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June 8th, 2022

Gun Owners: We Are Not All Of Us Afraid For Our Masculinity, Or Driven By Bloodlust

…and those of us that aren’t anyway, are reachable and open to ways and means of getting these mass shootings under control, and especially away from our schools. But there are a lot of stereotypes getting in the way of having that conversation, and in the interest of clarity and hopefully a little progress, let me add a note about what motivates some of us to own, and enjoy shooting guns.

A friend on Facebook recently asked us what sort of fear we have that compels us to own a deadly weapon, and what is its basis.  But it’s not always fear that brings the gun into your life, and it’s not always a masculinity crutch. I’m a gay man and I made my peace with masculinity issues long ago. A constant low level of fear isn’t all that surprising given the state of the world and the society we live in. Some of us were bullied growing up. You read the newspapers and watch TV and you see violent crime happening all the time. When the fear of it gets preoccupying or paralyzing you should probably get some therapy. The well adjusted among us watch the neighborhood, stay aware of our surroundings when out and about, look out for our neighbors, keep the doors locked, and maybe have an alarm system installed. Some of us also keep guns, as opposed to katanas or pit bulls. We do not all of us live in fear, just in a world where you need to be careful and aware.

But…bear with me now…there’s another, atavistic fascination that attracts some people to guns, that isn’t about bloodshed or killing anything. It is, I think, a uniquely human attraction, and one that can also be very dangerous in a person without a strong moral sense, plus a lot of common sense about safety.

Fire.

I was a kid who loved thunderstorms, the stronger the better. I would turn off the lights in my bedroom and throw open the blinds and watch raptly. It drove my mother crazy, she hated thunderstorms. We would both go around the apartment and unplug things when a bad storm was coming (I still do this). But then I would go watch. I loved the fireworks displays on the 4th, setting them off with my friends and their families behind the apartments where we lived, and I wondered why we couldn’t do that all year. When friends and I went camping, I was often the one who took charge of the campfire, getting it going, feeding it, and meticulously putting it out. I have a friend who also loves that duty and that also, unsurprisingly, is a fellow gun owner. The thrill wasn’t merely in making fire, but being its master. Since I was a kid watching the first astronauts going into orbit, I’ve always envied their view from space, but also that amazing ride to it on fire. There’s mastery. That humans can do that with fire is just amazing.

So when I was a young man, and a friend back from a tour of duty in the marines invited me to come shooting with him, and he let me try his Ruger Mk1, I think I was hooked at the first shot. Hitting the target wasn’t even really the point, more than it was proof that I had that powerful fire there right in my hands, you could feel it in the recoil, so powerful it would blast me apart if it wasn’t safely contained and controlled, under my command. With every shot in the black I was its master. 

Fire. A powerful force. It can burn down forests, wipe out entire neighborhoods. It can heat our homes and cook our food. It can bring down buildings. It can take us to space. To master it is a thrill, but it is dangerous when uncontrolled. And so are guns. They both need to be well regulated. Also some people.

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