Living in the South, this talk of stricter gun control has come to overshadow everything that happened in Connecticut and Aurora and countless other places and it’s been in the forefront of my mind for awhile. I see it everywhere on social media. I hear people talking about it on the street. My family has sat down and had the discussion on where we all stand. There’s no escaping the fact that there is a divide when it comes to owning guns in this nation. Because of this divide, all the opinions I’ve been bombarded by and inundated with, I feel as if I need to say something. Here’s the perfect place for me to vent about my feelings on this topic and hopefully it won’t cause waves.
I can understand why some people in the South are so “Guns don’t kill people, people do! NO GUN CONTROL!”— it’s because, from the time we are all small, we are taught gun safety and how to shoot in a controlled, safe environment and we can’t understand how come others don’t view guns the same way we do— as tools rather than weapons.
We, as a culture, don’t seem to understand why people see guns as so dangerous because we’ve been drilled, quizzed, and tested on how to make guns not dangerous all our lives. So instead, we out the blame on people. “Well PEOPLE are stupid because they don’t know how guns work. PEOPLE make guns dangerous. PEOPLE are crazy, not gun culture.” Because we simply don’t understand how anyone can see these tools as harmful or negative.
Here’s a probably bad analogy: It’s like people who keeps pythons as pets. Some people who visit them at their house will always come in and say, “Oh God, how can you keep that python in here? Aren’t you afraid that maybe it’ll escape and eat the family dog or constrict your baby or something?” And the python owners will shrug or scoff and explain that they’ve taken all the precautions necessary to prevent the snake from being dangerous. They feed it live mice regularly, they keep it in a cozy nice secure cage, et cetera. But the people who are wary of the python WILL STILL be wary of it and the python owner WILL ALWAYS never understand why people are so scared of their pet.
Guns are a part of our culture and our history in the South. They started out as tools for survival rather than recreation or protection. They’re somehjng that’s just constantly present in our lives from the time we are small. Hell, I was given a BB gun at age six and my father treated it like it was a real gun, giving me training like you would to someone who’s about to shoot a rifle rather than a Red Ryder.
My dad told me, “Never point it at any living thing. Not even birds or chickens or dogs or cats. Never point it at yourself or anybody else. Even if the gun’s not loaded. Because you never know when a stray BB might be jammed up in the chamber,” and then proceeds to give me lessons on how to shoot safely.
Anyway, my point is that my experience is almost identical to pretty much all of the youth in the South. And when you get this kind of treatment as a kid, it conditions you to think that guns are NEVER EVER dangerous as long as you— the owner— know what you’re doing and are competent. So the “guns don’t kill people, people do” argument follows naturally for most people.
That may be the case. SOMETIMES. Now here’s where my opinion differs from most people in my area. Guns may not kill people. Okay. People kill people. Alright. But guns make it a helluva lot easier to kill people.
For the record, I have NO issues whatsoever with people owning guns. My parents own guns. I OWN A GUN for crying out loud. I bought one when my ex moved out and I started to live alone. But what I do take issue with is just how damn easy it is to get a gun and CCW (carry concealed weapon license) in this country and in Mississippi specifically.
Allow me to illustrate just how easy it is. When I purchased my .22, I bought it at a gun show. For those of you unfamiliar, a gun show is basically a flea market for guns, ammo, antique weaponry, hunting equipment, military surplus and the like. People go to these because you can find this stuff for a lot cheaper at gun shows than at retailers and sporting good stores. That’s a plus. A negative is that you can also buy guns and ammo there that is not technically legal to sell at retailers. For some reason, there’s a weird loophole for gun shows so they can sell military-grade weapons such as SCAR-H, M16, M4, and other assault rifles. They are able to sell them because they are technically fitted as “semi-automatic” rather than their usual fully-automatic. This means that they’ll fire at three-round bursts instead of a full-out steam of rounds. Anyway, my point is that it is INCREDIBLY easy and affordable to get these kind of weapons in Mississippi.
Upon purchasing my .22 pistol at this gun show, I was surprised to find that the ONLY thing you need to do is fill out a couple of pages of paperwork and then have your SS number run through the system to make sure you have no priors. The paperwork included basic “good faith” questions such as: “Have you ever become physically violent with someone? Do you have a history of mental health problems? Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” Stuff that anyone can lie about. And as far as the background check goes, there are plenty of people without criminal histories that have committed or attempted to commit violent crimes. Anyway, the process took all of maybe 15 minutes and all of a sudden—CONGRATS!— you’re a gun owner.
It’s even easier to get a license to carry a concealed weapon in Mississippi. My dad worked as a security guard and needed to get one for his job. We found out that all you need to do is submit to a background check and pay $135 and— BOOM— you can now carry a concealed handgun legally.
That’s terrifying to me. The fact that semi-automatic weapons and CCW licenses are so easy to purchase and acquire in this state is scary. Because both GUNS and PEOPLE are terrifying.
By all means— buy a gun. But make sure you know how to use it.
By all means— buy a gun. But it there really a need for you to buy a MILITARY GRADE SEMI-AUTOMATIC ASSAULT RIFLE OR A 20 ROUND MAGAZINE to,quote, “protect home and hearth?” Because I’m almost positive a 9 millimeter with an 8-10 round mag will do the same thing.
By all means— buy a gun. But think about whether or not having that CCW is really the wisest thing. Because more trouble is started by carrying a gun around— whether you’re the “good guy” or the “bad guy”— than by not carrying a gun around.
I guess my main point is this, and it’s not all that unpopular of an opinion: Guns are sometimes bad. People are sometimes bad. The two together are sometimes bad. Put together a bad person and a gun and it’s almost certainly bad. So maybe we should think about what it means to buy a gun in this country. And maybe we should reevaluate what it takes to get one in this country. Because, as of right now IN THIS STATE, it is far too damn easy.
EDIT: The attitude towards guns in this nation is far too casual for my taste, also. A large part of people who pick and fire a gun have no idea what it means to fire that weapon. They treat it— for lack of a less cliche term— like a toy. They have no clue that to pull a trigger— even when aiming at a simple paper target— means to have the intent to take something’s life.
I don’t blame the media.
I don’t blame video games.
I don’t blame the cinema.
I don’t blame music.
Because that would be stupid.
It’s all about personal responsibility. My dad took it as his personal responsibility to sit me down when I got that BB gun and tell me— in so few words— that, “When you pull the trigger on this gun or any gun, you need to do it knowing that you will hit something and the result of that will be destructive. You will kill or maim or destroy— but that is the purpose of this weapon. And you never pull the trigger on this gun or any gun without thinking of that.
See, I grew up with what I like to call “a healthy fear of guns.” I knew that guns were dangerous. And though I was trained in how to use them safely and properly, I was still taught that guns are still dangerous and accidents can happen— no matter how much training you might have.
To this day, I know the insides and out of the gun I own. But I am still terrified of it. It lays in my night-stand, unloaded, magazine out and both safeties on because I fear what that gun can do even when it’s just a useless hunk of metal.
And I think that’s what this nation needs to be taught: a healthy fear of guns. You can use guns and know about guns and have gun training but you still need to fear them. Because what follows that fear is respect. And with that respect comes the knowledge that every single time you pull that trigger, you recognize that you mean to destroy.
Can you deal with that? Can you face that and still pull that trigger? If not, then maybe you don’t need a gun. If you can face that fact and still think “guns are fun” then you definitely don’t need a gun.
So there we go. Just another notch on my belt of opinions on gun control from a young, female, more-liberal-than-not gun owner who was raised in a Southern gun culture family and she turned out pretty okay for the most part.