bad guys to justice. I wanted to be like him when I grew up. That’s why my Roy Rogers gun and holster set, like the one pictured here, was one of my favorite toys. My brother, Danny, and I usually played cowboys and Indians when my cousins rode their bikes over to the farm to play with us. These cap guns were the only props we needed to transform us into our cowboy heroes.
Shooting Real Guns. When Danny and I got a little older, Danny got a BB gun. A few years later he got a pellet gun – a more modern-looking black pistol. Then he got a 22 rifle. We used all these guns for target practice in the back yard. We lined up tin cans in a row to see how many we could hit. I was never much of a sharpshooter, but occasionally I’d knock a tin can over. I could still fantasize about being a cowboy hero with my cap guns – I never missed my targets in my imagination.
Almost Buying a Derringer. When Mim and I lived in Chicago, we became good friends with Lenie, a very independent woman, about thirty years our senior, who owned an antique shop in our neighborhood. She was a wonderful story teller, and she became our source of a lot of Chicago history – the personal stories. Lenie obtained most of her merchandise for her antique shop from estate sales. She specialized in jewelry, cut glass, and small household items. One Saturday Lenie told us she had something she wanted to show us when the other customers left the store. We browsed until everyone else was gone. Then she took out her special prize – a lady’s derringer. She hadn’t decided for sure yet if she wanted to sell it, or keep it in her purse. If we wanted it, she’d let us have it for $100. I was fascinated by the pretty little gun, but I knew it wasn’t a toy, and conventional wisdom was that it’s dangerous to have a gun in the house. I didn’t buy it – and Lenie kept it in her purse.
My Dad’s Rifle. In 1991 after my dad died, Mim and I decided to have Danny remodel the farmhouse for us and we would move to Cambridge. The first step in the process was to clear everything out of the house. One of the items in the coat closet was my dad’s 22 rifle. He had kept the gun handy to shoot at wild animals, not to kill them but to scare them away, animals like raccoons, opossums, and foxes. I thought it might be kind of fun to shoot at tin cans again, but Mim really didn’t want to have a gun in the house, so I let one of my nephews have it.
Danny’s Guns. One spring morning shortly after Mim and I had moved to Cambridge, we were outside picking asparagus. I suddenly saw a huge snake coiled up like a hose right next to Mim. I told Mim to step directly toward me and to do it immediately. She did it but she was a little confused why I was ordering her to do that. We had a lot more asparagus to pick. Then she saw the huge snake, too. This wasn’t a little garter snake. It was the biggest snake I’d ever seen outside of a zoo. We left the asparagus patch and went to the barn, which had become my brother’s carpentry workshop. I asked Danny to get one of his guns and get rid of the snake for us. He was delighted to oblige. He had several guns in his collection to choose from. He used one of his pistols, one that looked a lot like the Roy Rogers cap gun I used to have, except his gun shot real bullets, not caps.
With Roy Rogers as my childhood hero, I can understand the attraction for owning a gun. Cap guns were the prop that transformed me into a hero in my imagination. I enjoyed target practice. I thought about buying Lenie’s pretty little derringer. And, I’m really glad Danny had a gun and could use it to get rid of that menacing snake in our asparagus patch. There’s a place for guns in the homes of American families that want them.
But, I simply cannot understand why our Congress seems incapable of passing a law to limit access to high capacity assault weapons. Perhaps, such guns serve as props that enable some people to be war heroes in their imaginations, just like cap guns enabled me to be a cowboy hero in my own mind. But there’s a pretty big difference. Cap guns can’t kill 26 people in five minutes.
Because I cannot understand why everyone doesn’t see the need for reasonable gun legislation, I tend to get angry and think the people who are resisting new legislation are just stupid. But then, I came across these words in the Bible:
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with – even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. (Romans 14:1 The Message)
I guess I don’t need to agree with them, and they don’t need to agree with me. I can still stand up for what I believe to be best, but I need to treat with respect people who disagree with me, and I need to be kind to them. That’s another thing I need to pray about.