Yesterday morning I was glued to the television watching the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre explain why we need more armed security personnel at schools across America. I wrote down my thoughts from a media relations perspective in a separate post since that is my trade however LaPierre’s fear mongering and call for armed nannies made me recall my own relationship with guns.I wanted to share that with you all here.
I grew up around guns. Not in the “I have a bunker behind this secret wall” kind of way. They were just always around.
My grandfather, a retired NYPD detective, had a small collection in his gaming room. As I circled the pool table, practicing my angles and trick shots, I was always under the watchful gaze of several rifles and shotguns. The guns never bothered me. I was more saddened by the deer hooves that bent upwards, acted as hooks for the mechanisms that killed them.
I never touched his guns, not even when my grandfather showed me his old service revolver. I have a faint memory of shooting my father’s .22 once behind my grandfather’s house. I only saw that gun a few more times in my life since my dad kept it locked away in a closet.
It wasn’t until I visited a friend in Vermont that I have a vivid memory of holding and firing a gun. My friend Joe, an Englishman I met at university, took me to an outdoor shooting range. I stood alongside a child, not much older than 8 or 9, who peered through a scope, systematically destroying a hay bail 50 yards away.
Joe unlocked a case and pulled out his .357. This is a large gun by any standards and he handed it to me to hold. He had already prepped me on gun safety and I handled the shiny piece with intense concentration and wonder.
I had never considered a gun to be a mechanism, a machine. I wrapped my fingers around the grip and felt the barrel dip down. Its weight was unsettling. In that moment it became less of an abstraction seen in movies and more substantial, a thing to be mastered and treated with respect.
Joe showed me how to stand and aim as he let off a few rounds. The target on the hay bail shifted slightly with each direct hit. There were no fiery explosions off in the distance. It was really quite lackluster to be honest.
When he handed me the gun again I mimicked his stance and took aim. As I pulled the trigger I waited for some sense of satisfaction, that tightness in my groin that I heard so many enthusiasts mention. It felt more like the first time I took a golf swing and realized why classes were so popular for an apparently simple game.
In that instant I fell out of love with guns. I did not feel connected to the object in my hands. I felt like I was holding something from another planet that I was incapable of understanding. I put down the gun and watched Joe fire off a few more rounds. We didn’t have a beer afterwards or bond as men are supposed to do once they share a new experience together. We drove back to our wives talking about our jobs.
It’s because of this experience that I can understand why people love guns. Just as for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, I believe that for every emotion there exists a counterbalance felt by someone else.
So, no matter how much I disagree, I can understand where Wayne LaPierre is coming from when he calls for more protection of our most precious commodity — our children. It may come from a good place, I can hope for that much from another human being.
Unfortunately, LaPierre “scapegoated” too many industries including entertainment and the media for me to take him at face value. His speech was more calculated than emotional. I could tell by that foreign look in his eyes. I know how it feels to be disconnected from what’s been handed to you.
NOTE: This post first appeared on Medium.