And I have never been under any illusion that I would use my guns for “home protection.” Especially given that they are hunting rifles, not semi-automatic people killers, it would be a pointless exercise anyway. I can imagine the scene as I ask an assailant to wait while I finish loading my muzzleloader.
I don’t own any of the “crazy” guns either, and I am not preparing for the zombie apocalypse. And yet, I am in doubt about my gun ownership. It troubles me.
Oddly enough, it is the joys of hunting that have pushed me to reconsider owning guns. This fall, when I was waiting at the crest of the hill for the turkeys to come into sight, and could hear their foraging getting nearer minute by minute, I was plotting destruction. But the feeling was sweet. When pointing downrange onto a pheasant recently flushed, I feel the thrill of absolute connection when I know that I am dialed in to this bird’s death.
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.
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.