I don’t do too many guest posts on this blog site, but I found these reflections on getting into guns and gun culture compelling.
By Jeremy Hatfield
I wasn’t always into gun rights. In fact, for most of my life, I was pretty ambivalent about them, and even looked askance at “gun culture” and those who participated in it.
I spent the first 30 years of my life in the South, son of a Republican from West Virginia, and a Democrat from Arkansas. My Dad had grown up hunting and fishing in the Appalachians, and bought fishing gear for the family, but I think my Mom’s fear of guns kept any real familiarity of “gun culture” out of the Hatfield household.
But, it made slight inroads nonetheless. I played with toy guns as a kid (with regular admonitions from my mother about not pointing them at anyone), saw all sorts of TV programs and movies that featured guns, and my Grandfather Hatfield gave my brother and I BB guns as Christmas presents when we each turned 10. Mom would let us shoot those on occasion, but it was pretty clear that we needed to ask permission first.
There weren’t any guns in our household until after my Granddad Hatfield died, and my Dad inherited several of them. But, he never took them out shooting, and it was clearly understood that my brother and I were not to touch them.
Now, I wasn’t afraid of guns. I thought they were cool, and found it a real treat when I got to handle a real one. Like the time a friend stole some .22 cartridges out of his Dad’s closet and we went plinking out in the woods. Or taking a gun handling course in college for PE credit my freshman year. Or going with out to a range in East Tennessee with some of the guys from my church for a “turkey shoot.” But because of how I was raised, the idea of actually owning one myself never really occurred to me.
In fact, the close association of guns with hunting, and hunting with rednecks and good ol’ boys kind of made me look down on the lot of them. After all, I lived in an upper-middle class family, son of two college-educated parents, headed to college myself, and such a pedigree meant you just didn’t associate with “those” people, nor the sorts of things they did. Like four-wheeling. Hunting. Listening to Hank Williams, Jr., and participating in their “gun culture.”
Never mind that my Dad grew up in that kind of culture (sans Hank Williams, Jr. and four-wheeling), but he never nurtured it in my brother and I, probably out of respect for Mom.
Well, necessity had me change my attitudes about two of these things. Having to work a blue-collar job straight out of grad school to support myself helped me appreciate those people. And buying my first gun helped me appreciate gun culture.
What prompted me to get my first handgun was the threat of Y2K during 1999. I worked in the tech industry in South Florida at the time, and I came across the rumors about what could happen quite regularly. And, naturally, I got to thinking about what how prepared I was for such a possible disaster, or not.
I had already gone through two hurricane seasons, and the experience is not unlike how Southerners further north react to snowstorms. Buy up all the emergency food you can, a couple cases of bottled water, and every square inch of plywood you can find. It’s a madhouse.
So, thought I, if these people act this crazy for storms that tend to miss this area (for the three years I lived in Florida, my brother got hit with more hurricanes living in Wilmington than I experienced living near Ft. Lauderdale), it’s going to be much, much worse if we suffer a systemic collapse. How am I going to defend my house and my emergency supplies if the worst happens?
It might not happen, but I thought it better to have it and not need it than to need it in a dire situation, and have nothing.
So, I did some research, picked a model of handgun I liked, and bought it at Miami Police Supply in August of 1999. I signed up for a concealed carry class, too, and obtained my license that same year, too.
Well, Y2K turned out to be a whole lot of nothing, but I wouldn’t call what I had put in preparing for it a waste. Hurricanes would still come, and the food supply and water containers I bought might come in handy then.
And, I had acquired a tool and had started working on a life skill that might also be useful in other situations. Not a loss at all.
I can remember loading it for the first time, putting a round in the chamber, and having this sense of dread about what was in my hand. I was very aware that I was holding something that could end, or seriously mess up, the lives of ten people. And I wanted to make sure I had control over that.
While I didn’t have a lot of time and other resources to devote to training, I did put in some range time twice a month. I did dry-fire, reload, and failure drills at home. And I read a lot about the legal aspects of self-defense and gun ownership.
Along the way, I got introduced to the political wrangling over gun ownership, and discovered that the same camp of political inclinations who I had seen working to sequester my faith in non-public quarters of society also sought to interfere with this other civil right I was just starting to get exercised in.
Like any opposition, it spurred me to finding out if there were any merit to their arguments, and to further explore the moral justifications for owning guns. And, I’ll have to say that in 19 years, my understanding of gun culture has grown, but it seems gun control enthusiasts’ knowledge of the same has not kept pace, and this has held true from the casual social media poster, to heads of gun control organizations who supposedly live and breathe this stuff, to politicians who have made this a pet issue for decades.