Sunday, December 6, 2015

On Guns

Some people like to carry guns on their belts where everyone can see them.  They like to touch guns.  Americans don't have genes that make us this way.  I went to a shooting range in Latvia back in 2006 where I shot an AK-47.  It was a hollow experience, but the other people on my tour, folks from Scandinavia, Germany and England, couldn't stop taking pictures of themselves with guns.  

A few years before, I went to a shooting range in Maryland with an old high school buddy.  The people who ran the place were good, responsible men.  They walked me through the safety regulations, gave me advice.  My friend let me shoot his pistol.  I barely had the strength in my hands to squeeze the trigger and I remember recoiling at the thought of the power contained within a gun.  I suppose my car has a similar power to hurt, maim and kill, but there's something more visceral about the ability to shoot a man clean in the head, to destroy his life with such a small toy.   

About 11 years ago, when I was in Vietnam, I had the pleasure of having lunch at a wedding with a kind old Party man.  He had met Castro back in the '70s.  He called him an intellectual. He told me about his life in the years after the war, when he was stationed in Saigon.  He had been an officer, but not a fighter and he had to carry a pistol at all times.  He hated carrying that pistol.  A few days later, I went to a small gathering at his house.  There weren't many chairs in his living room, but he demanded that I take his.  He showed me his study.  It was filled with books, but I only remember two of them, Michael Moore's Stupid White Men and a copy of one of Joseph Conrad's lesser-known novellas which, he was excited to discover, included a passing reference to Haiphong.  Our politics were not the same, of course, Castro-hating small-d democrat that I am.  Still, we had more in common than not.  He loved spending hours in a library surrounded by books from which he would note the least significant details because they meant a lot to him, and he hated carrying a pistol. 

This post is not an argument about gun policy.

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