I cannot recall just how old I was when my Grandpa Laatz taught me to shoot. Not yet ten, I know that for sure. We used his .22 auto-load rifle. It was a relatively light rifle and pretty good for a boy learning to shoot. There were a number of other times we went shooting together, mostly with his .22 pistol.
Later I bought a .22 bolt action rifle from my Uncle Dave. I had it a number of years, plinking a bit now and then. I often looked at hunting rifles in the hardware stores and sporting goods stores. I went hunting a few times, though not often. I never did bag anything. Lever action Winchester .30 and M-1 Carbine were my weapons in those days.
After high school I entered the Army. Now the M-16 was my weapon, along with a lot of other toys they taught me to use. I really liked the grenade launcher. You pretty much just had to get the round in the neighborhood of your target, the explosions were exciting, and you could keep your distance. Staying away from an armed enemy always struck me as a good idea.
My favorite weapon, however, was the M-60 machine gun. Portable, more or less. Quick to break down and assemble. The .308 round traveled fast and hit hard. With tracer rounds it was easy to walk in on a target. You could put out a lot of rounds and it made me feel like Superman. Give me enough ammunition, an elevated position and a clear field of fire and I was Superman.
Yep, that day of training was one of the best. I came away from the firing range feeling powerful. The next item on the training schedule deflated that feeling, however. Napalm. Not our napalm, either. It was the napalm the enemy would call down on that nice elevated position with the clear field of fire. Next thing you know, Superman becomes Cinder-man.
Since then the U. S. military has added a lot of new toys to the things we had "back in the day." I don't keep track of all of that stuff. It isn't a particular passion of mine. Still, I have some awareness of the new toys and what they can do. Destruction has never been so easy and so complete.
Many of my friends own guns. Some, probably most, simply own guns because they like guns and shooting. The weapons have an inherent charm for many of us, and the act of shooting is a skill that can be useful and has that wonderful sense of power associated with it. I still like guns and shooting, even though I haven't owned one for a long time.
Why not? The return is not worth the expense for me. Guns are costly, and require considerable care if they are not to become a danger in the household. The laws in most places around the country don't permit the carrying of such weapons for "self-defense." Additionally, the outcome in court is no longer favorable for the shooter even in self-defense. There are other self-defense alternatives that won't land you in prison.
Some people associate the ownership of a gun (or a great many guns) with freedom. Indeed, the gun has been a significant part of American history and freedom has sometimes been the consequence of their accessibility. The ownership of guns is a freedom still protected by law.
There are people, good people, who hold their guns as insurance against tyranny. They genuinely believe that, should "the government" overstep it's bounds and begin repressing the people, they could take up their arms and fight the oppressor. I suspect many of them get a good feeling from holding all of that firepower in reserve for preserving freedom.
I cannot maintain that delusion. I remember napalm.
Sun & Moon
7 hours ago