Why We Reach for Guns

After my dad had been gone for about two weeks, my mom’s new boyfriend shoved the butt of a.22 rifle onto my right shoulder and folded my thin, 4-year-old finger onto the trigger with his huge, unclean fingers. A few minutes earlier, he had fastened a piece of paper to a fir tree, and now he cupped his left hand around my left hand, pressed it under the stock, and elevated the barrel toward the paper. The moment he removed his hands, the barrel tipped forward, pointing towards the floor just in front of me.

Near our home in Kalispell, Montana, we were buried in snow as we made our way up the side of a mountain almost to the tree line. Our mom took my brother and me shooting with her new acquaintance, driving us there.

It was cold, and that was why I was shivering. The unpredictability of my mother and the newness of my home had left me feeling as though I had no idea what to expect from life.

Never in my life have I ever set eyes on a firearm. I had no idea what I was doing other than trying to reach the target. My understanding of the term “bulls-eye” was limited at best. Though I knew this man was not my biological father, I also noticed that he and my mother were drinking whiskey from a short brown bottle and staring at each other in a way that reminded me of how she and my father had once gazed at one other.

‘Pull the trigger,’ he shouted.

The gun went off right in front of me with the most deafening bang I’ve ever heard. Thrown back, I landed on the cold ground. The heat from the urine melted the cold fabric of my tights and warmed my shivering legs. The agony in my arm from the gun was nothing compared to the humiliation of being touched by a stranger and having to urinate like a baby in front of a guy who was not my father.

It wasn’t until afterward that I realized I should have been terrified of the weapon. Until recently, I had no concept of mortality.

In 1980, when the.30-6 my mother had purchased for my 16-year-old brother accidentally went off in our home, I learned what death felt like. At the age of 17, I was reading in my bedroom. That gunshot sounded like a car crash, with the quick, ruthless crashing of metal and glass.

If you’ve never experienced fear, you have no idea how your body reacts—my body halts. When I get emotional, I can’t speak. Felt like a cold knife was being thrust upward from my stomach.

There was complete silence when the pistol went off, and I’ll never forget it. When I first heard my mother’s and brother’s voices, I knew they were still alive. At that point, I was free to go where I pleased. Sweat-soaked me from head to toe when the panic finally left my chest.

When my brother accidentally shot through a lath and plaster wall while playing with a gun, he thought it was empty. The end product was a hole with a dark ring roughly 10 inches in diameter.

That it was loaded was news to him.

Because he was a fatherless youngster, my mom purchased him the rifle. Whenever I hear someone talk about growing up without a father figure, I think of how we all try to fill that void. To do with firearms and the values they represent.

My mother told me that the police had taken my brother’s gun because he and his friend had been hunting too close to people, but not for another year after I had already moved out. After that, I heard nothing more about it.

A look at the “behind of the gun.” At 8:15 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, 1989, I was a single mother waiting with my rambunctious 3-year-old son for the late #19 bus. As she waited, another woman sat reading the newspaper. A lot of time is wasted waiting when you can’t afford a car.

When the bus runs late, I usually stand there and stare at oncoming traffic, hoping it will arrive soon. That’s why I wasn’t looking back there. A man approached us less than half a block away, and I turned around to see him. My first impression was that he was my brother’s twin. Something isn’t right, on second thinking.

I reached out and grabbed my son by the hand. Hands in his pockets, the man approached and inquired, “Do you guys know where the local police station is?” Once more, I swiveled around to see down the street while I held my son next to me.

One of the women said, “I don’t suppose there is one near to here.”

I was hoping you wouldn’t act as if you could empathize with how I must be feeling about what happened afterward. You can’t fathom what it’s like to have a pistol aimed at you by a stranger with lifeless eyes, your baby right there until you’ve been through it.

That chilling fear has returned.

The man yelled, “Hand over your cash!” Transferring residences was a need. I accidentally dropped my son’s hand. I managed to drop my wallet. I grabbed it; Weapons are obtainable. Fearful for my safety, I withdrew all my cash from my wallet. All three dollars. Other women were in tears. She gave him her last two bucks and handed them over to him.

Our lives were in danger; a gun was pointed in our direction. A single motion is all that separates you from certain death now.

I’m sorry, he said.

He proclaimed, “I’m a piece of sh*t.”

I figured you were lawyers or something,” he remarked. Then he quietly turned around and started to walk back.

Immediately, a report was filed with the police.

A total of five dollars were taken from him. He robbed us blind.

What’s coming up is something you won’t enjoy. You’ll probably think less of me because I have a kid at home, but I went and got myself a gun, and now I take it about with me—a Smith & Wesson for the woman. The gun was a.38 revolver. For nearly two years, after a man with lifeless eyes pointed a gun at me while I held my 3-year-old son’s hand, I carried it every day.

At two in the morning, someone shook the door handle to my house, crept around quietly, and peered in through the windows, which is when I realized the pistol was inside. I didn’t have the urge to shoot him. Instead, I contacted the authorities.

The evening I was washing laundry at a coin laundromat, and the gun was in my purse. A man walked past numerous times, peering at me and the parking lot through the plate glass windows as if he were a lion pursuing its prey. I wore a white sweatshirt and blue jeans. That sense that something is wrong has returned. As he entered, he pushed the glass door to the inside. All I could see was us, him and me. His hands are trembling, and his eyes are laser-focused. Not correct. He offered to compensate me for an hour of my time—a full hour of my attention. I put my hands on my hips, straightened up, and commanded him to get the f*ck away from me while keeping the gun hidden in my handbag.

Upon alighting from the bus late at night after a long day of work, I was holding the gun when an indecent man exposed himself to me. As I drove around the block, he did the same. After giving the cops his license plate number, I started thinking about the gun. A punishment followed his capture. He was 19.

What could provoke me to kill another human being is beyond my comprehension. There is nothing I own that someone would risk their life for. That’s when I decided to put down the pistol.

I put the rifle and the few letters and photos I had received from my father as a child in the cedar box I had received as a graduation present many years before. To keep it out of my son’s reach, I hid it. There was no way to dispose of it that wouldn’t include giving it to another person, so I hid it. The key to the chest was misplaced on purpose.

A reference to the gun’s existence was last mentioned in 2006.

Someone who says, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” has never experienced more than they could handle. As for why I couldn’t handle it all, well, that’s another tale.

I had the kind of depression that makes you feel like you had bricks strapped to your feet—suffering from depression where the only thing that brings relief is contemplating suicide? That’s how it was. I had a plan to end it, but it didn’t involve the firearm. On the other hand, a man I was seeing at the time was worried. He opened the cedar box’s lock, removed the rifle, and secured it with a newly acquired trigger lock. When we broke up a few months later, he kept the key.

The weapon has been removed. Never again will I be a gun owner.

I was raised without a father figure or a male companion due to my own free will and the circumstances of my upbringing. My father and, eventually, my male partner seemed to be replaced by the firearms I grew up with. Due to the rifle I possessed, I felt secure.

In our world, no one is safe, male or female. However, most gun owners I know keep them for their safety. The issue is intricate.

All the standard safeguards that anyone would take are ones that I also use. For the most part, I follow my gut. Meet people’s gazes directly. After putting in long hours at my corporate job, I was rewarded financially. Having more disposable income has allowed me to avoid formerly dangerous environments, including residential areas, public transportation, and even the laundromat.

The security price was too high, costing me opportunities to be creative and spend time with my child. That, however, is a different tale. In retrospect, I would make different choices, leaving myself open to reclaim the chances I passed up because I falsely believed the money would provide safety.

Many on both sides of the gun debate seem to have easy answers. We can continue our conversation in one of two typical ways: with fury or stubborn insistence. However, we can all agree that action is necessary.

The kind of fear I experienced is corrosive to the spirit and can change the course of a person’s life forever. Gun control, to me, is learning to live a good, real life without being controlled by fear.

This post is originally taken from “Trigger Finger: An Essay on Gun Control” By Kirsten Larson.

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