I stood just the way Mr. Mitchell told me to, with my feet shoulder-width apart. My two small hands gripped the pistol. I raised my arms straight out in front of me and sighted down the black barrel at the soda can 30 yards ahead of me. The pistol was heavy as Mr. Mitchell reached over my shoulder and released the safety. I moved my finger to the trigger and prepared to squeeze. That’s when I saw the bee hovering next to the barrel. I didn’t want to scare it by firing the pistol, so I did what any six year-old with a gun does. I tried to shoo it away—with the gun.
Well, fortunately, I did not shoot myself or anyone else that day. I was well supervised by people who were calm and collected enough to allow me to finish my turn. I may have even hit a can, but I don’t honestly remember. My remaining times on that camp’s rifle range were spent collecting brass bullet casings with guns nowhere in sight , and my afternoon activities turned toward swimming and horseback riding.
I didn’t grow up with guns. I’m not aware of any of my friends’ households having guns in them. I didn’t know hunters. Where I came from, guns belonged to cops and crooks. I knew several police officers, and saw them carrying their weapons, but I didn’t know any gun owners who were not in law enforcement. It was just not part of my culture.
As I grew older and formed political opinions, I took a pretty harsh view of guns and even advocated banning them. Then I moved to Seattle and was introduced to different elements of gun ownership. I went shooting at a friend’s house. Her father competently and responsibly guided her friends and I through the use of a variety of firearms ranging from 22 caliber pistols and rifles to a 12 gauge shot-gun and even an assault rifle. I admit, that it was fun to see a gallon bottle filled with water explode under a burst from and SKS assault rifle. Aside from the fact that I was useless with the shotgun, I actually wasn’t a bad shot.
I have no desire to own a gun. I hope that I never have such a desire. I have no interest in game hunting either, although I recognize it as a more honest way of obtaining meat than going to the supermarket. I’ve even made peace with the Second Amendment for the most part.
Still, there are things about guns, and peoples’ behavior that I just don’t understand. In all the coverage and discussion and soul searching about the heinous events in Tucson this weekend, one such thing caught my eye. It’s, at best, a peripheral issue, insignificant relative to the larger questions raised by this tragedy, but nonetheless, it’s something that I don’t understand. Do I need to? I don’t know, but here it is.
Apparently, in the wake of the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords, sales of Glock 19’s, the type of pistol used in the attack has shown a marked increase. Why is this? Is it a fear reaction that the government is going to take all the guns? Did the Glock 19 perform so well on Saturday that it sold itself? If it had jammed, would sales be down? Is it something more insidious, a tacit approval of the crime? I just can’t think of a reason on Earth why sales of a weapon that had been used in an attack as heinous as the massacre in Tucson would increase after the incident. Can someone please enlighten me?