I hate guns. My mother made me hate guns, and I’m glad she did.
In the charged up climate of debates over gun control measures and second amendment rights, I’ve come to realize the controlling part my mom has played in my views and sensitivities and to believe the world would be better if more people were like her.
She and my father are both veterans of the Air Force. They’re both evangelical Christians who were as swept up in the Reagan Revolution and the Moral Majority of the 1980’s as any suburban middle class evangelicals could have been. She was a Den Mother.
Yet, as my boyhood friends in the neighborhood played “guns,” using their newest shiny plastic AK’s and pistols, I wasn’t allowed. My older brother and I were the kids who’s mom wouldn’t let them play with guns.
Looking for ways around this restriction, we would still play guns with our friends, interlocking our middle, ring, and pinky fingers, pressing the sides of our thumbs together, and fashioning our aligned pointer fingers into a barrel. “Bang. Bang.”
Mom heard the “Bangs,” and came outside to declare a ceasefire. And our grounding.
Even though we were in Cub Scouts and fired rifles every year at scout camp; even though dad bought us a b.b. gun and set up cans along the back fence to shoot; even though grandpa was a hunter and Uncle Bill was a cop: Mom didn’t entertain guns.
Movies and TV shows featuring gun battles got switched off.
And toys? Transformers? Forget it. G.I. Joe? Are you kidding?
The result is that I am a 36 year old red-blooded American man who hates guns. It’s not a reasoned, analytical stand; it’s a gut-level revulsion to guns, their core function, and the genre of entertainment that traffics in them.
[A caveat: I have actually fired guns. My best friend growing up and his dad were goose hunters. They took me hunting one weekend when I was 15. We spent the whole time hunkered over in a plywood-covered hole in the ground with a space heater. Every 30 minutes or so, the hunters would pop up and fire at flocks of geese flying overhead. I didn’t have a license, so I could only watch. Yet late in the afternoon of the second day, off on a walk by ourselves, my friend allowed me to fire his shotgun. I took aim at a yucca plant about 20 yards away and squeezed the trigger. BANG.
My shoulder hurt for a week. I’ve never fired another gun since.]
The mass shootings that have plagued this country since Columbine have only deepened my antipathy toward firearms. But it was firmly established in my youth by a woman who had served in the military and who knew boys killed in Vietnam, a woman who therefore refused to allow her own boys to swim in gun-infested waters, especially the imaginary ones. The imaginary ones are, in fact, the more sinister, since they lull people into an acceptance of shooting and killing as routine. Mom made sure her kids knew that guns and the death they inflict are real, real, real.
All this as she voted Republican, fretted over the corrupting influence of “secular” school, and defended the second amendment.
She cried when we spoke on the phone the day of the Sandyhook shootings. “This is it for me,” she said. “This is too much.” By which I took her to mean that her reasoned support of gun rights has finally lost to emotional aversion to them.
I hope it’s some comfort to her that, for the son she raised to hate guns, it was never a fair fight. Guns lose. Always.