and Brady Center donor.
The gun itself? Well, my husband did his 18 months’ service in the German military back when it was compulsory, in the Cold War days, and learned the basics of firearms there, even though he was happy to secure himself a desk job as soon after basic training as possible. (And military service was a different experience for him than the typical American soldier — it was a 9 – 5 sort of experience, with weekends at home.) Since then, he’s gone to the shooting range with my dad once or twice, has done some shooting with the Scouts at summer camp, and joined an out-of-town friend at a shooting range a couple times.
In the meantime — well, my own father has always owned guns. Growing up, he went deer hunting (not especially secessfully), and rabbit hunting (we’d joke later than he was just going on a walk in the woods), and he said once that they kept the silver upstairs because, if a thief came, as long as he stayed downstairs he couldn’t do anything because it’d just be protecting property, but if said thief came upstairs, he could defend himself/us. So it was a given that he had a handgun, but I can’t say I really gave it much thought. More recently, when we’d come to visit, we’d check that any potentially-accessible guns had trigger locks.
Oh, and my son started this year with the local air rifle club, which may or may not have been a further catalyst. At any rate, not long ago, my husband decided that he wanted to spend some time at the local shooting range, and, knowing that my father wasn’t going to be able to go to the shooting range himself any longer, he asked if he could “borrow” one of his pistols. The “borrow” is in quotes because, in order to get the gun legally transferred from the Detroit area to the Chicago area, it’s necessary to do a full transfer of ownership, so, legally, my husband now owns the gun, but in some larger sense it’s still Dad’s.
So last Saturday it arrived at the gun shop/shooting range, and we stopped by to pick it up. It was interesting to see what the place looked like. As you enter, there’s a big sign that says, “concealed means concealed” and warns customers that they must keep and concealed-carry guns concealed, and any firearm that is visible will be interpreted as a threat and dealt with accordingly. Guns that are being brought in for use in the shooting range are to be in cases and unloaded until entering the shooting range area.They were rather busy, with a wait for the shooting range (with a display showing the wait time), and a sale going on. And there were all types there — though certainly women were in the minority. (Though, interestingly, there were proportionally more women among the employees than among the customers.) Were the customers primarily hunters, or target shooters, or interested in self-defense? I couldn’t say.
As for the gun itself? Well, I mentioned that we checked on trigger locks on Dad’s guns. We’re taking it a step further in our case: the gun is stored onsite; the fee is minimal, it eliminates the need for my husband to take the gun along when he wants to go to the shooting range, and it completely removes the concern about having guns and teenagers in the house. (Not that I have a concern about my boys, but you never know.)
But my husband’s German, and that certainly affects his perspective. In this case, he doesn’t see it at all contradictory to be interested in target shooting and yet also believe that we should be more restrictive in firearm ownership, and more careful in firearm safety. The requirements in Illinois that all firearm owners have a FOID card, and that transfers always include a licensed dealer make a great deal of sense to him, and he likes what the Brady Center has to say with respect to safe gun storage, warning gun owners that, even if they think every family member is responsible, there is still a risk that a teen could use the gun to commit suicide. The even stricter restrictions in Germany, where only “true” hunters and sport shooters may own firearms, under strict conditions, such as active membership in a hunting or shooting sports club, and with further restrictions about type and number, are equally fine for him.
Me? I’m in the middle. Yes, it is clear that German has both a much tighter set of gun regulations (though, ironically, the favorite TV show genre is the “Krimi”, or crime show), and a much lower homicide rate. But I don’t know that America can transform itself into a gun-restrictive country, when the the belief that any (law-abiding) individual who chooses to do so, has a right to defend himself, is so ingrained. And, to be honest, I don’t just mean “ingrained in the American people” but also “ingrained in me.”
After all: consider our different histories. By the time guns came into mass production, Germany had long ago been settled, with even farmers living in hamlets rather than homesteads, and with hunting tightly controlled by the authorities/nobility (and not a lot of game in any case). The same was, of course, not true in the United States.
So there it is. Thoughts?
(Image: own photograph)