I took an NRA pistol safety course (required to obtain a Connecticut handgun permit.) And I was struck by the variety of students in my class. We were 12 in all and came from every strata of society, age and every background. So I asked them what had made each of them decide to take the course and how much experience they had with shooting. They all were happy to share.
There was a young financial services type from Greenwich, well dressed and unselfconscious about having recently purchased long guns and an expensive gun safe without really knowing much about firearms – “I want to have them now before we can’t get them any more.”
A zoftig, blond, single-mom bartender in her twenties – “I just really like shooting guns. It’s fun and I’ve shot with my friend a lot. Now I want a gun of my own. Plus living with my son alone in Bridgeport, getting home really late, at 3 or 4 in the morning, its seems like a good idea.”
A knowledgeable, well-off grandfather who was no novice – “I have several guns and it used to be that you could always come to the range and practice. No big deal. But now everyone needs to see your certification before they will let you shoot. So I decided to finally get mine.”
A shoe repairman from Wilton in his seventies. “I got robbed a while back and felt so helpless. Never again. I will keep a gun in my shop from now on. I don’t want to be a victim.”
A New Canaan housewife (accompanied by her seventy-year-old plus father) who looked equal parts nervous and determined. “Guns have always frightened me but I figure it’s because I’ve never known anything about them. This way I can learn and hopefully get comfortable enough to have my own gun for self defense.”
A tradesman from Norwalk. “I had my permit for years but I let it lapse. A long time ago my wife bought me a pistol. It just sat in my closet with a trigger lock and I never shot it. Then I lost the key and just gave it away to a friend. I want to get my license in case I decide to start shooting again. [He lived close to the shooting range where the course was taught.] I don’t think I’ll buy another pistol unless I start coming here a lot. I mean, I’ve got a hunting license and a fishing license. I may as well have this too.”
A middle management type from Fairfield who said, “I never had any interest in guns. But when the government goes after shutting something down, I figure I should act.”
There was also an illegal gun-owner, formerly from New York city who having moved to the suburbs wanted to legitimize having a gun in the house. “When my wife first saw my holster on my bed’s headboard, she said ‘Get that thing off our bed.’ But now she has changed her mind and she was happy when I got a shotgun to add to the pistol we have. She says she feels more secure having something now that we live in the suburbs.”
Finally there were two young hipster friends in their early twenties. “Shooting is fun. I really like it. I might be getting a gun soon but I’m not sure what kind I’ll get.” And the more thoughtful one, “We have done some shooting and have had fun. I want to be sure that I don’t get prevented from getting a gun once I decide on what I can afford.”
So every possible type of person came to my completely unscientific sampling of prospective American gun-owners, in ultra-liberal, Fairfield county Connecticut. The only common denominators were diverse interests in pistols and a distrust of the government and its motives. Its not surprising when you observe politicians’ blatant disregard for the solid pro-gun orientation of the U.S. population. The final commonality was a responsible instinct to comply with the law and take prudent instruction in how to handle something that can be dangerous.
The urge to own a firearm is fundamental for many diverse Americans. The right to do so is enshrined in our constitution. From this experience, I’d say that America’s ‘gun culture’ is something to be admired not vilified. So what are the underlying motives of the politicians that do vilify it?