I know that the issue of gun control have long been a subject of intense controversy and the National Rifle Association’s extremist positions coupled together with last year’s shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut have really inflamed things lately. But it was the recent shooting of a Navy SEAL that has rekindled old memories for me that should provide a different perspective on the current gun debate in the United States. (In other words, this isn’t the usual liberal "Guns are dangerous! Let’s have total gun control and ban all guns!" rant.)
After knowing gun owners and reading stories about other famous gun owners in the media, I have concluded that there are three different categories of gun owners. The gun owners may overlap into more than one category but there are still three distinct cagetories nonetheless.
Category One are the ones who have to carry guns as part of their jobs. These people may be serving in the military or they may be working as a police officer or as a security guard for a private company or even as a personal bodyguard for a very wealthy person.
Category Two are the ones who are recreational gun owners who use their guns to go hunting or skeet shooting.
Category Three are the ones who are totally obsessed with guns and they sometimes express the joy they get out of using their guns to kill.
The gun owners in the first two categories tend to be very reponsible owners. They tend to lock up their guns when they are not in use. These people tend to talk about other things besides guns and killing. They are pretty well-rounded individuals.
The gun owners in the third category are the ones you have to be leery about. They are the ones who will brag about owning guns to the point where they may describe the model and make of a particular gun. They may express constant joy over killing animals with their guns. They may even express contempt for people in favor of gun control. They believe that the less restrictions on gun ownership the better. They also tend to not have many other interests besides guns.
(More after the jump...)
Former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle definitely fell into both Categories One and Three. Initially he had to carry a weapon when he was sent to Iraq as a sniper. But he seemed to relish in being a sniper so much that he later wrote a best-selling book where he bragged about killing 160 people during his sniper career in Iraq. After he left the Navy SEALs, he formed a security company with other former SEALs whose motto is "Despite what your momma told you, Violence does solve problems." He appeared on the military-themed reality show Stars Earn Stripes. He also helped established the FITCO Cares Foundation, which helps military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It was during his duty at the FITCO Cares Foundation that he decided to help a vet named Eddie Ray Routh get over his PTSD by having him and a friend, Chad Littlefield, accompany Routh to a Texas shooting range. After the three of them arrived there, Routh used a semi-automatic handgun to kill both Kyle and Littlefield by shooting the two men at point-blank range.
While I feel sorry for the families of the two dead men, I have to wonder what were they thinking when they decided to accompany a man suffering from PTSD to a shooting range in an effort to help him get over PTSD in the first place. I'm no PTSD expert but I've read enough interviews with psychiatrists and others in the mental health field familiar with PTSD to know that such individuals suffering from that condition tend to go off whenever they hear loud noises. Apparently the loud noises somehow mentally transports the vet back to the combat zone and it can be really hell for that person. As a former Navy SEAL and combat veteran himself, Chris Kyle should've known better than to expose someone suffering from PTSD to loud noises and dangerous weapons.
While Chris Kyle initially fell into Category One when he first started his military career, he definitely was stronger in Category Three in that he seemed to relish in the memories of his days as a sniper in Iraq and he had the attitude that guns are the solution to most problems. Unfortunately that attitude cost him his life at the age of 38.
Sadly people like Chris Kyle are not that unusual. I once knew a man who also fell into the third category and he definitely was different from gun users I knew who fell into the other two categories.
I have relatives who are or have served in the military both past and present. They have or had access to a gun as part of their duty. But none of my military relatives ever expressed slavish devotion to guns or came even came close to Chris Kyle in their attidues towards guns and violence. They view guns as nothing more than a tool, albeit one that has potentially dangerous consequences if misused, so they definitely kept their guns locked up so they fall into Category 1.
As for those in Category 2, my husband has a step-brother who is an avid hunter. While his home is decorated with the heads of animals he has killed in the past, he doesn’t go around bragging about his guns or how he loves to kill. In one of my last visits to his home before my husband and I separated, my husband’s step-brother had recently returned from a hunting trip to Alaska with a few friends. He talked more about the scenery in the wilds of Alaska. He also said that Alaska state law allows a hunter to kill only one grizzly bear during hunting season so once he successfully killed a grizzly, he just had to go on enjoying the Alaska scenery.
My mother used to have a co-worker at one of her old jobs whose husband went a bit further than my husband’s step-brother. He worked as a police officer (which puts him into Category 1) but he used to enjoy going hunting on weekends when it was hunting season. He initially started hunting with a rifle (which puts him in Category 2) but, as time went on, he decided to switch to hunting with a crossbow and arrow. He strongly felt that hunting with a rifle gave him an unfair advantage over the deer and other animals he frequently hunted. He decided that hunting with a crossbow and arrow levelled the playing field and gave the animals a chance to escape.
Now we are getting to the heart of this rant. Here is my experience when I met someone who fell into Category 3.
After I graduated from high school, I spent my freshman year attending a local community college while I lived at home with my parents. Writing was among my many interests (in addition to doing arts and crafts) and I planned on majoring in journalism once I transferred to the University of Maryland at College Park. I found that the community college had a newspaper which had only put out new issues on a monthly basis. I met the volunteer staffers there, liked them, and began to spend my free time in the newspaper office. At the time the newspaper office was located next to the campus radio station (whose frequency didn’t extend beyond the grounds of the Student Center on campus) and the radio station staffers and the newspaper staffers used to wander over each other’s offices to socialize.
There were some people who hung around both offices who never did work for either the newspaper or radio station. One was a guy whom I’ll call Joe Blow (not his real name). Joe was a couple of years older than me and he took college classes one or two courses at a time while he worked in the campus mail room sorting and delivering mail throughout the community college. I spoke with Joe and I thought he was okay to socialize with. He didn’t express any interest in dating me when I first met him. I thought he was friendly but I didn’t feel any immediate attraction to him. I thought Joe Blow was just a friend, that’s all.
At the same time, in one of my classes I had a classmate whom I’ll refer to by his middle name, Paul. He was a pretty nice guy and we got along together. About a month after classes began, he asked me out on a date. I accepted and had a good time on the first date. There were more dates and Paul and I soon became boyfriend and girlfriend.
Paul began to hang around the newspaper office during his free time because he wanted to be around me. Joe Blow saw us together and I told everyone at the office that we were an item.
One day, about a month after I began dating Paul, Joe said that he liked me. Joe gave me his phone number written on a piece of paper, told me to give him a call, then walked out the door. That weirded me out because Joe knew that I already had a boyfriend, I introduced Paul to him as my boyfriend, and he even saw the two of together a few times. I really started to care about Paul and, to be honest, I just was not attracted to Joe at all. I threw the slip of paper away and didn’t give it much thought.
Soon afterwards Joe began to ask me out and I kept on saying "No" because I already had a boyfriend. Joe then tried to come on to me by using this phrase: "I’ll lick your thighs for a quarter." It became his catchphrase for his failed attempt at getting me to leave Paul for him. He told me that Paul was a loser and I was a winner and I deserved someone better like him. He even said that Paul was merely a student who had a part-time job at the now-defunct Mammoth Mart while he had a much better job with a brighter future working in the community college campus mail room. Joe pretty much implied that he was destined for greatness because he worked in the campus mail room.
When Joe wasn’t trying to get me to leave Paul for him, he would brag to me about his gun collection and how good he was at shooting targets. He even had this "witty" catchphrase that was just as bad as his "seductive" catchphrase: "People who favor gun control ought to be shot."
Even though I kept on telling Joe that I already had a boyfriend and I only wanted to be friends with him, Joe just didn’t take "No" for an answer. One weekend, when I was home doing homework, Joe called me even though I have never given him my phone number. (Either a mutual friend had given him my number behind my back without my permission or Joe just looked it up in a phone book and began to call everyone who had the same last name as mine until he found the right house.) He began to claim that he was psychic and he was able to use his psychic powers to find my phone number. He even said that he had my street address and he began to read that address over the phone. (Again, he probably either got it through a mutual friend without my consent or he found it in the phone book along with the numbers of everyone listed who had the same last name as me.) He started to yak on about how he was more suitable for me than Paul because he had his mail room job and he had an impressive gun collection (which I had no interest in seeing). He also kept on talking about his psychic powers. I told him I had a boyfriend but he didn’t want to give up. My father saw that I was distressed so he told me to get off the phone. I relayed my father’s message to Joe then hung up. I was so glad when I ended that conversation.
Paul was less than thrilled with Joe’s pursuit of his girlfriend and he became angry when I told him about that bizarre phone call from Joe at my home. When we were both in the campus newspaper office, the phone rang. I picked it up and foud that it was Joe on the other end of the line. Paul told me to give him the phone and he angrily said to Joe that he would beat him up if he kept up with his pursuit of me.
At the same time, things between Paul and I weren’t going quite as well as I wanted. Joe’s unwanted pursuit of me didn’t help the situation at all. As I kept on dating Paul, he told me about his past growing up in a dysfunctional family (among the highlights: he caught his father having sex with a woman who wasn’t his mother when he was 8, his mother abandoned the entire family when he was 11 and she rarely saw or communicated with the kids very often since, he had a brain tumor at 13 that nearly killed him, his father tried to start a fistfight with him during an argument when he was 15) and he was seeing a psychiatrist on a weekly basis because of that. At times he would say that it was great that someone like me cared about him while, at the same time, he would tell me that he didn’t want to be tied down to anyone at his age. (We were both 18 when we started dating.)
By the spring semester my relationship with Paul started to wane. He started to either break dates or stand me up. We had planned on going to a Saturday-night dance that was being held at the community college and he decided to break that date at the very last minute. I decided to go to the dance on my own, where I happened to run into Joe Blow. Joe was elated that I arrived on my own and he actually got me to go out on the dance floor with him. I danced with him for a little bit but I really didn’t feel right dancing with him so I ran out of the dance and drove home.
Shortly after that incident, Paul said that he talked to his psychiatrist about his indecision as to whether to be in an exclusive relationship or to have a less exclusive relationship where we would still be together yet we would be free to date others on the side. He told me that his psychiatrist recommended the latter and said that we should do it. I was very reluctant because I really did love Paul at the time. I finally decided to go along with it in the hopes that he would get the idea of dating others out of his system.
One day Joe Blow asked me out on a date yet again. This time I said "yes", not because I suddenly became interested in Joe. I planned on dating Joe just once, hope that Paul would go on one date with another woman, then Paul and I would decide to renew our relationship and date only each other exclusively. I know it sounded sleazy to lead Joe on like that and, as I look back on this, I’m not proud about how I was using Joe just so I could please Paul by going along with his decision that we should date others. I was 19 at the time and I was pretty inexperienced in dating and relationships. (I was dateless in high school.)
So Joe and I ate at a restaurant. I don’t remember much about the restaurant’s name or the quality of the food. The conversation was awkward and stilted. The only thing I remembered was that he talked about his gun collection and how much he liked shooting. I really didn’t have any kind of romantic feelings towards him and I realized that it was because Joe and I really didn’t have much in common. (I think there may have been a couple of rock bands that we liked but that was about it.) I really regretted going on a date with Joe. I should’ve listened to my initial gut reaction when Joe first pursued me and not have anything to do with him. I definitely learned the hard way to never go on a date with anyone whom I’m not even interested in.
Soon after that date Joe continued his pursuit of me. He kept on saying that he was better for me than Paul, his campus mail room job proved that he had more money and a better future than Paul, and he had his impressive gun collection. He kept on using that gross "I’ll lick your thighs for a quarter" line while continuing to prove his "wit" by repeating that "People who are in favor of gun control ought to be shot" line.
Ironically, Paul didn’t even date anyone else while I went on my first and only date with Joe. He later told me that he felt too awkward to ask other women out while he and I were still in a relationship. So, during our last date, Paul told me that his psychiatrist told him that it was time for him to break up with me.
I was totally crushed because I lost Paul, who was my first serious boyfriend. At the same time, I really had no further interest in dating Joe and I felt that Joe’s continued pursuit of me was getting old. So I drew this crude cartoon mocking Joe (I don’t remember exactly what I drew but I think I may have put in a balloon of him saying that "I’ll lick your thighs for a quarter" line) and posted it on the bullentin board located on a wall between the offices of the campus newspaper and college radio station. That cartoon did the trick because I got a phone call from Joe that night saying that I have totally hurt his feelings.
About a week or two later I got word from friends that Joe was in the hospital. I learned that Joe was cleaning one of his guns without checking first to see if it was loaded. That particular gun was loaded. It fired a bullett at Joe’s foot. That’s right, Joe Blow shot himself in the foot! (Talk about the jokes writing themselves! LOL!) About a week later I saw Joe on crutches with a cast on one foot hobbling around in the hallways. I didn’t say anything to him because I was pretty jaded by the months of his pursuit of me.
Joe hobbled around campus with a cast and crutches for the rest of the spring semester. By that point I had decided to transfer to the University of Maryland a year earlier than originally planned for a variety of reasons. Joe’s pursuit of me wasn’t the main reason why I wanted to make the early transfer but it was one of the many factors in my decision that it was time for me to go to a different college.
I did see Joe one last time but Joe didn’t know it. It happened two years later. I was in the second semester of my junior year of the University of Maryland and I was looking for a summer internship. I had arranged for an interview with a company that was located in a town near my parents’ home. The interview was on a Friday morning so I decided to go to my parents’ home Thursday night and skip my regular Friday classes so I could use my parents’ car and drive to the interview.
The interview went pretty well for me but I ultimately didn’t get that internship. (I ended up doing an internship elsewhere.) The company where I interviewed was located near the community college where I spent my freshman year so, after the interview ended, I decided to visit that campus for the heck of it.
So I walked around the grounds of the campus for a while then I went inside the Student Center. I got a soda from the cafeteria and briefly poked my head in the offices of both the campus newspaper and the radio station. I didn’t see any familiar faces so I decided to walk out the front of the Student Center when, on a bench in the lobby, I saw one familiar face. Joe Blow was sitting sideways on a bench with another student (also sitting sideways). A chessboard was between the two. Joe was clearly concentrating in deciding on the next chess move. His gunshot wound was healed since he wasn’t wearing a cast and I didn’t see any crutches or canes near him.
I could’ve walked past Joe and his chess buddy towards the door but I was afraid that Joe would notice me and try to greet me. By that time I was about 4 or 5 months into a new relationship with a man who later became my husband (and who is now my estranged husband) and I still had the bad memories of Joe pursuing me while I had a boyfriend. I just didn’t want history to repeat itself. I decided to turn around and walk out a side exit instead. Joe never knew that I was there briefly looking at him.
That was the last time I ever saw Joe. While I was typing this rant, I did a search on Facebook using his real name, which was pretty easy since Joe had an unusual biblical-sounding first name. (Something like "Josiah.") When I saw that Joe wasn’t on Facebook, I did a Google search on his name. I found that he was listed in only MyLife.com and WhitePages.com. It’s possible that he may have a website, blog, or Twitter account under an assumed name but he doesn’t have an online presence under his real name.
I only know that Joe Blow now lives in the same town where I grew up in and I even have a phone number. There is no other information I could find about Joe Blow. I have no intention of ever calling him because I still have memories of how unattracted I was to him and how he bragged about his gun collection and his college mail room job. (You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if he still worked in the community college mail room. LOL!) For all I know, there might be a Mrs. Blow on the scene and I really don’t want to be the Other Woman in anyone’s relationship. (It’s bad enough that I have a friend who became the Other Woman in my marriage.) I’d rather let a sleeping dog lie with his gun collection.
The only moral to my real-life fable is this: Avoid anyone who has a total obsession with guns. If that person does nothing but brag about his/her gun collection, avoid that person. Anyone who is that obsessed with guns tend to be less careful with keeping the gun safely locked up or doing something totally stupid like cleaning a gun without checking to see if it’s loaded first or taking a vet suffering from PTSD to a shooting range. People who utter unfunny phrases like "People who favor gun control ought to be shot" show a lack of caution towards guns or other potentially dangerous objects (like cars).