To the Editor:
I grew up in a small, rural community, one not unlike many of the small towns in Western North Carolina. Growing up in an active outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing culture was an experience I cherish to this day. And it’s why I love these mountains. Part of that experience was being around, and using, guns. My family had shotguns and rifles which were used both for hunting and target practice.
They were also on hand for personal safety, which fortunately was never necessary. We had a couple of really old guns too; the gun my grandfather has used in the 1800s, and a pistol we’d found on an abandoned railroad bed.
As a teen, I spent many hours at the rifle range, and although I wasn’t old enough to hunt then, was very aware of hunting in my community. One took it seriously and one respected the power of a gun. It wasn’t something to take lightly.
When guns weren’t in use, they were locked up safely and only my father had the keys. We never thought of guns they way they are perceived today, as a thing to collect and obsess over and to back up one’s beliefs about government.
We trusted our government and our law officers to protect us. There were no regular mass gun killings or school killings and the first mass killing with a gun that I remember was at a McDonald’s in California, thousands of miles away. The thought of a gun as a killing machine used against innocents was the furthest thing from my mind then.
I wish I could say things stayed that way, a time when respect for guns was firm, but without the worship of guns and the mass killing we have today. At that time, the NRA was active as a lobbyist for hunters, a far cry of what it has become.
So what happened? Did we suddenly decide to become a blood-thirsty people? Did the government become so threatening that we all had to take up arms? Or did the gun industry mutate into something that, in order to grow, had to create false enemies and dangers?
I get the idea that we have a right to bear arms and that it’s our Second Amendment right. But, is today’s gun culture what our forebears had in mind? Did they foresee the changes in technology that would result in guns that can kill dozens in seconds? Did they see kids collecting assault rifles to use against their fellow students? Did they see grown men raining bullets down on a crowd of innocents, killing them as if in a video game? Did they foresee the rise of extremist politics that would demonize our own government with conspiracy theories to the extent that many gun owners are fighting some imaginary enemy? Did they foresee the mass production of weapons? I doubt it.
Guns today have mutated from what I experienced as a kid to an industry that seems hell bent on tearing America apart. The gun industry and the NRA have completely tainted and poisoned what it is to be a gun owner. And, lest we forget, guns are an industry and all industries must grow.
So, the more guns, the more profits. Every time there is a mass killing today, the NRA calls for more guns. It’s a maddening thought, really. If something is causing tremendous pain and destruction, do you call for more of the same? Or do you step back and look at the bigger picture. More guns, more violence, is this what we want for the future and for our kids? I’d hope we can do better.