The recent debate over gun control has brought back a lot of memories of growing up in a gun culture. My oldest brother, Tommy, was 16 years old when I was born. He was my idol. I followed him around and tried to do everything he did. He was a hunter.
One of the first Christmas toys I can remember getting was a toy shotgun. I would carry it around in the yard and pretend I was hunting squirrels, just like my big brother. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to go hunting. That was what grown up men did in the Appalachian Mountains.
I was able to talk my parents into buying me a .410-gauge shotgun when I was 12 years old. Looking back on those days, I’m surprised they ever did it. I was under strict instructions that I never got the gun out unless I was going hunting with my brother. It was a Mossberg, single-shot, bolt action gun and cost about $20.
Fortunately for the squirrels and rabbits we hunted, I wasn’t a very good shot with that miniature popgun. But it did go, “bang,” and I was able to spend time with my brother. When I look back on those times now, I realize it was getting to do something “grown up” and spending time with my big brother that I really enjoyed.
We would go out together, walk the fields and woods on crisp, late fall Saturday mornings. The animals we bagged were brought back to our next door neighbor, who loved to eat wild game. Sometimes, I would even borrow my neighbor’s 16-gauge shotgun, which had a little better range than my .410.
I never really liked shooting animals, and I soon grew tired of hunting. My brother eventually gave up the sport and took up golfing. I soon became more interested in guitars and electronics than guns. I sold the shotgun for $10 the year I started college. I’ve never hunted since then and never had any more desire to. If I shoot animals, it’s with a camera.
However, I don’t begrudge hunters their sport. I know hunting helps control the animal populations and some people enjoy it. I always have said, “Everybody needs a hobby.”
I have done some target shooting and I own a handgun. I inherited the weapon and decided I’d learn to use it. I got my carry permit and took some lessons on how to use it. That’s the biggest gripe I have against Georgia’s carry law. All you have to do to get a permit is to prove you don’t have a criminal record and you’re not mentally ill. I think training should be a requirement of owning a gun.
I keep the gun handy in case of a home invasion, but I hope I never have a need for it. I’m not like the movie character, Dirty Harry. It would not “make my day” to shoot some criminal. It would probably ruin my life.
I hate that our quest for safety has come down to an arms race between good guys and bad guys. I’d much rather leave the battle to the police, but I also realize that by the time police can respond to a home invasion, the event is already over.
I have no problems with gun registration, background checks or any kind of law that might slow down the proliferation of guns. At the same time, I realize that the outlaws will get weapons, regardless of the laws.
I’d feel better if our country was more like Canada, where the people let the Mounties do the law enforcement, instead of ours, where grown people are still playing cowboys and Indians. I really don’t like guns that much.
But to hedge all bets, I’m still going to renew my carry license.
Jones is a Carrollton resident and reporter for The Times-Georgian.