Sunday, January 27, 2013

Father Knows Best

(Warning:  There is a graphic photo at the end of this post.  Seriously.  There really is.)

Like a lot of Americans, I've been listening intently to the debate over gun controls taking place over the last few weeks.  This is not a new debate, of course.  There have always been the pro-gun faction against those of us who simply cannot fathom why exactly anyone needs an Uzi, at least why anyone who plans on staying within the confines of the law needs one anyway.  Yet, I think the gun lobby was and is pretty strong and very organized, and most people were not motivated enough - probably myself included - to speak up too loudly or often against them.  After Newtown everything changed.  Sad that it took something as incomprehensibly horrific to wake us up, but here we all are.  Throughout the give and take between both sides of the hotly contested issue, I've tried to listen to it through the filter of what I think my father would believe.  I will never know for certain if I have it right, he passed away 21 years ago this coming Thursday, but I've thought long and hard on it, and I think I do.  I think I can honestly say I've respectfully considered his life and his experiences, and thought back honestly and objectively on what he tried to teach me and the values he worked to instill in me, and I therefore feel confident I know what he would say and where he would stand on the issue.

First, let me tell you a little bit about my dad.  If you've read this since the beginning, you know some of this already.  My father spent 21 years in what began as the Army Air Corps and became what we now know as the Air Force.  He was a bomber pilot in World War II and Korea, a test pilot after that, and did his part in service to the Cold War of the 50's and early 60's by finishing up his service in the Strategic Air Command.  I had a complicated relationship with my father, but one thing was always true:  I was always proud of his military service.  I never fully understood or appreciated the emotional toll it took on him, but I think I can say honestly I always knew how important his sacrifice was to the way of life we enjoy now.

My father was also a hunter.  An avid one.  We lived in Montana for that reason - that and the lack of traffic, but I think that was by far the lesser consideration.  He hunted deer, duck, elk, bear when he could get the license (although he never bagged one), grouse and so on.  Pretty much everything but coyotes, which were open season in the 70's.  I don't know if that was for my benefit or not, but the one time he came upon a coyote hunter when I was with him, they exchanged harsh words and he seemed to consider them bottom feeders.  And I did go with him occasionally.  Not all the time of course.  It's a long day, up way before dawn in the freezing cold to drive to a remote location, tramp around for hours in the snow and wind, only to have to drive back with whatever game you've gotten and deal with it at least so it's not just laying lashed to your truck until you can either butcher it or take it to one.  Plus, that's not really why he went, I know that now.  It's like me watching hockey.  It's a way to get outside your own head for a few hours. Can't really do that with a whiny, deer-loving girl tagging along.  And love them I did, even back then.  I wailed and cajoled my dad not to hunt Bambi, all the while eating, without complaint, deer steak, deer jerky, deer heart (particularly good, I'm ashamed to say), and deer burgers.  Elk, I'm also ashamed to say, is equally good.  Duck - well, there's nothing else like it.  You love it or you hate it.  I love it.  My protests amused my father I think, probably both due to the irony of my eating what I was crying over, but also because he saw it as an opportunity to educate me to the reasons why deer hunting was necessary (it was to thin the over-populated herds, in case you wondered).  He taught me to shoot a rifle, although I never did when hunting.  I don't hunt now and don't eat venison of any kind, although I admit to occasionally longing for a helping of deer heart or wishing I could chew on a piece of jerky, but I grew up so immersed in that culture that I get it.  The fact that there were multiple guns in the house was just a way of life.  None of them were assault rifles or had high capacity ammunition clips, however.  He would have thought it both unnecessary and unsporting.

I realize that the Second Amendment is not for and about hunters, however.   Not really.  I realize it was framed by a group of men who had just won their freedom from England by armed insurrection and were framing a constitution to protect that right in the event it was ever needed again in the future, as well as having individuals able to participate in law enforcement or to rebel invasion if needed (what I guess you could call the "Red Dawn" argument).  Some of the people on the far right, the people afraid of Black Helicopters coming for them in the night, have been quick to point this out.  And I've thought about my father in light of that as well.  He fought to defend the United States, our way of life and our Constitution.  All of it.  Yet, he served the Government, the very entity the far, far right feel they need to have the right to defend themselves against in case it runs amok.  I think my father would tell you that our own government, flawed though it may be, is no threat to the safety and well-being of its citizens.  I know, without a doubt, that he believed people have the right to bear arms for personal protection, but again, he owned a pistol, not an assault rifle.

My father was all about responsible gun ownership.  Gun safety was paramount for him.  He was all too aware the horrible things that guns do to other people.  Even though he spent his service as a pilot, he was not oblivious to the horror and human cost of ground war.  The military style guns he was familiar with in war time had no place in our home in peace time.

I think, therefore, I can comfortably say that my father would support measures to prohibit assault weapons.  I believe sincerely he would support background checks for all purchasers.  He would support registering his guns.  I think he would be in favor of all these things because he believed in being a responsible gun owner because he knew they were not toys and what they are capable of.  But I also believe it because I think the thing he fought most fervently for is the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and there are 26 souls who lost that right in Newtown.  And I think he would be appalled by that.


  1. I agree with your sentiment, but I will take issue with the government being no threat to it's citizens - Kent State, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, McCarthy - and these are just the one's we know about. I don't know about black helicopters - but the government is made up of (mostly) men, and men abuse power. Look what Bush did in eight years - he dismantled the EPA, made the SEC toothless, and gave FEMA to some idiot with zero emergency expertise, and a war - with not one senator or rep's son or daughter serving. We got the BP Horizon Oil spill, an economic meltdown, New Orleans drowning, and Haliburton making a gazillion dollars while some 18 year old is getting his leg blown off. Yeah, not really sure about the whole benevolent government thing. I remember when Vice President Cheney was talking about postponing the presidential elections because of the possibility of a "terrorist attack" - they didn't, but they could have. Do you remember:
    Mind you, I am not saying Ted Nugent is right, I am just saying that considering that there are politicians who feel perfectly comfortable with saying that rapist's have a right to make a woman carry their baby to term, and that they don't have to worry about 47% of Americans, I am not so sure that the black helicopter spotters are completely without a point of view.

    1. I accept your argument that the government has done despicable things over our history because it is irrefutable - the list certainly could have gone on, but I don't go so far as to say that the actions of the last administration rose to the level of warranting armed insurrection, because that is a very serious, last resort issue to take. Rather, we have to use due process and the political process, like we did as a country in 2008 and reaffirmed it again this election cycle, and replace those individuals with men and women with a different moral compass. The fact of the matter is that the majority of the citizenry is not armed to the teeth and ready to take down a corrupt government, it is the extremists on both sides of the fence that are, and I'm not sure I sleep well at night knowing that.