Through the Scope

My dad passed away back in the 90s, and, then, about six years ago, my mom became too infirm to live by herself, and I bundled her up and moved her to Portland. She died five years ago, this evening.

Naturally, I miss her. Every day. In her prime, she was a force of nature. But last Friday night, for the first time ever, I felt relieved she was gone, because, above nearly all things, she loved children, and what happened back in Newtown, Connecticut, would have truly crushed her.

When I went through the frankly wrenching experience of packing up her stuff and selling the homestead, one of my chief concerns was securing my dad’s guns. He’d been an armorer during World War II, and, though he hated war, he retained a fondness for firearms. Cleaning rods and polishing oil lived in his dresser drawer. Out in the country, it was no big deal to take a summer afternoon, line some tin cans up against a hill, and test your skill. Flat out, it was fun, and it was something dad and I did together, knocking off a lot of tin and brass, and having a wonderful time. First off, though, he drilled safety into my head, and made sure I knew the difference between a real gun and the stuff we see on television. Around our house, carrying a gun in a careless manner was a serious offense.

So, when I was cleaning up the house, I made sure I found all five firearms, secured them, and, at home, tucked them into the back of a closet, where I pretty much forgot about them, until my wife told me, honestly, about how uneasy having them made her feel. It took me a little time to wrap my head around it, but, when local gun shops expressed no interest in them–they were neither rare or valuable, I gave them up when the police had one of their regular gun turn-in events.

It was easy. A form to sign. The policeman and I chatted a bit about the pieces, their history and so on, they way guys talk about cars or sports or guitars, and we both took time to admire the old double-barrel shotgun with twin triggers. Then it was done, and we drove away. And it felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach.

Not that I give a damn about having guns: I’ll be perfectly fine if I never shoot another one in my life. But the tie to my dad was so strong, that it felt like saying goodbye to him all over again. That’s part of the mythos that surrounds firearms, particularly for men, and one reason why people become so attached to them. No matter how sane, pacifistic, and level-headed one is, that’s a dark little hunk of history in your hand. And it’s seductive.

But I when came to the end of last Friday, if there was anything positive I could salvage from, basically, one of the worst days in America, it was that those guns were gone, and they could never end up in the hands of someone with the circuitry slowly frying in his head. In short, they’d never hurt anybody. And, you know, they never did.

Sometimes, when the myths grow too dangerous and powerful, it’s time to retire those myths. Time to choose a civil society over fear. Time to grow up.