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Constitutional Rights – Duncan and the .410

This is not about – for or against – gun control.  It does not address how many bullets should be in a clip, after all, it only takes one bullet.   I will not comment here on the current debate on assault weapons.  The point of this is to explore the changes that have occurred that brought me to today.  My changes in attitude are born from experience.

I have lived through a horror that I hope no one ever has to address, I lost my brother, Duncan, on Christmas Eve.  He was murdered with a gun, his own gun.  Please, don’t send condolences, it just makes this uncomfortable for you and me.  Tragedy visits us each in it’s own time.  My own relationship with guns has morphed dramatically throughout my life and that is my point here.

When we were kids, everyone had guns.  Sometimes, in the ’60s, the Dads would take us kids to a gravel pit at the end of our road to shoot clay pigeons and target practice.  Guns were not for protection or hunting.  They were the left over relics from our father’s war or .22 caliber rifles used for target practice.  I never thought about guns except on those rare occasions.

Fast forward 20+ years.  I had an aunt who lived at the end of a long dirt road in NH.  Her farm was far off the main drag and she kept guns to ward off the critters, both two legged and four legged, who violated her privacy.  When she died and the family went to clean out the house, one gun, a Smith & Wesson  .45 revolver issued in WWI, came into my brother’s possession.  The gun was unregistered.  It traveled with him when he moved from New England to Houston, TX.  It ultimately was the cause of his death during a struggle in his home.

At the time of his murder trial, the gun sat in the courtroom, silent witness to the proceedings.  I was horrified when, during a break,  one of the defense team picked up the gun and began twirling it, cowboy-style like a toy.  But, in truth, it was just an object.  It did not kill my brother – a human did that.

From that moment on I wanted nothing to do with firearms.  I made it clear to friends and family that there were to be no guns in my home.  Through the years I had friends who hunted and while I understood the sport and art of it, I would not touch a gun.

In 1989, still reeling from the death of my brother and the trial, I happened to pick up a copy of TIME Magazine.  Across its cover was emblazoned the headline:  DEATH BY GUN.  The article chronicled the rise in statistics; America’s toll in one typical week was 464 people killed by guns.  It showcased a 28-page portfolio of the faces behind the statistics of one week in May when 464 lives were lost.   216 of the victims, nearly half, turned the weapon on themselves.  22 deaths were preventable accidents.  America was waking up to the crisis of guns in our society.  (Note: total gun deaths as listed by www.gunpolicy.org/ for 2011 were just over 33,000.  This includes suicides, accidental and intentional vs. just over 24,000 in 1989 taking the average of 464 per week and multiplying by 52)

This was before Columbine, VA Tech or more recently, the Newtown School shooting.  We have to wonder what has caused this escalation in killings with guns?  What shift took place in society where anger, frustration and stress lead people to pick up a cold, hard object that literally removes them from physical contact yet allows for such horror?  Raise a fist, physically assault, even brandish a knife and you touch the flesh of the one you wish to hurt.  Stand back with a gun and you get none of the proverbial “blood on your hands.” You are removed, distant and the result is final.

I have lived on the back side of my mountain for several years.  I have dogs to whom I trust the sanctity and comfort of living  by myself.  I expect them to, first put out a warning, appear threatening and then bite the balls off anyone trying to take away my personal peace and possessions.  When those dogs that I trusted to protect these inalienable rights failed miserably.  I got a gun.

My possession is a small .410 shotgun.  It suits me as it is light and easy but not terribly fast to load. It takes  enough time to get a shell in the chamber that I have usually calmed down to the point of never pulling the trigger.  The blast that ensues when I do apply pressure is enough to deafen my right ear for a moment and painfully knock my right shoulder back.  The first time I shot it at a metal garbage can and saw the total destruction;  the ragged gaping hole in the aluminum, I understood and respected the danger it could bring.

So when I hear or read the politics and the opinions of outlawing firearms, I try to remind myself that everyone comes to their own conclusions based on their experiences.  I try not to climb on a soapbox and beat my breast about the right to responsible gun ownership.  I repeat in my mind the tired yet so true slogan – guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  And I look at how far I have come in my struggle with gun ownership.

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