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Why I'm giving up my guns

While Piers Morgan and Alex Jones were having a gun control debate on CNN, I was having my own internal debate. I am an avid hunter, but the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. made me realize that as a gun-owner, I am unwittingly abetting the narrative of American violence.

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There is a weighty satisfaction that comes with carrying a gun in my hands. This “steel that fires lead,” to quote writer and former gun-owner Andre Dubus, tempts the holder with surety in an unpredictable world. Carrying a gun is an act of sheer presence. Carrying a gun, by extension, becomes a claim, an irrefutable argument that its wielder also cannot be ignored. Even the pheasants that I’ve missed – and their numbers are legion – will remember me forever in their puny birdbrains.

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How much more powerful then is that statement, that irrefutable image, of carrying a gun to human beings. Something that can kill a human opponent demands a sobering recognition. If you will, to carry a gun is to embrace the power to nullify life.

And the grief of death is no place where I want to stake a claim. But the presence of guns in my house is a sinister whisper in the back of my head, a reminder of this lethal power.

When I carry a gun in the woods, I assert my presence in a clear way that I don’t often get to experience. I stake my claim to life as well as my power to end it. When others carry guns in their homes, or in the street, they stake a similar claim. Our motives and aims may be different, but we both look like killers.

Years ago, I had idly dreamed of finding or founding a “liberal’s” gun shop, in which hunters who loved hunting – but not the entire culture of gun ownership or semi-automatic weapons – might feel comfortable. I’m not sure that’s possible any longer.

I am not sure I can abide the similarity between my guns and those that have committed unspeakable atrocities. I am not sure that I can carry a gun, even to hunt ducks. The slaughter of the innocents at Sandy Hook and many other places will be too much on my mind. The gun’s sibilant whisper that called their killers into the darkness will be too loud, and too horrible.

So I will give up my guns. I will make my household a place into which anyone may walk, without fear of being killed, and out of which no one will carry the instruments of a massacre.

With what, then, will I hunt? I’ve always been fascinated with atlatls (spear-throwing tools). I also hear that one can hunt birds on the wing with “flu-flu” arrows. I certainly won’t kill as many pheasants, but at least I won’t be a man with a gun. 

Dr. Samuel J. Findley is an instructor in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Penn State, Altoona. He is also a hunter and (soon to be former) gun-owner.


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