I grew up around guns.
One of my earliest memories of a gun is when my dad's friend Pepe came to visit us when I was around four years old. We lived in a trailer on 8 acres of land, and about a hundred feet from behind our home was a dry creek bed.
Pepe and dad set up some gallon milk jugs and used them for target practice. I was curious, but quickly decided I didn't like the loud noises and went inside. Dad and Pepe watched me walk back to our house and then finished shooting their box of ammo.
One other experience sticks out in my mind from this time. I got a BB gun for my 6th birthday. Dad took me out early one morning and we walked through the woods, he had his rifle and I had my BB gun, and we were looking for squirrels.
Dad told me we were hunting squirrels, but I was relieved at our lack of success. One, I've never eaten any squirrel and I couldn't imagine how it'd taste mixed with mac and cheese. Two, skinning and cleaning a dead animal terrified me.
As we walked, Dad told me stories about how his grandpa took him in the woods where they hunted squirrels. It wasn't a sport, it was to survive. We never had to hunt or fish to fill our bellies at home, but my grandparents had a freezer full or fish and they relied on to put their money to use other places.
I don't remember the first time I shot a gun. When I was in Boy Scouts, I completed all the requirements for a Rifle Shooting merit badge. One of my favorite moments from this experience was learning how to load and shoot muzzle loading rifles.
Every one of these experiences taught me to respect guns, and I've never had a moment in my life where a gun has terrified me.
But I can easily imagine how terrifying it'd be to be threatened by a gun.
When I was 13 or 14, I was playing baseball and this kid on my team told us all to gather around his gear bag. We all huddled up, and he pulled out a little revolver with tape wrapped around the handle. I wasn't convinced and told him he needed to take his toy gun home. He pulled it the rest of the way out of his bag, popped open the cylinder and pulled a bullet out to show us.
That was the first time I thought it was messed up that just anyone could own a gun.
I don't own a gun. I don't feel unsafe in my home or life without one, but I understand why some people do.
My grandma was at home one night, and for some reason my Grandpa wasn't home. There was a knock at the door, and a lady standing there said she was selling vacuum cleaners. Grandma told her she wasn't interested and asked the lady to leave. Her house had a screened in porch, and so this conversation was happening with my Grandma standing at the inside door and this lady standing outside the porch door, maybe six feet away.
The lady wasn't taking no for an answer, she started to open the door and told my Grandma she wanted to come in and show her just how much dirt a Hoover vacuum cleaner could pick up from her rugs.
We had a few people come by our house with the same offer, and it was right in line with how they sold Hoover's back then. Grandma told this lady she didn't need to see it because she already used a Hoover and was very happy with it.
At this point, a man who'd been standing out of view jerked the screen door open and started walking towards the door where Grandma was standing. As he entered, she pulled a .357 from her housecoat and put it in this guy's face.
In a cool voice I can almost hear, she said, "You need to leave, or I'm going to start emptying this gun in your direction." The guy and his partner took off.
Grandma was keeping her pistol in her housecoat because several older couples in her rather rural part of Northwest Louisiana had been tied up, beaten, and robbed in their homes by people posing as door-to-door salespeople.
She wasn't going to get added to that list.
I'm not afraid of guns, but I can understand why some people are.
My Grandpa died many years later in a car accident. He was driving his truck, visiting family about an hour from his home, and someone ran a red light. They destroyed his truck, and a few days later he passed away in a hospital surrounded by family.
After he died, Grandma would load up one of my cousins and take her for long drives. They'd talk, and maybe grab a bite to eat and head home. When they went on these drives, my Grandma would drop her .357 into the storage bin in her door. When they set off, there was no particular destination, but they always found themselves in the town where the lady who hit my Grandpa's truck lived.
This happened three or four times before my Grandma realized she hoped she ran into this lady. She never did, but when she told me about these drives she wasn't sure if she would've shot this person or not. When Grandma realized why she was taking these drives, she stopped taking them.
Powerful groups on all sides of this issue have turned us against each and turned this debate into a zero-sum game. Every time I see a new story about another mass murder, or see a gun debate meme pop up in one of my feeds, I think of these stories. I remember the line between a good guy with a gun and everyone else isn’t as clear as we like to think and remember someone owning a gun isn't a threat to me or the people I love.
I can see both sides, and I just wish we could all sit down and talk without screaming (online or in-person) at each other.