Appreciation

For a while, I’ve kind of wondered why the issue of gun sanity makes me so, well, crazy mad.  More than any of the other issue I feel strongly about, this one runs the deepest in my heart.

But thanks to Lisa of Life with the Top Down who commented on my last gun control piece and told the story of her father-in-law leaving a loaded gun in a drawer where her young son found it, I figured it out.  (Lisa’s story ended happily, thankfully.)

Yes Lisa reminded me of one of my own stories.  One of my earliest memories, in fact.  A clear as a bell memory where I am inside my own head as I acted out the events.  Remembering it made me wonder if this might explain why I feel so strongly that guns should be handled, well, differently in the U.S. than they are today.

So here is my story.

It was summer, probably 1960, but maybe 1959.  I was playing in my backyard with Debbie A who lived next door.  I didn’t really like Debbie.  Nobody did.  She was argumentative and we always fought.  Everyone always fought with Debbie.  But that day, Debbie said something that made me mad.  Really, really mad.  And so I went into the house to get my Dad’s gun so I could shoot her.  I don’t remember wanting to kill her; I just wanted to shoot her.

I went into the house, past my mother who was doing dishes, watching us out the back window.  And I opened the drawer where I knew my dad kept his gun.  He had been in the Navy in WWII, and he had kept his gun.  I knew that.  I was sure of it.  And I knew exactly where it was, too.  It was in the bottom drawer in the den.  And I was gonna get it.

Dad's Gun

But I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I emptied the drawer but couldn’t find it.  I asked my brother, Fred, who tried to help me find it.  Finally I asked my mother, who told me with a laugh, “there’s no gun in this house!”

I was crushed.  Disappointed.  I really wanted to shoot Debbie.

Years later I told my Dad the story.  His eyes widened when he thought of what might have been.  Would I have accidentally shot myself?  Would I have mistakenly blown my wonderful brother away?    Would my mother have been blasted as I headed out the door to shoot Debbie?

Would I have shot Debbie?

Dad told me that he had kept his navy revolver, but only for a short while.  When my mother first got pregnant he got rid of it.  “Kids and guns don’t mix,” he said.  “That’s a recipe for disaster.” He was right.

I was 3-1/2.  What would my life have been like had I found the gun?  How many other lives would have been ended or ruined by my action?  My really delightful childhood would have been much, much different if I had murdered someone before even starting kindergarten.

So today, on “Gun Appreciation Day” I celebrate my Dad, who was a smart guy.  Thanks Dad, for protecting me (and who knows who else) from myself.  Because you were right — kids and guns don’t mix.  Trouble is, a lot of the adults who have them don’t mix well with guns, either.

This song is about fathers.   Not guns.  It is beautiful, though.  And it makes me think of my Dad and the wise choices he made that helped me navigate life.

84 Comments

Filed under Childhood Traumas, Criminal Activity, Family, Gun control, Neighbors, Stupidity

84 responses to “Appreciation

  1. Spitball day has a nice ring to it, I think. Safer too!

  2. Personally…..A Gun Appreciation Day is beyond ridiculous. What’s next: Knife Day, Hit and Run Day, Vigilante Day or Spitball Day? Don’t listen to me though. I’m just bitter that I don’t have a gun to cuddle with, send flowers and chocolates to and do intimate things with later. Sarcasm HEAVY!

  3. I don’t know if you heard this but in quiet, gun-safe Canada, in a Montreal suburb to be precise, a 12-year-old boy killed his 16-year-old brother earlier this week with the family gun. The context of the story gets sadder; the father was “known to police,” as they say, and had been charged a few years earlier with assaulting the 12-year-old with a (yup) gun.

  4. GOF

    Very timely story Elyse. I’ve always been somewhat frightened of firearms even though I own a shotgun as a deterrent for feral pigs. Other boys when I was a kid owned air rifles, but I avoided them when I saw the damage they could cause.(both the boys and the rifles) One component of Australia’s gun laws today requires firearms to be locked securely in an approved gun safe and ammunition to be stored separately. I’m happy with those requirements.

    • Thanks GOF. My sister, who was a pediatric intensive care nurse, once told me that bb guns are among the most dangerous of all those sorts of “toys” because a bb once it gets in just ricochets around the brain damaging pieces of it.

      Australia’s gun laws are a model for us. Sadly, we’ll never get there.

  5. I think that your story is illustrative of what I imagine is the root of most shootings — an instant of rage, a moment of crazed thinking. Yes, there are ‘hardened’ criminals, but, I bet, many shooters spend the rest of their life wishing the gun hadn’t been so easy to get to in that moment of rage…

    Very thoughtful piece. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • I agree — that’s one of the scariest things about having a gun in the house. How many times have all of us gotten ticked off, gotten deeply depressed. Guns make changing the picture easier and far more lethal. (As a kid though, I expected that after I shot her she’d get up.)

  6. Thanks for sharing this at the risk of making yourself sound like a cold-blooded infant =P Thank goodness for your dad’s foresight.

    • ALL kids are — they don’t think of consequences. They are totally self-absorbed. Not that I’m all that different today, I just know not to shoot people. So in the U.S. I am an unusual person it sometimes seems.

      Thanks for stopping by, Janice!

  7. Personally I think people should take up archery–though who knows, perhaps incidences of cross-bow deaths would increase. It’s a hugely difficult issue. I am a firm anti-gun, bleeding heart, socialist leaning liberal lefty. So my opinion on gun control should be fairly easy to figure out. However, I also am wary of messing with the constitution too much, in the sense that I think it opens the door to make all sorts of uncomfortable things happen down the road (that pesky 19th amendment, you know, the one giving women the right to vote? It’s not working, let’s get rid of it-a la Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale). Of course nothing is that black and white. I heartily believe that proving you are capable enough to own a gun should be a much more stringent process and that owning ammunition (and having it in your home) should basically be illegal. I don’t think someone’s right to ‘defend’ themselves trumps my right to have my kids go to school in a safe environment (one that does not include teachers packing heat). Let’s just say for the moment, though I love my country, I am glad that I am not living there right now.

    • I don’t really think you have to mess with the constitution to put in reasonable restrictions on guns. Nothing in there says you have the right to an Uzi or a Bushmaster. Nothing. And the Constitution is a living, breathing document, open to interpretation. I think it is time we interpret it as being in favor of life, over the death that unrestricted, unregulated guns gives us.

      Are you living in Copenhagen? Cool! I loved my stint in Geneva (5 yrs) — hope you’re having as much fun as I did!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story, Elyse, and the beautiful song!
    Russ

  9. I share your gun views, I had written a piece not published about it, coming form England where you’re not really gonna come across them I wasn’t sure if my two-penneth was necessary. I raised the exact same point you mention in your comments when others may defend guns as other objects kill so why single out guns, but you cannot name any other item that’s sole purpose is to maim that people have such ease of access to. Everything else that people use to murder has another purpose, a gun won’t julienne my carrots like a knife. It won’t fix my leaky tap like a wrench. It won’t hold my candles like a candlestick (I’ve played too much Cluedo obviously!)

    I may yet publish it but was afraid it was too simplistic a view, but maybe that’s the point, it is pretty simple to me.

    • You know, Joe, I think it is a simple argument. So go ahead and add to the debate, I say!

      Why do we need these things? Hunting for food, OK. I think they are dangerous to have in a home because of the likelihood of suicide, accident or homicide, but I don’t feel I have to make that decision for everyone else.

      But big guns to kill lots of people? Big magazines? Armor piercing bullets. No. Not no way, not no how.

  10. Elyse, The song is beautifully haunting (too bad about the car alarm). I can’t imagine a little 3 1/2 year old running around looking for a gun to shoot someone. It scares me to death. The visual I get is our little Ellee grabbing her grandfather’s or her uncle’s gun and running out to shoot someone. There is only a river that divides where she is and the possibility of such a thing, and where I am and the fact that she would be hard pressed to find any kind of a gun in a relatives home. Thank God your father was a smart man.

    • Michelle, here is another version of the song — I was going between two versions and making dinner. A bad combination. It is one of the most beautiful songs about fathers and children. This one has some magical pictures of Scotland, one of my favorite places.

      As for the idea of a 3-1/2 year old doing what I did, I don’t know if it would happen quite the same way these days. My life was filled with cowboys and Indians, and we were always playing shoot-em-up games (I always got shot and it infuriated me). But of course we used toy guns. Children’s TV isn’t filled today with scenes where you shot the bad guys. And that was what I wanted to do to Debbie — she was a bad guy, and you shot bad guys, right?

      Still, when Jacob was little we had to broach the subject of “are there guns in your house?” before letting him go over. Once we learned after I let him go to another boy’s house that the boy’s dad was a crazy gun person — he lived next door to our friend Mike who knocked on the guy’s door to introduce himself when he moved in. The man greeted Mike at the door with a rifle. (When I learned this, we suddenly had an urgent somewhere we had to go and I picked up Jacob immediately.)

      Kids and guns don’t mix. And lives can be changed in a heartbeat. But she sounds like a very well loved and well protected little girl. And I bet she doesn’t get as ticked off as I did even then!

      • Oh, she is definitely well loved and protected but she has a temper like her mother and her grandmother (my baby sister). Thank goodness there were no guns in our house growing up or there would have been accidents. The song is beautiful. Thanks for sending the second version.

  11. I am fairly anti-gun, but I’ve had different experiences. My dad was a San Francisco cop. My 3 sisters and I knew that his service revolver was on top of the high boy in my parents’ bedroom. We never touched it or even considered touching it. When I was 12, Dad took me to the range to teach me about gun safety and to let me fire a weapon at a target. I enjoyed the time with him more than I enjoyed shooting a gun. My husband is retired Military and he owns several guns. We have them in a gun safe and I have no idea what the safe combination is. We do go to the range from time to time to shoot at targets. If I feel I need protection, I have two dogs and a telephone. Gun ownership is fine if people are totally responsible. Unfortunately, many people are not.

    Your story was so elegant in its simplicity and impact. You made your point and then some! Thank you!

    • Dogs are a much better bet against “home invasions” — ummm when did that become the term to use — what happened to “burglary”? Dogs warn you, they protect you, they love you. Guns? Not so much.

      I don’t have a problem with people owning guns — rifles etc. Hunting, target shooting, I get that it can be fun. But nobody needs a big magazine, nobody needs an assault weapon. Nobody needs a bomb, either. No good ever come from things like that.

      Thanks for your comment, Linda. I saw that tomorrow is your birthday. Happy B-Day. And I agree. There is no point to cheap shoes (although walking in the ones you pictured on your blog post make my feet hurt just looking at them!) (http://thegoodthebadtheworse.blogspot.com/2013/01/im-gucci-girl-in-payless-world.html) I am having trouble commenting on blogspot blogs these days, or I would have commented over there!

      • Elyse, I couldn’t agree more about nobody needing mega-guns. I don’t think in terms of “needing” a gun. I would no more shoot somebody trying to steal a television or a piece of jewelry than I would fly! It’s not for protection. I don’t mind target practice, but I wouldn’t count on a gun for protection ever, and I know how to use one. Dogs don’t hesitate; people do. We have a responsive police force where I live and that’s all I need. Assaut weapons do not belong in the hands of anyone outside of law enforcement and active military. The big magazines are ridiculous too. Hunting disgusts me. I am not a ‘vegan’ but my pork chops come from Safeway thank you! And that’s how I like it!

        Thanks for the BD wishes. I love the Gucci pumps, but probably couldn’t walk in them either. (Actually, I do wear heels, but I don’t go for over a 3 and 1/2 inch heel anymore, since I’m getting older by the day, literally!)

  12. That was an important story to tell, Elyse. In the fervor over “Liberty over tyranny” we often forget the everyday consequences of guns, bullets, and the finality of that choice of weapon for violent retribution.

    This is a hot-button issue for me, too. My dad killed himself with a rifle. I try to listen to arguments why people “need” guns to feel safe. My life experiences suggest the exact opposite.

  13. Elyse you have shown in one story why this issue is so horrifying. Your father was brilliant. You were so lucky.

    • I was so lucky. I imagine that if we had really had a gun in the house that we kids would have been strictly forbidden to go near wherever it was. But many things were forbidden and we always did them anyway. Risking punishment was always fun. Oy.

      Children are very different in so many ways, and that’s why the idea of guns and kids is so particularly scary. I really didn’t want to kill or even hurt Debbie. But I did want to shoot her. And at that age, there was no correlation in my mind between shooting and pain or shooting and death or blood or anything. Older kids are different in that they think they are immortal and/or that bad things won’t happen to them. Or if they do something bad, they won’t get caught (we rarely did, actually). So again, that makes the idea of guns found even scarier.

      The whole subject makes me so angry. Why would anybody argue with gun sanity? Why is anybody on the other side? I do not get it.

  14. That’s an awesome story, hun. LOL re nuclear bombs. Your dad sounds like a swell man!

    • Dad was great. I sure miss him.

      I actually had a gun nut — a neighbor — tell me that if the government could have something, then she had the right to have the same stuff under the 2nd Amendment. “Nukes?” I responded. “If they have them, why shouldn’t I?” Somehow I bit my lip. We moved the next day (it was a going away party, thankfully).

      • LOL!!! HOW did your bite your lip?!!

        • I’m pretty sure my husband reminded me that they were heavily armed and that we would be moving the next day. Besides, there really are some people that you will never convince.

          On the bright side, they did say that they would have protected us from the Black Helicopters that they expected to swoop in and land on the golf course behind their house … it made me feel very safe. Very.

      • Okay, i gotta give you the view from the other side of the fence. Back where we lived in the ‘burbs of Chicago, I had a neighbor who was a real jackass. Pounded on his cars all night, arc-welded until he blew the neighborhood’s power out TWICE, I tried to talk with him, he wanted to fight – physically. So we entered into detente, ignoring each other for a bit. Then, he caught me one morning, making one of our last trips to a renn faire, in full armour, carrying numerous swords. He turned white as a sheet and RAN for the front door. That winter, I hooked up with the WW2 re-enacting group. So next spring, we see each other again, only this time, I’m loading the car with my and my buddies’ rifles (about 4 of us), in full German uniform, complete with iconic helmet.
        He moved within a month. :D

        • But you are a different kind of gun owner. You don’t keep ammo, you fire blanks. You reinact — you don’t incite.

          As for the neighbor, I wonder if I should have invited you and your buddies over when our neighbor had the psychotic German shepherd (my very favorite breed of dog) who hated us, wanted to kill us and barked at us all the time.

          • You would’ve only needed me! I made a whole pack of wolves howl once – I think I could handle one mangy Shepherd! :D

            • He was a beast. I have never hated a dog before, and hopefully never will again. We were unable to use our yard because of him. He barked when we went in and out of our garage, when we opened kitchen cabinets inside our house. I hated that dog. I was not at all sorry when he got some sort of cancer and had to be put down. He was actually another good reason to keep guns away from me — because there were times … And his owners are assholes who would throw him out and just let him bark at us. Until we threatened them with legal action. Neighbors.

              • Oh yeah, neighbors. Only considered blowing one guy’s head off – the guy next to me (in the story I told). Only raised a sword once with intent to use – with the drunk across my drive here in Ohio, who tried to bust down my door to punch me out for telling HIS wife I was gonna call the cops on them! (I never got the chance to run him through – my wife shoved back on the door so hard, he almost fell over the half-height wall that surrounds our porch. The heck with the Mastiff – beware the WIFE!)

  15. Le Clown

    Elyse,
    I’m not one for guns, and I have been loud enough about the topic: guns kill people, people with guns kill people, kids with guns kill kids and people, etc. I’ll leave it at this. But. Glad you are here with us to tell this story, and that your life as a child was not drastically changed that day. Love to you, and your dad.
    Eric

    • You said it, Eric. Guns and the people holding them, using them, dropping them, whatever-ing them kill. That’s what they are designed for. The need for the debate we are having is itself insane.
      Especially for assault weapons. Why does anybody really need one of those? And if they can have one (or two or three) of those why can’t they have bombs? Even nuclear bombs? Hey, in for a penny, in for a pound, right?

      I’m glad my life didn’t change that day too. My dad was a smart guy. Thanks!

  16. I’m not sure what the big deal is. It sounds like Debbie had it coming.

    Seriously, though, I’m glad that day ended the way it did.

    • Debbie was a nasty girl, actually. I was ultimately forbidden from playing with her because she was always insulting, always hitting, always a major bitch.

      Still, I’m glad I didn’t shoot her. I’m glad I didn’t shoot anybody. I am especially glad that my father didn’t keep his Navy trophy for long.

  17. twindaddy

    Dearest Elyse,
    It’s plain to me that you’re just as unreasonable now as you were when you were 3. ;)

    Seriously, though. I don’t think keeping guns in a house with children is wrong in itself. But they better be put up and secured somewhere where the children can’t get them. They need to be taught gun safety, too. I’m sure you disagree, but that’s my two cents.

    Blast away…

    • I do tend to get miffed, I’ll give you that, Twin Daddy. Which is why I would never, ever have a gun around.
      But without a gun around, there will be no gun violence. It’s pretty simple.

      Now, as you know, I am a non-gun person. We, thankfully, didn’t have any in my home growing up, so I wasn’t taught about them. Adam Lanza was taught quite a bit about guns — my outcome is better. WAY better.

      And I will repeat my research conclusions (from the late 1990s because the NRA’s dupes in Congress cut all funding for research into guns, which Obama just put back in):

      For every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.

      • twindaddy

        “But without a gun around, there will be no gun violence. It’s pretty simple.”

        When you word it like that, it’s impossible to argue. And without people, there’d be no people violence. Guns don’t equal violence. Violent people equal violence. And a lot of people are violent.

        You cannot tell me that eliminating guns will eliminate violence, so therefore I have no issue with guns. There were murders and wars long before guns were invented, and if they disappear murder and wars will continue.

        No matter what, humans are the problem. Not guns.

        So here we are again. We should probably just stop discussing this….

  18. I’m with you. One of the reasons I’ve never pursued owning a gun is there are too many things that can go wrong too easily.
    Kudos to Papa FiftyFourandaHalf for thinking about his kids right from teh start!

  19. I never knew my dad had any firearms in the house until I was 10. He took me aside, showed me the three (a target pistol, a .22 plinker rifle, and I think some kind of revolver), explained how guns work and the fact that I would eat meals standing up for the rest of my LIFE if I went anywhere near them, then put them back into a locked case, with a separate padlock. I’ve never seen them since.
    I have no live ammo for my rifles – I’ve only fired blanks down them while re-enacting. We have a box of .38 ammo for the two WW2 pistols, buried in the back of a drawer i the fridge, and the guns live either in a locked drawer for the pistols, or strapped together in a tripod behind a door that remains open. All the neighbors know is I collect swords – and that terrifies them sufficiently!
    Keep guns? Okay. Keep them with kids? Maybe. Keep them locked away and secure? Absolutely. And before anyone asks about home protection, my wife has her own katana, and learned blade combat from the SCA in Dallas. And I, with all my military knowledge, am scared to DEATH of her! :D

    • John, I think that you are a responsible gun person — and not only because you fire blanks. I don’t have a problem with folks who take responsibility for these things. Really. Hunters? Not my thing, but I do get it. Needing an arsenal in case the gov’ment comes for your guns? Nope. Not acceptable.

  20. What a story. Your dad was right–guns and kids don’t mix. I had to share this one on Twitter.

    • Thanks, Carrie. My Dad was a smart guy. I don’t think that adults and guns mix all that well, either. And stupid people and guns? God help us all! Thanks for Tweeting this.

  21. I’m glad my story prompted this post and that they both have a happily ever after ending…..with permanent goosebumps of course.

  22. I didn’t listen to the song. I had something playing in the background. Your words were quite enough.

    You got the nub of it there – access denied. This is what the whole debate is about. Not that 2nd Amendment bull***t, The issue is guns laying around ready for the disasterous impulse.

    Sad that at three and a half you already had the shooting concept ingrained into you.

    • We played a lot of cowboys and Indians back then. I was always the Indian — I was always the one who got shot.

      But yes, impulse control is itself dying — add guns to the mix? Lord.

      Thanks Bill. As always! But do listen to the song at some point. It is just beautiful.

  23. Thank you for sharing this story. Guns are a tricky issue. I agree that kids and guns don’t mix. I’m glad you didn’t find one that day. –Alison

    • I’m glad too, Alison (and thanks for leaving your name!). I have few regrets about things I’ve done. Imagine if I’d started out under such a cloud! Unthinkable.

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