I was brought up with a gun in the house because my father was a police officer. He was a gentle man and never once drew his weapon while on duty, despite being threatened on a number of occasions. I was taught to shoot a rifle when I was about 12 and I could kill a tin can on a fence post at 50 paces. Not long after that I shot and killed a guinea fowl. As the bullet hit the bird it fluttered up and struggled for a second, then fell dead in the grass. I was appalled and have never shot at a living thing again.
If it were a matter of starving or eating, I could shoot an animal, I know that. But I don’t live in that kind of society – I can go to a shop for meat and I do. Killing for fun – which is what hunting is – just doesn’t make sense, it is revolting. There are photos all over the internet of men who clearly believe they are extra-manly and macho as they pose proudly beside a dead animal – a lion, elephant, buffalo, antelope, you name it, they’ve shot one – and I look at their faces and try to figure out what it is that allows them to think it’s okay. Admirable, even.
But it’s not. It’s pathetic. These are people who use telescopic sights, high powered rifles and all the paraphernalia of the modern “safari”. They do not stalk the animal on foot, they have no knowledge of bushcraft. They don’t have the skill or inclination to patiently work their way into a position where a single shot kill is all but guaranteed. The rifles depicted in these “safari” photos are grotesque – huge things that are the equivalent of using a blunderbuss to kill a fly.
A real hunter, like a real fly fisher, is able to kill a buffalo – or land a trout – with the lightest possible equipment. And be adamant that it’s the only way to go. How many so-called hunters these days would have a clue as to where to place a shot in a buffalo in order to drop it in its tracks? How many Big White Hunters on their African safaris have to rely on their hired guns to track and finish off wounded animals after their own inept attempts to kill it?
And what is it about “trophies” – can anyone explain? Home decor has never been enhanced by the addition of a dead animal’s head hung on the wall.
And I haven’t begun to wonder why a woman – a school teacher – would think it necessary, permissible or reasonable to own three high-powered firearms. What is any civilian doing with assault weapons and semi-automatics in their possession? What kind of society allows it? Unfortunately, the woman – the school teacher – is dead; killed by her own weapons, by her own son, so there will never be a chance to ask her these questions. But there are millions of Americans – and many women – who will be lying in their beds tonight, staring at the ceiling and maybe – I hope maybe – wondering about the high-powered military-style weapons they have in their houses; and maybe, just maybe they might be thinking about the concept of self defines, and quite how they imagine they would defend themselves or their loved ones, or 20 small utterly innocent children against their mis-use.
Somewhere I read that more than 10,000 Americans die by gunfire every year. That’s more than double the next top 10 gun homicide countries added together. Guns are not the answer to anything – especially not self-defence; and especially not arguments and disagreements.
Think of those 20 Newtown families whose lives have been shattered, never to be rebuilt. There is no “closure” – that’s a fatuous and insulting idea. There is only learning to live with undying pain. No gun or outdated idea of “freedom” is worth that kind of anguish.