I can’t remember the first time I saw a gun. I am pretty sure I can remember my first time shooting. My father took me out to the desert with my brothers. I was four or five. My brothers were five and eight years older than me. Old enough that I thought my brothers were basically already grown ups. I didn’t think of the as kids like me. When they told me to do stuff I had to jump or get hit–same as the grown ups.
I remember my father taking great care as he showed me how to line up the sight on the rifle. I remember the thrill of knocking cans over. I knocked the can off a rock from twenty feet away. It was like magic.
I don’t remember seeing a gun again until I was nine or ten. I can’t remember which. Even when I try to write my whole life out I don’t remember for sure when this happened. The next time I remember seeing a gun was when my father set a hand gun on the couch next to him before he made me suck his cock. When he was done he picked up the large, shiny revolver and he held it to my head. He asked me if I deserved to live. I shook and cried.
When I was sixteen the middle college program I was in made everyone do aptitude tests. Over and over I was told I should go into the military. I am well suited. I would always turn to the teacher and say, “I’d have to touch guns, right? Then–no.”
All of the gun sightings in the rest of my childhood were benign: through shop windows and the like. When I started dating Tom at eighteen there was a sticky issue. He sleeps with a loaded gun right next to his head. If I was going to be sleeping with a loaded gun less than three feet from my head I should probably know how to handle it safely.
When I think of Tom as my Daddy this is the kind of thing I remember. This is part of why I loved him so much. Tom didn’t entirely understand my gun issues. He knew “something bad happened”. Tom didn’t want to know my story. He actively discouraged me spilling all the details. But he took me to the shooting range. He helped me learn safe gun handling and firing. He taught me how to check to see if a gun is loaded. You never touch a gun unless you know for sure if it is loaded or not. My Daddy would make me practice safe handling methods until I was shaking with fear so hard I could no longer physically grasp anything. Then he would take me outside and hold me while I calmed down. Then he would bring me back inside and switch to rifles.
I do fine with rifles. I’m a good shot with a .22 rifle. Quite accurate. It’s the hand guns I can’t handle. It’s the hand guns that make me quake with fear and unable to think coherently or rationally. I believe that human beings have the right to live even if that means we must kill other animals and eat them. I’m ok with being up the food chain. Hunting makes sense to me. Rifles make sense to me.
Hand guns scare the ever-loving-shit out of me. In another year or so I am going to find a gun safety course for Shanna. Calli will have to wait a few years then she will do the same process. My kids will re-up every few years. Guns are tools. I want my children to understand and respect them. They don’t have a Daddy who will teach them. I will have to find a way. I thought Uncle A would do it. But he’s gone now. That happens.
Sometimes I feel daunted by the things I don’t know that I want my children to know. How can I teach them to move through the world without being paralyzed by fear? How can I teach them to be safe without also triggering them learning my ridiculous panic? I don’t know. So far the explanation is, “I know I’m over reacting to this but it’s not necessary. This is one of those places where my brain is being broken. Crying is not mandatory at this stage.”
I’m trying to get to the point where I believe in my gut that the point isn’t about whether you cry or not while you do things–the point is that you do them. I do. I do things over and over. I do things that are very hard for me. I don’t deserve a medal. I do deserve to keep living.
If I ever own a gun it is likely to be a big shot gun. I won’t buy ammunition. I’ll just buy it to practice cleaning about three months before my daughters start dating. I think it is really weird that I have any impulse to laugh and agree with this sort of behavior. Why do I think it is good to threaten teenage boys? Because in general my life experience tells me that boys will be nice and respectful towards a girl if they believe there will be extreme negative consequences for ill behavior. Otherwise they are abusive and terrible.
One of these days I’m going to have to have different life experiences so I can stop hating everyone in the whole world. I hear there are nice people out there. Somewhere.