He loves everything about guns, this son of mine. Buying them, cleaning them, and especially shooting them. Especially that. He’s good at it.
I could blame his attraction to firearms on video games or his obsession with monsters and aliens when he was little, or that my brothers and dad once took him to the gravel pit when he was about twelve years old and came home proudly exclaiming that he was a “Helluva Shot” while he sat off to the side, beaming with pride. Maybe he just likes hitting a target. Who knows?
Here’s what mothers of grown sons do know. They come home for shorter and shorter visits and you want to spend as much time as you can with them so you do what they want to do while they’re home. Even on perfect September days when what they want to do is shoot guns at the gravel pit and you haven’t shot a gun in forever and really have no desire to even though you can.
And so, off we went. We took turns. The couple of cans I actually managed to hit were more luck than skill. I spent the rest of the time watching my fine, broad-shouldered son handle and load his guns, focus on his targets and hit every one. Everything he knows about guns and shooting he has learned from his uncles. This is part of what he has already inherited as a member of our family.
It is easy, during a week like the last one when innocent people have once again, become victims of a mass shooting to hunker down in whichever bunker we find ourselves for whatever reason when it comes to the issue of gun control. It is easy for people on both sides to say, “See? Here we go again.”
I wish I had the answers. I wish I had never seen the faint scars from bullets on the dark forearms and legs of several of my students from the south side of Chicago. I wish a tall, soft-spoken, basketball player from Detroit had never told me that he’d done prison time when he was barely an adult for killing a five year old at her kitchen table with a stolen gun during a drive by shooting. I wish I didn’t worry about some angry, bullied, middle schooler bringing his dad’s handgun into my daughter’s classroom, too, but I do. All the time.
I wish that having “Active Shooter” lock down safety training wasn’t a necessary part of the fall workshop agenda for teachers, but it is. That tragedies like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and so many others didn’t make me sick with dread at the thought that one of my grown babies might be in the wrong place at the wrong time at a sporting event or concert or in a quiet restaurant on a Saturday night.
Guns and hunting are part of the culture here. If you grow up in rural Minnesota, you are taught from a young age to respect firearms and use them responsibly. That they are weapons, not novelties or toys. We are taught never to aim at anything we don’t intend to either destroy or eat. I learned all of that growing up. Most of you reading this probably did, too. Thanks to his uncles, my son did. Clearly, far too many others have not. We see it more and more. The fact that these individuals own guns is what keeps this mother, this teacher and citizen, awake at night. I wish I had the answers.
So if you do, please tell me. Because there are monsters under my bed.
And I’d like to get some sleep.