Thursday, June 26, 2008

Speaking of Gun Control

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened around spring, 1959. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

So today, for the first time since the Bill of Rights was ratified, the Supreme Court said that, yes, it means individual citizens have a right to own guns, at least for home defense. As some of you may know, my views on gun control are insane. I not only oppose gun control, I think the government should give guns out to people who can't afford them. Poor people need self-defense, too. The constitution says people have a right to lawyers, and the courts have decided that means that if you're too poor to hire one, the government has to provide one. That's the way it should be with the right to bear arms. It doesn't make sense to tell me I can bear one, if I don't have one. And ammo. Make mine an Uzi, thank you.

I've never used a firearm. There's three reasons for that. One was the old student deferment, and the high draft lottery number. Another is the ongoing poverty, preventing me from purchasing one. The third has to do with my Father.

When my Dad came back from Taiwan in 1959, I wanted to patch up our relationship. From age six on I couldn't bring myself to initiate a conversation with him. It was extremely awkward, and I wanted to break out of it. What I felt I needed was for him to offer to do something with me that I could stand. For that to happen he needed have some minimal respect for me, enough to pay attention to what I was interested in, and propose we do something having to do with it.

He constantly struck out on this front. He suggested taking me fishing. I hated fishing. He suggested taking me to ball games. I hated ball games. I told him I wasn't interested, and he would throw up his hands and say, to my Mother, "I can't do anything with him. He hates everything."

One day he was driving me and the neighbor kids to a school event. He started to complain to them that I never liked to do anything. He said, "Like right now, I know that if I offered to take him to a firing range and teach him to use a rifle, he would turn me down."

I jumped at that. I said, "Would you do that?" He said he would. He was shocked that I finally found something we could do together that I was into.

If the offer had been to take me hunting, I would have turned it down flatly. I don't have any desire to kill my own meat. But I was fine with target practice. And at the time (I was 9) I hadn't ruled out the possibility that I might want to enlist some day. Wouldn't it be handy to already know how to use a weapon?

It never happened, of course. All the talk about, "He never wants to do anything," was just abuse. It wasn't really about what I wanted or what I rejected. It was about having an excuse to put me down.

For the next four or five years whenever he tried to use that line on me I said, "So, OK, when are you going to teach me how to use a rifle?" Each time he would grit his teeth, and say, "I've told you before. Soon." And then he'd change the subject.

Eventually, I got tired of that game.

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