"Why Do You Love Your Guns?"
by Karen Olson, March 11, 2001
Summary: The interests of gun owners are often trivialized. Understanding why people value their guns might help foster constructive solutions for curbining violence.
Count the Ways
A reader, in today's Letters column [publication unspecified], asks an interesting question of firearm owners: "Why do you love your guns?"
That's a very good question, one reflecting the huge gulf of understanding in America seaprating people who own guns and value them from those who fear and despise them.
It's hard to pick up a newspaper or tune into a news broadcast without seeing a reminder of why many people disdain guns - another school shooting in California, some punk waving a gun at women outside a shopping mall in Missoula, white supremacists threatening to stage an armed march through Coeur d'Alene this summer. Rare are the opportunities for people who don't own guns to see what makes them attractive to the rest of us. Because the desire to own and constructively use guns is unfathomable to many people who don't own guns, it's not altogether surprising that many people think they should be banned or greatly restricted.
Maybe if gun owners did a better job of explaining their interests, rather than merely proclaiming their rights, we could achieve better understanding, if not agreement between the two camps.
Why do we love our guns?
The simple answer is that we don't. Not really. It's probably not healthy to love inanimate objects. Rather, we value our guns, value them greatly.
Why? Several reasons, which vary in priority from person to person.
We value our guns largely because of what we do with them - hunting, mostly, along with some target shooting. Hunting is no mere pastime for most of us who do it. It's more a way of life, a means of connecting to the natural world and our heritage, as well as a way to gather food. It's impossible to completely separate a gun from the time spent afield using it. We value our guns as we value a mountain meadow, a brisk hike up a ridge, the clean air and an autumn sunrise - not to mention meat on the grill. Target shooting, some forms of which are Olympic sports, is fun, engaging and challenging. Shooters enjoy breaking clay pigeons, hitting bull's eyes, or plinking cans much as golfers enjoy driving a ball or basketball players enjoy shooting hoops.
We also value the various aspects of responsibility associated with guns. Most gun owners can recall in detail the first time a parent or grandparent entrusted them with a gun, saying in deed more powerful than any words that they were ready and worthy of the responsibility. We earned that trust; responsibility is taught. It's good and constructive to feel responsible, to know you are worthy of trust. A sense of responsibility - for yourself and others - is one of the things that separates good and successful people from scoundrels and failures. The responsibility of gun ownership is something we take with the utmost seriousness.
Useful for self-defense, guns also reinforce the sense that we are, ultimately, responsible for our own lives, starting with our security and that of our families. The broad, constitutionally protected rights of gun ownership also reflect the mutual trust and responsibility shared by citizens and government in America. We wouldn't want to live in a country governed by people who didn't trust citizens with guns. Nor would we want to govern people who couldn't be trusted with guns. Our individual and collective senses of responsibility do much to define us as Americans.
Finally, we value and admire guns as a marriage of form and function, and as examples of craftsmanship, artistry and mechanical innovation. Guns can be ornately engraved and finely finished, mechanically simple or complex, decorative or utilitarian. We find most all of them downright itneresting. Some of them are rather beautiful.
The letter writer asks why we love guns, not why criminals, psychopaths and incompetents find them appealing. None of our reasons for valuing guns contradicts the fact that firearms are subject to misuse, often with horrific consequences. Responsible gun owners are more interested than anyone in deterring misuse of guns. Most of us fully understnad the problems and threats guns pose in our society. We're intent on finding solutions.
And by understanding why owners value their guns, people who don't own guns may also come to understand why simplistic proposals to ban them outright, or unduly restrict ownership of them, meet such opposition from us. By resisting the temptation to trivialize or ignore the deeply held and legitimate concerns of responsible gun owners, others may find it easier to engage gun owners in creative, constructive dialogue. That could actually lead to useful solutions to reduce gun misuse and violence.
This should be printed where millions of people can read this. It just might make a few "anti-gun" people think for a change.