Don’t Shoot


I have a gun. 

Actually, I have several guns. 

My father’s way of saying, “I love you,” in my adolescence was by giving me a firearm. It was intended as protection that he himself could not provide, being crippled as he was from polio. As an adult I can understand this. As a teenage girl, though, I was mystified and somewhat frightened.

Growing up, my father was obsessed with guns. He owned dozens of them. He believed there would be a Biblical apocalypse *soon* and had planned accordingly. I made trips with him to the firing ranges. I learned how to take apart and clean a gun. 

And I knew where the survival gear was stashed…. 

Receiving a gun was sort of like a coming of age in my house. Some girls have first communion. Some girls have a Bat Mitzvah. Some, a quinceanera. Me? It was a gun. I was responsible enough to own a gun, to hold life and death in my hands, even if I was not yet allowed to drive.

My senior year of college, my father sold me the old beat up maroon family Doge Shadow. My first car. With it came a loaded .22 pistol wrapped up in a black sock. He showed me where I was supposed to hide it behind the central console. 

I drove around with it for a few days but its presence gave me tons of anxiety, worrying about what would happen if my car was ever searched during a traffic stop.

The irony is that while my father intended for those guns to provide security, they only succeeded in making me feel unsafe. Death was always just a trigger pull away.

So I hid them all. Out of sight, out of mind. 

I could pretend that I was normal. That my family was normal. That my parents were sorta kinda normal.

It worked.

Then a couple of months ago when my parents were coming for a visit, I was told they were bringing an old rifle of mine and several boxes of ammo.

I don’t want that in my house.

The crazy past came barreling into my current life, poking holes in my carefully placed sanity insulation.

And now I write about it…

My kids don’t know I have guns. I am careful. The guns are hidden and locked away, I never talk about them. I don’t want my kids to have to live with the fear that I did, to feel that the world is dangerous and evil enough that we have to have guns to protect ourselves. There is plenty of time for that kind of fear as an adult.

Truthfully, I am conflicted about what to do with the guns long term. I don’t intend to ever use them. Still. They are the only gifts my father ever gave me, the only things that ever showed that he loved or valued me, that I was worth protecting.

So, here I am writing a post about clinging to some dangerous bit of metal as a symbol of love. I realize it is ludicrous that I am even writing these words, but I wanted you to understand why when people talk about gun control and I am nodding my head in agreement, how hypocritical it feels to have all of this lurking in my closet. Guns should be controlled! Get rid of guns! But I am not willing to relinquish my right to cling to mine. 

After chewing on it for a few weeks, though, maybe it’s time to let go….


145 thoughts on “Don’t Shoot

  1. First of all, that may just be the most honest, and heartfelt, essay I have ever read on the issue of gun control (so being a Canadian I’m not going to ruin it by speaking to it from the viewpoint of a person who really doesn’t have to deal with that issue in the same way as my American friends). But thank-you for the beautiful piece of writing. Second, thanks again, this time for enlarging my vocabulary, since I had never heard the word “quinceanera” before reading this. After looking it up I have to admit, it’s a wonderful word, for a lovely occasion. So thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe it is time to let go. I’ve been in the army (real sh…, active duty, more than six months training, manoeuvers, etc.) I can/could unmount/remount just anything in a snap. And I can shoot reasonably well) But I don’t like guns. Don’t have any in the house. (Though we live in a country with close to 50,000 homicides in the las three years). My main concern is the risk with the kids. Locked away is good. Where do you lock the key? You can keep one of your father’s gun for memories. Maybe have it altered so it can not shoot?
    (I had a Shadow too, early 90’s)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your very honest and deeply sincere words about guns. Your reflection on this most serious issue gave me a lot of excellent food for thought. In this highly turbulent and controversial issue, it was refreshing to read your words. I appreciate your thoughts.

    Steve Stahley


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