guns & loss

This morning, following my yesterday’s blog post, gun uncontrol, I continue to think about guns. From what I glean from news reportage, personal reading, and my encounters with gun owners in public and private conversations, a chief motivator for desiring to carry arms is personal security. I accept and respect what I consider a basic, intrinsic human want, need to self-protect, particularly as we live in an era when mass shootings have become sorrowfully repeatable historical events.

On a recent occasion when I probed further and the dialogue went deeper, what I heard from a proud, years-long, law-abiding gun owner was wistful longing, as I perceived it, for “a back in the day time” when safety was a general, almost taken for granted daily aspect of societal life. Reflecting on what I heard, the passion and the pathos, I understood, I felt a sense of the loss of yesterday.

I have a bias against owning a firearm. In my view, my mere possession of it would increase the possibility of my using it and the risk of an accidental injury or worse. I would feel less safe with a gun in the house and at hand.

In confessing my prejudice, I deem not to make too much of one conversation with one gun owning person. I dare not generalize one person’s testimony of loss to speak for anyone but that one.

Still, I wonder.

Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy has engendered great enthusiasm among his supporters. I think especially of his appeal to his voter base declaring that “Hillary Clinton will take away your Second Amendment gun rights.” In May, speaking to the National Rifle Association, he advocated that Clinton’s security detail “disarm.” Last night in Miami, following his now predictable pattern of doubling down on what is, I think, at best sarcastic innuendo and at worst demagogic invective, Trump urged that Clinton’s bodyguards “lose their weapons,” adding, “Let’s see what happens to her.” These remarks, always campaign stop rallying points, provoke zealous cheering and booing (on its face, oddly perhaps, both expressions of intense agreement).

So, I wonder. Are there other Americans who make a connection between their sense of security in gun ownership, their fear, I think, irrational of having their guns taken away, and their anxiety at the loss of former times, however defined? Highly probable? I don’t know. At all possible? Of course, yes.

Pondering that possibility, I also wonder whether yearning for the past coupled with gun ownership has anything to do with power; the gun at or in hand being a symbol not only of the restoration of personal security and safety, but also the reclamation of individual control in an out of control world.

Here, I dare not universalize my sense of things, but if I believed that more people were carrying more guns more often in more public places, then I would feel less secure.

4 thoughts on “guns & loss

  1. Paul, I too have continued to think about the issue of “gun presence” in our culture as a result of your blog post yesterday. I think your speculations about the assurance of personal safety seemingly lost with the unpredictable mass tragedies ubiquitous today and the feeling of loss of control are spot on. But it is also sadly true that throughout American history the degree to which one could feel safe and in control of one’s own life and future has always had much to do with one’s skin color, ethnic background, gender, and age. There is now a group of Americans who have mostly felt quite safe and in control who no longer feel so secure about many aspects of their society, and those seem to be the people who are relying more and more on guns to preserve not only their safety but the positions, power, and privilege they have assumed belong to them by right.

    Oddly, I can still remember the exhilarating feeling of wearing my six-shooter cap pistols in my Dale Evans holsters when I was a girl in Spartanburg. Playing cowboys with my cousins, I always felt safe and powerful when I had those guns, even though our play was make-believe. The guns protected me and my autonomy, because once I drew them, the target had to give up; if he didn’t, once I shot, he had to fall down and “die.” Either meant I had won. I think about that now and am astonished that I was once completely in thrall to guns as power. It gives me a good basis for understanding what a force our society faces when it faces off against gun devotion today.

    Throughout the sixty-odd years I have lived since my Dale Evans days, I have learned oh, so well that if I have to rely on a weapon for my safety and the preservation of my personal power, I have already lost everything worth living for. I know that my safety, and even that of my family, is not worth what I would have to give up by owning and carrying a gun.

    Thank you for spurring my thinking and feelings about all this, Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mercy, Karen, that you for sharing your powerful reflection of your “Dale Evans days” and the element of earnest power, hence, security via guns in your childhood play. (In a way, your description and depiction reminds me that every joke, in order to prove funny to someone, must bear an aspect of real to life, at times sobering truth.)

      I agree with you that those wedded to their weapons – save hunters, I think (though I, not liking guns, might make an argument of wonderment about the sport of stalking, shooting, and killing an animal) – are, I think, folk who have enjoyed historic societal privilege, which, as our nation continues to vary and deepen in color, is on the wane. (I thought to add the dimension of race, but declined, desiring to focus on the basic notion of a lost yesterday.) continuing with your point, I also believe history is replete with examples of counter resistance whenever the hegemony of the dominant party is challenged.

      Always, Karen, I thank you.


  2. Paul,

    Thanks for continuing this discussion!! So interesting how you mentioned Power in reference to gun ownership!! I too think that is a key element…. Having a gun makes some people feel quite powerful. I try to resolve conflict when it occurs, and like you I feel that if I had a gun, I’d resort to the using it rather than trying to resolve the issue. In my security classes for example, when students begin to ask on the first day of class when they are receiving their gun, I get really worried about their motives for wanting to work in the security industry. I have actually dismissed some folks from class for being too “gun happy” for just wanting to have the power on the job of threatening people with a gun. I’m praying for better in this country!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loretta, I remember your telling me of some of your students who have expressed eagerness to have possession of guns. I, as you, have felt wary of those zealous to hold that symbol – indeed, more than a symbol, but also a tool of restraint and retaliation – of power in their hands.

      I believe, for me, my fear is how wrongly I might employ or be tempted to employ a gun when hurt and angry or resentful. I don’t wish to take that risk.

      The larger issue, of course, as you point out, is where in heaven’s name are we, as a country, going. Praying for the best, what I see and hear is not promising.

      Liked by 1 person

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