I grew up in Manhattan, with rifles and shotguns in my closet. There was a gun rack and a chest in Daddy's library filled with guns. There was a glass-topped table in the living room with eighteenth-century dueling pistols nestled in velvet-lined cases. We had a beach house in the Hamptons, with a 50-foot pistol range in the basement, and even MORE guns. There were guns in my closet, my brothers' closets, and under our mattresses. Every single one had a trigger lock. The ammo was kept in locked boxes in the beach house attic. In the city, the ammo for the pistol he carried was on a high shelf in a green Army box in the pantry.
My father was a sharpshooting and marksmanship instructor for the USAR (this wasn't his "day job," though) and had a NYC carry permit. He was a lifetime member of the NRA and may have served on their board. (When I went to check, it was after his death. They don't list deceased board members. Wish I knew what he would think of that crackpot LaPierre.) Funny story: Daddy met with the wife of a sitting President. The Secret Service came and searched the room, and then stood like sentries as Daddy and the First Lady spoke. Daddy went to cross his legs, and realized, to his horror, that his gun was in an ankle holster and he was a foot away from the First Lady! He was rather uncomfortable for the duration of their meeting.
My father LOVED guns. I don't know when, or how, his love affair with them started. Perhaps when he was shipped off to military school, at age 11? He hated it, and after two years, went back to school in Manhattan. His father (born in Paris) served in the French Foreign Legion, but I don't remember ever seeing Granddaddy with a gun. He loved to fish. It was his passion. My father hated fishing. And fish. His two brothers love fishing, too, and so does one of my brothers. And my son. We say that he "got the fishing gene." Is there also a "gun gene"?
Please follow below the tangled orange fishing line.
I remember the "Elmer Fudd story," told by Daddy in a derisory tone. My parents bought the beach house when I was 5, and my middle brother was 3. The first week we were there, Daddy looked out the window and saw a man in full camo, hat and all, with a rifle. On OUR property. Daddy told us to get into the house, and went to talk to him. He said that he asked the man exactly what he thought he was doing, walking around with a rifle when there were children present. The man said (according to Daddy) that he was hunting "wascally wabbits who were eating his petunias." Daddy ordered him off the property and told him to never set foot on our land again. Daddy was so obviously contemptuous of this "Elmer Fudd," that it stuck with me.
I moved to Colorado in 1995. I was somewhat delighted, when I was single, to discover the "Make My Day" law. I had several discussions with my father over what kind of gun I would buy. I think we decided on a Glock. I didn't think I'd have any problem getting a concealed-carry permit. All I had to do was take a weapons-training class and pass a background check.
Well...Glocks are expensive. Apparently, I had to pay for it myself. Ack. And the training class, too. No, I could NOT have one of Daddy's guns. After I dumped Kevin the Horrid, I was living in a great apartment in Capitol Hill. Alas, the monthly rent was basically a whole paycheck, leaving my second biweekly check to pay for cat food, gas, car insurance, food, blah, blah. And clothes for work and dates, of course. So I never bought a gun.
I got married, and had more disposable income. But...I married a man who hates and fears guns, and said he never wants one in the house. My son saw some of Daddy's guns, of course, and the medieval weapon collection. But my father died when my son was 9, three years before my father would have taught him to shoot. My son wants to hunt. That makes me queasy.
For the past two years, he has been pestering me to allow him to get a hunting license. He finally accepts that I will not go hunting with him, and neither will his father. He has several friends who, on the weekends, dress in camo, load their family pickups, and head to the mountains to camp and hunt deer, elk, whatever is in season. He's been invited to go with them, provided that he has a license.
I don't want him to have a hunting license. It's not because we're vegetarians. We're not. It's because I cannot bear the thought of my son, my precious, innocent child, killing an animal. I went deer hunting once, in Massachusetts, at 22. I saw a deer, and it was beautiful. I lunged forward and waved my arms, and frightened it away. My boyfriend came plunging through the bushes, whispering, "Did you see the deer?" I crossed my fingers behind my back and said, "No."
I could not possibly stand to see that animal dead. I don't want to think of my son standing over a deer or an elk, gloating. I don't want bloody packages of fresh meat. I don't want my son out in the woods with people that have GUNS and aren't family. Suppose he got shot? Suppose he got lost?
My son is furious with me. He thinks it is COMPLETELY unfair that I got to grow up with over 400 guns and got to shoot some of them. AND had a pistol range in the BASEMENT. And all HE gets is a BB gun. He keeps looking at these absolutely horrible knives on eBay. Gutting and/or field-dressing knives, I think. Scary, nasty-looking things. He's been cleaning and fileting fish for the last couple of years, after fishing with my brother, but we use a carbon steel filet knife. So he thinks he's ready to field-dress a deer. Ugh.
He does play "M"-rated video games, and I understand how violent they are. OK, he's gutted fish. Quite different from a freshly killed DEER. There will be WARM BLOOD. He keeps saying to me, "YOU would shoot a PERSON! I just want to shoot a DEER!" I told him that is irrelevant. IF I had a gun, and IF our home were invaded, then YES: I would react as I was trained. But this is where his argument fails: I do NOT have a gun. A home invader is a criminal, and I do have the right to use deadly force against a home invader. I will protect my family. A deer, on the other hand, is not a menace. A deer will not rob, rape, or kill any of us. Huge difference.
I just don't know what to do. I have told him that I will take him shooting at a range when he is old enough, but he wants to hunt NOW. He IS old enough for a big-game license, at 13. (WTF?!) Am I being selfish? Am I thinking like a New Yorker, when I have a Colorado kid?