Thursday, January 04, 2007

The NRA, Gun Control, Patches on Orange Jackets And Hitting A Happy Medium Bulls' Eye.

When I was fourteen and full of pimples, Pops had gone from International pilot to bumbling bicycle mechanic and our family had moved back to California from Florida toting a step-mom, a younger step brother with only one good eye, and two blonde younger step-sisters. And because of this newly assembled entourage, Pops had lost control of much in his life that involved his own two boys-- meaning Steve and I.

We had become alien to him in many ways, as his attention had been far from our purview and buried within a new vaginal preoccupation-- namely, a new relationship with a new woman-- leaving Steve and I to occupy OURSELVES with the multi-dimensional task of raising Kane without getting into serious trouble.

And at some point in all of this father-getting-a little somethin’ somethin’ new, and father’s two boys running amok in the world with all sorts of mischievous plans and creative shenanigans, Pops woke up and realized that he had better spend some “quality” time with his two progeny, lest we become true delinquents and not just sinister goofballs.

Now unlike me, Pops LOVED structure and uniforms. He was in the Civil Air Patrol, as a youngster, and the Scouts and a bunch of School clubs and then the Air Force for 14 years. He got to wear something that everybody wore, and he got to be structurally defined.

Which is all fine and good, even from my iconoclastic perspective. I mean, as the hippies are wont to say-- “Whatever, man...”

So when Pops got this inspired feeling to reunite and reconnect with his two teenaged boys, he signed us both up with the local chapter of the NRA and got us involved with competition .22 small bore indoor shooting, and signed us up for membership in the local rod and gun club.

All in one inspired moment of guilt and resurrection, I suppose.

A couple of days a week, he ferried us out to shoot guns with him and got us both bright orange jackets to match the one he got himself, which his new wife sewed award patches onto the sleeves of as we won them.

Now before you think this was an out of the blue impromptu snafu on his part (cool little rhyme running there, huh?) I have to tell you that Steve and I were both awesome with guns as kids. Truly. And we loved shooting stuff. And we were both amazingly good at shooting stuff. And the reason we were so awesomely amazingly good at shooting stuff, was simply because we had shot stuff since we were very, very young, and we shot stuff all the time.

Steve and I each had Daisy air rifles when we were six. He got his a year before I got mine, but I was shooting his at the age of five. Pops had made us a plywood angled backdrop target box, with rubber tacked to the plywood, so we could shoot our BB’s and retrieve them, and shoot them again and again and again.

And we most certainly did.

Young boys have an amazing capacity to do something fun like shoot little green army men over and over and over when they are young and have nothing else to do. Hours and hours of knocking off little plastic army men set up in forts built out of colored wooden blocks. The scenarios that we created were very 007ish. We were always the good guys, of course, and the green toy soldiers were always evil.

Pechoo! Pechoo!

When Pops was out of town and Mum was working late swing shifts at the hospital, Steve and I would bring our own, smaller target box that we had built into our rooms at night, and we would knock down little green army men while we stayed up late watching Johnny Carson on our little black and white TV.

Pechoo! Pechoo!

Pops gave me a .22 semi-automatic rifle when I was eight. We lived in the suburbs, but behind our back fence was “the hills” and we could easily find a place to go set up a backdrop and targets. I never had “good eyes”. My vision had always been just slightly less than 20/20, more like 30/30. My Pops and my brother had like 20/10 vision and could see each hole torn through paper at fifty feet. Me, I had to ask or guess. But I got good at “splitting the fuzzy”, meaning, aiming for the center of the fuzzy thing I knew was a dot the size of a quarter. I out shot Pops and went head to head with my year older brother, Steve, and the three of us could reunite in male bonding fashion after one of Pops’ six-weeks-away trips and four days home to reunite with his family stays. One of those four days was usually spent shooting at something and pretty much hitting it.

Pops also had a Diana .177 pellet gun he picked up in Germany that he trusted us with. The beauty of this gun was that it was extremely well-made and powerful and accurate, but nobody called the cops if they saw you shooting it because it was an air rifle and made very little sound. Steve and I took this out into the hills and shot pellets after school all the time, aiming at things like butterfly wings (they can still fly with holes in their wings) and water-skeeters (remember those long legged things that skeetered on water?)

I confess to having shot and killed a few birds as well, but a talking to by Pops and having to pluck and cook and EAT a robin that we killed pretty much cured us of THAT little game.

So you can see that by the time I was fourteen and my brother fifteen, going with Pops to someplace to shoot at stuff was a masterstroke of genius on his part. He sucked us both right back under his wings in a matter of a few nights and weekends.

On Tuesday night, we would go to a converted chicken coup wearing our orange jackets with giant NRA patches sewn across the heart, and we would compete with other kids and kick all their asses. Steve and I were handed these amazingly constructed guns that were a far cry in balance and accuracy from our JC Higgins open-sighted plinkers, and we would bulls-eye our way through the evening, amazing and confounding the very sincere men who ran the program.

The Simpson boys. Crap, can those boys shoot...

My brother Steve truly could have been a champion had he had the interest. He had the amazing eyesight and the years of shooting shit under his belt. He was awesome plinking away at 50 feet. Everything he shot scored ten. Standing. Kneeling. Prone. He was rarely distracted enough to shoot a nine or an eight on the target ring. Rarely.

Which made me shoot tens as well. I shot at the middle of the fuzzy bit and kept up with my brother (we were competitive to extremes) for the most part.

The trouble I had, was with the kneeling position. My knees don’t collapse fully, and to try and sit on my ankle is to feel enormous pressure in my knee, which causes severe pain, which causes shakes, which causes bad scores. During these Tuesday night competitions, I was allowed to use a sandbag to fill the gap between my ankle and my rear, and thusly was able to compete. I was informed that I couldn’t use the sandbag in inter-club competition, so my target shooting days were numbered due to a physical limitation I could not overcome.

Pops took us out on Sunday mornings and we shot skeet and trap with twelve gauge shotguns and took out a .38 and .45 pistol and took pot shots at targets on the pistol range. I sucked at pistols. I shoot high left--always-- and found myself aiming below the target and to the right to try and compensate. Needless to say, sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.

We had a 30.06 we fired toward distant targets, and Steve and I always brought our little .22 caliber JC Higgins semi-automatics and would shoot the pants off of everybody with them.

I still have mine. I lovingly took it all apart once, and refinished the stock. The butt-plate is broken and when I see this it makes me feel horrible. Someday I’ll replace that little oval black plastic piece and feel at peace, I swear.

Every now and then, I take it out and empty all seventeen rounds into a target the size of a quarter at 50 feet, just because it makes me feel happy to do so. I’ll wipe it down and reload it, and then hide it where I keep it, once again.

And I am telling you all this, because I want people to know that when I say I advocate some form of gun control, it is not out of fear of guns nor lack of love for guns, nor any kind of mass quantities of pot I never smoked as a young man.

I advocate some kind of regulation for guns, because I am afraid of people who possess them, and I am woefully aware of the price we as Americans pay, for their wanton dispersal within our society.

When I was fourteen, we also attended NRA meetings bi-monthly, and my Pops and my brother and I would all attend these meetings wearing our bright orange NRA jackets covered in award patches for shooting stuff in the exact middle of it.

We were well respected and well-received. I mean, Steve and I were decorated sharpshooters, for crying out loud. And Pops was proud of our stature, you could tell. He shook other NRA members’ hands with a firm shake and introduced his two boys, who were taught to shake hands with these men by gripping tightly and looking them square in the eye. Which we did.

Then the meetings would start.

These NRA meetings, were about 10 % local stuff going on (the chicken coup needs a new roof, the rod and gun club needs to stop pointing their guns at the hot air balloons flying overhead and so on and so forth...

90% of these meetings, though, seemed like a tactical briefing for a war. The war between gun lovers and anti-gunners.

And at 14, I was never fully cognizant of the GROTESQUE AMOUNT of hate and vitriol that frothed within these rented Junior high school auditorium walls. There was an enemy out there. The enemy was evil. The enemy was idiotic and irrational and insane. The enemy were a bunch of hippy pansies. The enemy were a bunch of crybabies. The enemy didn’t understand the second Amendment of the Constitution of The United Fucking States of America, Goddamn it!

I would sit in these meetings feeling like an outsider. Almost like a spy (though, I never knew who to inform on, or why.) Pops was a lot of things, but he was never one to grapple and understand the big issues. Meaning, he just sat there and felt he was doing his kids a good turn, and ignored what was actually being said and the flavor in which it was spoken.

Pops liked guns, for the most part, and just wanted to be around people who liked guns too. Steve was beginning to understand the allure of vaginas, and was probably daydreaming in his hard and uncomfortable metal fold-out auditorium seat about how he was gonna get himself a finger full.

The men that gathered in these meetings were the salt of the earth, in many ways. Heavy equipment operators. Electricians. Plumbers. Farmers. Dairymen. Mechanics. Fence contractors and builders.

They were the type of people who looked really good in baseball caps emblazoned with John Deere or Peterbuilt or Remington patches on their fronts.

They were as happy wearing suspenders as they were Red Wing boots. Plaid was their favorite pattern and spitting black chaw onto sidewalks never amounted to a second thought among them.

And on Sundays, shooting against them on a trap range, they were as friendly and pleasant and sportsmanlike as you would ever want in another human being. Everybody was fair and pleasant and good-natured and easy going.

Which is what tormented me during these bi-monthly NRA meetings. I would sit dumbfounded to hear kind men seething and spewing about other humans who were so evil, they wanted us to relinquish all of our toys. For more than a year, every other week, we would go and listen to men accuse other men of being all sorts of horrific things. We would here of strategies and assaults, and Congressional forays like we were part of an ongoing guerilla war. It was US vs. THEM.

And THEM turned out to be all of my Mum’s closest friends.

When Mum and Pops divorced, there were two outstanding issues. One was the pilot thing. Pops was not home enough. The other was my Mum’s Folk music and friends that played Folk music and sang Folk music and smoked pot and thought hippy type thoughts.

Like gun control.

Meaning, Pops would take me to meetings where they talked about shooting my Mum’s friends with their big guns blazing...

It was all very confusing and quite surreal for a young guy to piece together. But I tried to piece it together, because puzzles and me are the best of friends.

And what I realized was this.

Guns kill people and cause enormous heart ache and pain.

They are also fun to plink around with, and have useful roles to play within a society, namely, hunting and culling.

As a big, athletic guy, the only thing I fear in the world besides bears and crocodiles (and ball-breaking women), is a knucklehead with a gun. The fact that a knucklehead can have a gun is a great concern of mine. Knuckleheads should not have guns, under any circumstances.

Which is to say, I lean on both sides of this fence. NRA against some Mom who lost her son to a callous shooting with a handgun. Gun nut verses some hippy who wants peace on earth by disarming everybody. Military elite soldier versus mother of a dead soldier. And on and on and on.

To those gun nuts who think they have a right to scare the crap out of all of us non-packers by simply keeping a loaded pistol under the seat of your truck, I say FUCK YOU.

To all those nuts screaming for the absolute banning of all firearms while you play your bongos and smoke da ganja, I say FUCK OFF.

I guess what I am really saying is that the issue is a social one, based on the notion that humans are social creatures and need to cohabitate. There is much give needed on both sides of this issue, to make a rational national consensus sensical.

Shooting up stuff is fun and amusing and a great way to pass the time and learn steady eye hand routine and so on and so forth.

People getting shot by tools designed for killing resulting in maiming and killing is neither fun nor amusing nor a great way to spend your time as it involves hospitals and cemetaries.

I guess what I am asking by this overly long diatribe, is that within this cohabitation we all are forced into here in America, isn’t there a happy medium at large?


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Unfortunately I think happy mediums are out of vouge in this country right now.

Hammer said...

I was forbidden guns of any sort until my parents were divorced. then I got to do all that fun plinking stuff you describe with my dad.

The 20,000 gun control laws on the books aren't doing much good. The CGA 68 NFA34 and FOPA 86 are all aimed at regulating the sale of guns. Unfortuantely they only affect people who obey laws and shop at gun stores

It sucks that they use the fire and brimstone method on you at those NRA meetings. Knowing my rebellious attitude I would have thought "fuck you" at that age too.

Gun crime is going down thankfully,
but the Center for disease control reluctantly admit gun control laws aren't the reason.

As far as carrying goes, it's rough, FBI check, personal backround, no misdemeanors for 5 years nothing violent ever, no felonies, no back taxes, no student loan default, no back child support, 12 hour class, all federal and state laws $240 bucks in fees, finger prints, mug shots
and the red tape.

I went ahead and wet through with it. I've never pulled my gun on anybody and really don't ever want to.

In Texas anyways, the bureau of crime statistics show that us gun packers have a lower incidence of violent crime than police officers.
(many of which cannot qualify for a concealed handgun)

Anyways, I think you're a cool guy and if we all agreed on everything this world would be a snooze fest.

So cheers on agreeing to disagree on some things.

Scott from Oregon said...

Ahh, but hammer. I agree with you here. The hoops you had to jump through to get a gun I can live with. I am not sure I want your loaded gun under your seat of your car while you attend my neighbors' two kegger though...

Therein lies the problem.

Being in the construction trade, I have seen way too many nutjobbers packing legal firearms "for protection" in their vehicles. Now, being partally nutty myself, I can pick a nutjobber out of a crowd of cement finishers in a manner of minutes.

My sister carried a concealed weapons permit and a .38 for a few years, and had it stolen from her house by speed freaky people (presumably), and now is faced with having to live in a neighborhood where true criminals possess a legally obtained firearm (originally) and may use it against her at any time...

The issue is so uncut and dried, it bears consensus and rational discourse.

That hasn't happened in the twenty years I've been sort of eyeballing the whole ordeal out of the corner of my eye.

Anonymous said...

You lost me midway through the second paragraph.

You would suck at writing a one thousand word essay, though. You couldn't do it.

Also, here in Australia - gun's aren't that much of an issue. We had an amnesty years ago. Stabbings are more prevalent here in our Sunburnt Country.

You'll be pleased to know I can shoot though. I lived in the outback with my Dad for a while and according to him, learning to shot with a 12 gauge shot-gun was mandatory for reasons I still don't understand.

Okay, that's all.

Tisty said...

...:Stabbings are more prevalent here in our Sunburnt Country.

and the moral of that story is that homicidal maniac will kill with or without a gun. People where certainly practicing the art long before the invention.

The thing that horrifys me is the cold effecience of the semi automatics etc. that are out there.

Ok shooting at a target with a riffle might be a sport requireing skill and expertese, but creaming the fuck out of it is achievable by any gibon with an automatic.

While I hope never to be faced with violent crime, but If I am I'd prefer to take my chances with a looney with a knife than with a gun. at least With a knife I may have a chance.

and I find it bazzaar that your family was dividied along those lines as well. My father was ex army reserve and my mother beleived in ghandiesque none resistance. one of the big changes after their divorce wasthat Dad was able to have guns about the house at last. Until the Amnesty LMK mentioned he always made a point of telling us about his latest body count (feral animals, and that sort of thing). Odd.

Anonymous said...

Tisty is one hundred percent correct.

I'd rather take my chances with a knife wielding looney than a gun toting looney any day of the week.

My father too was ex Army and I suspect that is the ONLY reason it was mandatory for his fourteen year old daughter to learn how to use a gun.

Bernita said...

Wanted to say thank you, Scott, for your good wishes.

Nancy Dancehall said...

O says, "An armed society is a polite society."

*shrug* I kept a gun at my feet whenever I botle-fed the boyos at our old house. We'd been broken into twice, and two guys made a third attempt one day while I was home alone with my babies.

If I'd had faith in the police, I might not have been in that position. But when the officer showed up at our second burglary, the first thing out of his mouth was, "So who'd you piss off?"

Did it make me feel safe having a gun there? Yes. Was I in a mental state where someone should have taken the gun away from me? Yes.

I don't know the answer.

slaghammer said...

I grew up shooting everything all the time with rifle, shotgun and pistol. I Ran a trap line for varmints, and I did my part to keep the rabbit population under control in an area where coyotes had been poisoned to a point that they couldn’t keep up. I have always processed my own meat, bird to deer, and had a reputation for skinning everything that could possibly be skinned, including a failed tag-team operation on a skunk. I still process the occasional deer for a cut of the meat but I don’t hunt anymore for economic reasons, I can buy it in a store for less, and I’m getting to old to sit in a freezing cold deer blind. Then there’s the problem of finding anybody to shoot with that will agree to not point their f*ucking gun at my head every freaking time I turn around. I said all of that for the same reason you did, my pro (reasonable) gun control position puts me in danger of being sidelined as a gun hater, a communist sympathizer and/or a lace panty wearing, flag burning, hippie-type flogger of other men’s private parts, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Most shooters I’ve met are incapable of locating the safety and are more of a danger to themselves and their loved ones than they are a deterrent to crime. I believe if a person has ever uttered the words, “it’s ok, it’s not loaded,” they should have their gun ownership rights stripped immediately, forever. Sorry about the long comment.

Anonymous said...

Slaghammer, you scare me.

slaghammer said...

Little Miss Kylie, going back over my comment, I understand why it scared you. I have to be reminded every now and then that what happens on the farm, stays on the farm. Raising animals that are to be eaten and protecting your investment in some animals by ending the lives of others creates a matter-of-fact mentality that only seems strange after leaving that life style far behind. In addition, almost all of the guns that have been pointed at my head were done so out incompetence during hunting and target practice. The statement “it’s ok, it’s unloaded” is what everybody says after I request that they not point their gun at me. It’s one of my pet peeves. In the course of visiting another person’s house, I have inadvertently offended another guest, and that happens to be another of my pet peeves and for that, I apologize. Ok, no more long comments.