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My Father's Gun

"DON'T EVER TOUCH THAT!", my step-father yelled with a rage a tad more noticeable than my typical wrong-doings would incite. And just like that, my indoctrination was complete.

Hardly my fault if you ask me. Police issue revolvers are shiny attractive objects in general and I was a just a 5 year old boy. Like a fish to a lure, I just had to pick it up. Still, I never cared for being yelled at, so that would be the last time I would touch any gun for a long time. But as my father and my step-father were both police officers, guns were around all the time and there was no lack of follow up lectures on the importance of never touching one. This "indoctrination" as i put it before is interesting in that my fear of guns long outlasted my fear of either father. Its pretty simple actually. The best way to keep from getting hurt with a gun is to avoid them at all costs. If you happen to see one, stay as far away from it as possible. A gun in nobody's hand can't hurt anybody. If someone does have a gun, they must be competent and there is minimal cause to be concerned, right?

About 10 years later, my step-father moved out of my mothers house. He left us rather abruptly, leaving behind anything that wasn't a bare essential. The remnants included a trove of World War II memorabilia that I assume belonged to his father who had died in the recent years before his departure. I was pretty pissed off at the guy and he had lost any respect I ever had for him so I had no problems rifling through anything he left behind, this WWII junk included. In it, I found a gun. Having minimal knowledge of guns, I could say only 2 things about the gun i discovered. It was semi-automatic and it was old. The gun had in it a magazine which was filled with small bullets that said "22" on the rim. I remembered stories of friends that said their dads took them shooting with 22s so it seemed logical to assume that's what I was holding. In case I hadn't mentioned that I was terrified holding this thing, I was. I was excited sure, but I was sweating and shaking. I picked it up, put it down, pointed it at the wall, rinse repeat. I wanted to pull the trigger so bad. Don't worry. I didn't...at first. After a couple of days of painstakingly slow investigation, I had figured out how to confidently drop and reinsert the magazine. I had seen enough movies to know how to chamber a round and was smart enough over all to determine that there was no round in the chamber. Id say on about the 5th day I got tired of being afraid. I put the magazine in and I pulled back the slide and heard the kachink of the round sliding into the barrel. Holy shit. This gun is loaded now and the terror and excitement was entirely renewed. Now I'd like to tell you that I was smart enough to not pull the trigger and for a while I was. But after 2 hours of manually ejecting the round and rechambering another, I couldn't help it anymore. Privacy wasn't an issue. My mom, still distraught over my step-father leaving had made herself pretty unavailable. My sisters were at school. My brother may have been away at college. So with no one around to contest my actions I pointed the loaded gun at a concrete wall in the garage and I pulled the trigger.

At some point over the next year or so my step-father had returned to get the things he had left behind. One day I had come home from school and the garage was cleared out. The gun was gone.

OMG WAIT. WHAT HAPPENED WHEN YOU PULLED THE TRIGGER, MIKE? I suppose it would be a let down if I didn't mention it. But that's exactly what it was: a big letdown. Nothing happened when I pulled the trigger. It wasn't a fluke either. I pulled it at least a dozen more times. And every time. Nothing. The gun had been disabled. The firing pin had been removed - or maybe something else. 22 bullets are rim fire rounds so I don't even know if that type of gun has a firing pin. Whatever the case may be, whether intentional or not, something had been done to the gun to prevent it from firing. Having gone as far as I could go with that gun, I put it away. Regardless of the outcome, the basic truth of this story remains. A young boy, alone at home, found a gun and his indoctrination failed. Don't think I don't know how lucky I am. This story starts the same way all the time. Some variations on the ending, however, make the evening news.

Now as I said, that gun eventually just disappeared. Some of the relics of my moms second husband still reappear from time to time in my brother's possession. I think he staged a raiding party of his own at some point. You'd have to ask him, but to the best of my knowledge, my ex-step-father reclaimed that gun. Other than at my father's house where a gun would peak out in a closet or a glove compartment from time to time, it would be a few more years before I would have any significant interaction with a gun. Luckily, by then, I had managed to gain a little self discipline. Over the next few years, I ran into an idle gun or 2 but nothing eventful or worth mentioning.

Fast forward a couple of years. My brother had joined the family business and the county saw fit to issue him a gun. By the time my brother and I had reestablished our relationship as adults he had graduated from his police issued revolver to a semi-automatic of his own. He had purchased his Beretta from my father. As a non gun person. I had no interest in owning one, but I will admit that I was a bit jealous of my brother for owning something so important that used to belong to my father. That's probably an issue for another blog. The only real useful bit of information here is that my brother had a Beretta. One day, he called me up and asked me if I wanted to go shoot it. I really didn't. But I lied to him and said I did. In retrospect, I don't think he wanted to go shooting either. I think he had a requalification coming up and just wanted to get some practice in beforehand. If he had really wanted to go shooting, he wouldn't have tried to drag me along. But whatever. We went shooting.

I was extremely nervous at the gun range that day. With the instruction of my brother, I felt reasonably confident in my own ability to handle a gun, but holy crap at all the other freakshows at the range. That's what scared me the most: the diverse bunch of people looking way to comfortable with way to much firepower. I couldn't help but think my
brother and I were the only 2 people there that looked like they had any business handling a firearm. Don't gloss over that sentence. Its a very important part of the gun dialog.

Anyways. We fired a couple hundred rounds between us that day. My brother gave me some tips on firing true. I don't remember any of them. As it was my first time ever firing a gun, my primary goal was to hold the gun properly and not shoot myself or anyone else. Where the bullet marked the target if at all was beyond me. While I wouldn't claim that day as being fun, I did feel it was a good experience. For the first time ever, I had first hand understanding of what a gun was capable of. I was probably about 23 years old then. It would be almost a decade before I would handle a gun again. '

A few years ago, I met a guy who knew guns well. As a fellow techno-dweeb, I thought it a tad against the typical grain of our stereotype, but I'm smarter than to pigeon hole anyone like that so to each his own. One day we were working on a mission critical issue which brought us into the office at extremely late hours of the night. Our office was
a low security building in a neighborhood known for its nefarious characters so my colleague (as we'll call him to protect his privacy) made it a a point to be armed for these late night excursions. One of these nights, I walked into the office at about 2am. He obviously wasn't expecting me because he took a defensive posture when I walked in. I wouldn't want you to think that he jumped the gun (no pun intended) and rashly drew down on me or anything. That's not what happened. But while I didn't see the gun, I felt it was obvious that he had one with him. So I asked him about it. He explained to me what it was - said brands and numbers that meant nothing to me at the time. (CZ 85 combat 9mm for you gunophiles that wanted to know). He asked if I wanted to see the gun. Of course I didn't want to see it. I am a liberal for christ's sake. I am extremely anti gun. I wish they would ban firearms like in Europe and all that. What would I want to see a gun for? So I told him I wanted to see it. He then produced the 9mm semi-automatic pistol from a concealed holster, pointed it at the ground, dropped the magazine and cleared the chamber letting the round fall to the ground. Then he handed me the weapon and went fumbling around the floor for the runaway bullet.

Now as you remember, I'd handled the Beretta before but it had been a long time so for the most part it felt like my first time holding a gun. It felt pretty good. I futzed around with the pieces parts of the gun for about 5 minutes before handing it back to him. He put the mag back in, chambered a round and holstered the gun. This opened up a
new line of conversation for us as we worked and over the next few weeks I learned a few things about shooting and what not. It turns out that my colleague was a competitive shooter in a local amateur IPSC league (or whatever you call a group of guys with guns). The useful part of this information is that I now had, as a friend, a competent gun
guru. I asked him if I could go shoot with him sometime and he was cool with that so over the next few months, we went to the range a few times. I became proficient at handling and firing a hand gun with reasonable accuracy. Enjoying what was turning into a new hobby, I jumped on the internet and started to research. At 32 years of age, I had decided to buy a gun.

My colleague had advised me to get a concealed weapons license first but that made no sense to me. First of all, I did not have any intention of carrying my gun with me. I am extremely non-violent so carrying a gun would be against my core beliefs. second of all. Why am I going to get a license to carry a gun if I don't have one? Well, I know the answer to that now. When you buy a new gun, for the first week or so, you spend a lot of time holding it. pointing it, dry firing it (just pretend with no bullets). A bond develops between you and the firearm. Its just as with anything else, a guitar, a golf club, a baseball mitt, a computer, a surfboard or whatever...no gun is the same as your
gun. This bond is so strong in fact that it wasn't very long after owning the gun that I was about to leave the house one day and thought of my gun, "I want to take this with me." 2 weeks later, I went to a gun show and signed up for the concealed weapons permit class. Let me tell you something. If you want a good reason to have a concealed weapons permit: Go to the gun show and take that class. Look around at the 30 or so other people that will be carrying guns in the near future. None of them should be. All of them will be.

So I completed the class. All that was left was to write a check and send the papers. There was only one problem. The gun I bought sucked ass. It's my own fault. I read enough about the gun before I bought it to know that it was going to suck. All sorts of people had reported problems with it. But it felt cool and looked cool and since I wasn't planning on carrying it anyways, why not right? What a mistake. Every session at the range revealed about 5 jams per hundred rounds. The only round you could count on was the first round. Everything after that was a crap-shoot. My gun wasn't much good for anything but home protection and only if I hit the target on the first shot. With no money responsibly available to purchase a reliable replacement gun, my concealed weapons permit became extremely low priority. I never sent in for it. I really don't know the statistics on it, but I feel confident that in a life or death situation, worse than having no gun would be to pull a gun that didn't work. So my gun went into the bedroom drawer and there it stayed.

(for the gunophiles) The gun was a cz-75 compact 40. Don't ever buy a .40 gun if it was originally made as a 9mm. It's unnatural and guarenteed to cause problems.

So anyways. As I reached the age of 35, I had managed to become an anti-gun person with a gun that I never used. Once in a while a concerning noise at night would get me out of bed and I'd grab the gun to go investigate, but otherwise that was it. Until...

I had bugged my dad a few times over the last couple of years to sell me his old 380 auto. It was an Indian Arms .380 auto which is a pretty rare knock off of the Walther PPK. The police department had long since declared 380s to be inadequate defense firearm and cops were no longer allowed to carry them. So while my father had been retired for years, the gun had been retired for a lot longer. My dad wasn't a gunophile anyways and didn't have any real interest in guns past his requirement to carry them. It made no sense for him not to sell it to me. He had suggested that guns were dangerous and I didn't need one, but that argument was voided when I bought my own gun. For 3 years, he wouldn't budge. Then to my surprise, for my birthday, he gave it to me. I bonded with that gun fast. While .380 is considered to be the bare minimum for self defense guns, this one was twice as bad-ass because it was rare and because it was my fathers. Once again I couldn't help but think "I want to take this with me". So with a renewed interest in firearms, I finished what I'd started 2 years earlier and acquired my Florida concealed carry weapons license.

I can assure you, I never want to shoot anybody. I don't want to hurt anything ever. I get depressed whenever a rodent makes its way into the mouse traps I had to set up around the house. Just ask anyone who knows me, I won't even step on a bug if I think I can rustle it outside. From what I've read, most CCW license holders feel the same way (about people. I probably stand alone on bugs). My politics are still anti-gun. But logic doesn't currently support this point of view. Conservatives will tell you the liberal politicians want your guns. They may - they may not, but its a non-issue as they all like their jobs. People don't carry guns because they are liberal or conservative. People carry guns either because they are criminals, or because they are law abiding citizens that have done the math. After I overcame any previous indoctrination and lack of education about guns, I did the math too.
I am not an NRA freak saying "you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers." I am someone protecting himself and his family saying "you can have my gun when you take everyone else's" and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

I hope if you stuck this out you notice that there are many situations in my story where I am holding a gun, but not all of them should I be. While I am not preaching early age education of firearms here, I can't help but wonder if this is another example of abstinence failing where education in responsible usage may have prevailed. My later education and experiences with guns have made me extremely respectful of them and just as responsible. Assuming you are not attacking me or my own, a loaded firearm in my hand is never any danger to you. I am a liberal democrat. I believe in Global Warming and a woman's right to choose. I support green energy and saving the whales. I think old rich people should pay more taxes and everybody should be guaranteed affordable health care. I am against offshore oil drilling and I think shooting animals for sport is atrocious. I am a pacifist who enthusiastically voted for Barack Hussein Obama and I am always carrying my father's gun.

[6/11/2014] - Its interesting. I wrote this years and years ago 10 sounds about right. Some of my views have changed. Some haven't. I don't think being in the NRA makes people a freak now. I get flak for that and other points sometimes in emails and private messages. I wouldn't vote for Obama again if I could, not because he is liberal, but because I think he is ineffective at being president. I don't feel it would be right to revise the blog, but I hope people understand that with new knowledge and experiences comes new ideas and tweaks to old ideas. - MVC