Gun ownership in America – basic skills, how and when to use your firearm – used to be as American as apple pie. Then, for over 50 years, liberal politicians, media, and anti-gun activists harangued against guns. The tide is again turning. Americans are getting back to owning and understanding guns’ goodness.
In the 1970s, three-quarters of Americans owned a gun. Growing up in Maine, our living room had a gun rack, hunting rifles, and shotguns. Like most around town, we had snow shovels, rakes, and guns. On weekends, friends and I shot hand-slung clays with a shotgun, or cans, bottles, and junk with a .22.
In Boy Scouts, every summer camp – and boys’ camp in my town – had a sand-backed rifle range. It was standard fare. We learned how to be safe, capable, and proud of getting better with .22s. We liked it.
As kids, we got a driver’s permit at 15, a license at 16, and suddenly got real about responsibility behind the wheel, graduating from dirt roads and lake ice. Most also learned to be responsible with firearms. It was like learning to cut away from you with a knife, use the parking brake, respect double yellow lines.
Then the world became anti-gun. We forgot guns are fine if you learn how to use them properly, practice, think, act as you care. City dwellers, liberals, and know-it-all media thought guns were bad, made lots of noise, killed animals (which we ate), and could be dangerous in untrained or stupid hands.
They were not wrong about the power of a gun to kick, create food, protect the family, deter bad things, or create a mess if used by a reckless person. But anything in the hands of such people is problematic.
Weapons could be anything, a car, truck, boat, ax, maul, knife, letter opener, slingshot, broken bottle, or a rock. In the hands of the wrong person – people not trained to respect – anything is a weapon.
The thing is, lots of things are not good for hunting, protecting the family, deterring bad guys, target shooting, or doing good things by practice and training, with purpose and intent. Guns are. That is why guns came into being, and 50 years ago were owned by everyone, with not a lot of attention.
So here is the deal. The Supreme Court – and average Americans – are rethinking the value of owning a gun. Last year, a record-breaking 20 million guns were sold; within that number a remarkable number to law-abiding, well-trained women and minorities. See, e.g., The New Face of American Gun Ownership Black women are pushing against the (white, rural, and male) stereotype.; Gun sales surge among women, certain minority groups; Record number of Blacks buy firearms, boost overall gun sales during COVID-19 pandemic; U.S. Bought Almost 20 Million Guns Last Year — Second-Highest Year On Record.
That is good news, not bad. Communities where gun ownership and training are high, as before, are safer. Bad guys hate good guys – and good women – who know how to handle a gun. Bad guys fear the citizen marksmen – and markswomen, so they steer clear. That is how it should be.
Two weeks ago, I took time to refresh my skills, put 1200 rounds on paper targets, and remembered how to do basic things – in my case learned in rural America, Boy Scouts, and the Navy. I felt great afterward, how you feel after a refresher in CPR, remembering how to do something you once knew well, and don’t do enough.
This is how America should be, confident in skills that make us more secure, safer, competent. This is why renewing a driver’s license, private pilot’s license, or continuing education in your profession is important. This is not rocket science but is what keeps us on our toes and the nation strong.
Funny enough, as a historical fact, General Omar Bradley in WWII was once asked how American boys did so damn well against the highly trained German army in WWII. He was reminded that when that war began, America had one kid-rich division, while German had 60 battle-trained divisions.
Bradley did not miss a beat. He said American kids learned to shoot young, in their backyards, squirrels, birds, tree branches, bottles, anything. They knew and were confident with firearms, easy as that. He just had to train them for combat.
WWII ended the way it did, in part, because kids self-trained with guns, defending freedom, their brothers, girlfriends, and families on foreign soil, were way ahead of mere goosestepping soldiers. The boys of Pont de hoc, Normandy, Anzio, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, and a thousand other places, were ready.
So, stepping back 20 paces and forward 75 years, some lessons are worth relearning. Americans have a bit of the pioneer in them, readiness to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, and unapologetic about what they do and know, the rest of the world notwithstanding. And we are relearning how to handle firearms.
This is today’s lesson. Do not be afraid of firearms or of learning how to manage one, care for, maintain, and shoot one with focus and ease. Like learning to drive a car, use a knife, chop wood, shovel snow, and hunt, getting good on a gun is a good thing.
Our countrymen knew how to be smart, sharp, and confident with firearms; we should be too. The world is a dangerous place; face it. But if you know how to handle, keep safe, draw, aim, fire, and protect lives, you are smack in the center of American tradition. Don’t apologize; just keep it fresh.