I clearly remember the split second in 1965 when I gained a reverence for guns.
Carrying my lever-action Daisy air rifle, I walked from outside into the den where my father relaxed in his recliner.
“Is that gun loaded?” Dad asked.
“No,” I answered, pulling the trigger to prove it.
What happened next was not good.
The BB ricocheted off the fireplace, bounced off the wall and rolled across the floor. I looked down at the rolling projectile, my face burning with fear and embarrassment.
“I’ve done it now,” I thought. “He’s gonna kill me.”
That didn’t happen, of course, as evidenced by my presence today. Instead of punishment, Dad used the incident to teach the responsibilities that accompany guns.
I heeded his words during the next few years while graduating to a single-shot .410 shotgun and then to a 20 gauge double-barrel.
I knew the most important rule: “Never point a gun at anything or anyone that you don’t intend to kill.”
I knew without a doubt guns were made for killing. I felt their kick, saw the flame explode from their barrel and heard their thunder. With a mixture of awe and remorse, I watched quail, doves and other small game fall to the ground.
Like many gun owners, I have trouble making sense of the craziness connected with today’s military-style civilian firearms. I don’t know when society stopped revering guns and started worshipping them.
I don’t know why guns became an extension of a video-game fantasy in the minds of outcasts and cowards.
As someone who could get the job done with a single-shot .410, I don’t understand why we need or tolerate semi-automatic weapons that can shoot 100 rounds without reloading.
I also don’t comprehend a bumper-sticker culture that flippantly dismisses victims of mass shootings as unfortunate byproducts of freedom.
“Guns don’t kill, people do.”
The same wisdom could be applied to rocket-propelled grenade launchers, anthrax and nuclear warheads, but do we really want everyone to have access to those weapons?
Making wise decisions about guns should not be so difficult or controversial. American society always is drawing a line between liberty and lunacy. Many states, for example, have decided a 70 mph speed limit on the interstate is more efficient than 55 mph and safer than 140 mph.
When it comes to guns, commonsense tells me the line lies somewhere between a six-shooter and a 30-shot assault rifle with armor-piercing ammunition.
Executive Editor Scott Morris can be reached at 256-740-5721 or scott.morris@TimesDaily.com.