This Is Not A Post About Gun Control.
It really isn’t.
This is a post about guns. But not about legislation. I promise. I’m not trying to trick you. This is actually a post for responsible gun owners. For people who hunt as sport and people who keep guns locked away for protection.
This is about the difference in the way that I grew up with guns and the way I see other people grow up around guns. This is about a strange attitude I see amongst some gun owners and I’m thinking it’s time for the OTHER gun owners to step up and start talking about it because NO GUN OWNER IS GOING TO LISTEN TO THE BLEEDING HEART LIBERAL. I see a behavior that needs shaming and no gun owner is going to care if the #ImWithHer girl has thoughts on guns, but they WILL care if YOU – a responsible gun owner – shames them.
First, let’s talk about me.
I grew up in a house with guns but they were NEVER EVER EVER toys. They were never bragged about or played with. When Dad cleaned his guns he did it seriously and constantly preached respect and care and proper use. Guns had a purpose and that purpose was serious and therefore we only ever took guns seriously. My Dad grew up on a farm and then was in the military. Guns were for hunting/animal control or weapons. They were NEVER toys.
Now, that said, Dad did shoot guns for practice (not for FUN) at his family’s farm. Hee let me try once and it really freaked me out because I’m just a high-anxiety person and he was totally okay with that and never pressured me to try again. He did not think guns were something for everyone. As a matter of fact, many years later he was cleaning his guns and had them in pieces and I was telling him how it really freaked me out just to see them, even in pieces. I was telling him because I was confused that I was having such a strong reaction and he said, “That’s okay. A lot of people feel like that. It is okay to be scared of guns, I’d much rather you be too scared to use them than not scared enough and not use them properly.”
Now, we didn’t live in the best part of town. Our house got broken into in 5th grade. Crime happened nearby often. But Dad did not talk about protection with guns. He had us all keep bats by our beds. Bats can be used to break out windows if they won’t open and bash in anyone trying to hurt you. “Just swing as hard as you can.” No big deal. As a matter of fact, he kept a bat by his bed. Not a loaded gun. He once told me that you want shooting a gun to be a decision you make deliberately because you’ve assessed the danger and a gun is the weapon you need. You don’t just grab a gun because you are scared about a noise in a house.
I didn’t really get that until years later I heard about a father accidentally shooting his daughter’s boyfriend sneaking out one night. I wondered if those were the type of situations Dad worried about, and so that’s why his first weapon for the middle-of-the-night noises was a bat.
I had a friend whose Dad was a detective and I remember him telling us about a rookie who got benched because he was cleaning his service weapon on his desk. I don’t remember where he was supposed to clean his gun, but I’m guessing in an office with people walking by constantly was not the place to do it. I also had friends who hunted and wouldn’t let their kids hunt with anything but bows until they felt like they were proved they could treat guns with respect and maturity. They took them to gun rangers for practice and taught them how to clean them and store them and then HOW TO PUT THEM AWAY AND NOT EVER TAKE THEM OUT UNLESS THEY WERE PLANNING ON USING THEM.
Once, as an adult, My Dad took someone I knew on the farm and gave them a chance to learn how to shoot a gun. This person had never been around guns and – BEFORE THE GUN WAS LOADED – they were a little cavalier about how they were holding it. My Dad evidently lost his shit and gave a long and serious (and loud) lecture about how to hold a gun and that if you allow yourself to be lazy about safety when the chamber is EMPTY then you will not have good habits when the chamber is FULL and you will accidentally blow someone’s head off. I remember this friend telling me, “Um…I always thought it was strange when you talked about your Dad’s anger because he’s so quiet and mellow all the time. But, uh, I get it now.”
That’s me. That’s how I grew up around guns. They were tools that killed and should be respected as such.
Now, let’s come to the issue at hand.
Why don’t I hear more gun people calling out these families and individuals that do these posed photoshoots using guns as cool props? Every time I see one I can hear my Dad yelling at them. “IF YOU ARE NOT USING PROPER CARE WHEN IT IS NOT LOADED, YOU WILL BE CARELESS WHEN IT IS LOADED AND SOMEONE WILL GET HURT.”
There was a student recently posing with her college graduation cap in from of the sign at her school and she has a rifle on her back and a veteran I follow on Twitter said, “…Don’t ever, ever, ever carry a rifle like a goddamn backpack. Always at least one hand on the weapon. This is not a mature gun owner. This is performative patriotic nonsense treating firearms like toys.”
And that’s when I thought, RIGHT?
I mean. I have never met anyone who is against ALL gun control legislation who I could convince to support ANY of it. But can we at least all agree that we need to quit using guns as props in cute photos? A few of the last school shootings were done by men who had recently posted pictures of themselves with their guns on social media. Somewhere along the way, many gun owners stopped teaching their kids about respecting the weapon – because Lord knows no Christmas card photos when I was growing up featured weapons and I was related to plenty of hunters and military members. Yet now it seems that everywhere I turn people are treating guns like TOYS and PROPS for the staging of PRO GUN photos. Or even jokes! Like the Dads who are so funny hold guns when they meet their daughter’s boyfriends in photos. MY DAD WOULD HAVE NOT LAUGHED AT THAT JOKE, SIR.
I know there are millions of gun owners out there raising their kids the way my Dad raised me. Can you all step up a bit? I know you’re hurting by mass shootings too because who wouldn’t be? Maybe instead of joining in on the gun legislation debate, you can start making posts about how you have tons of guns and you love to shoot them but that you would really like everyone to start teaching their children that you treat an unloaded gun the same you do a loaded gun. That you don’t every treat guns like props or toys and that by posing with them for photographs you are showing you are not respecting them as weapons and are instead treating them like toys.
We are blaming our gun culture on video games and violence in television and in movies. But many other developed countries have these same influences yet no where near the gun violence problem we have. No, our unsafe gun culture is because in the war of gun rights, we started thinking that posing with our guns showed how much we loved the 2nd amendment. We started feeling like we looked COOL holding guns and therefore we should SHOW THE WORLD HOW COOL WE LOOK. We started bragging about how many guns we owned and even a liberal gun-control loving lady like me sees friends and family posting pictures with guns as props on social media.
THAT is a major difference between our country and other developed countries. We have a ton more guns and we have become super cavalier about how we treat them. I feel like this is something gun owners and gun control advocates can agree on. These are weapons that deserve respect and using them as props in photos is very contradictory to that. I can’t be the only one who grew up with a Dad who would have grounded me – EVEN IF I WAS AN ADULT – if he had every seen a photo with me and my gun on social media. And he would have seen any family photo featuring guns as an opportunity to lecture us AGAIN about the importance of gun safety and respect.
Maybe THIS is the point we can meet at for now? Maybe respected gun owners can start shaming people in their community using weapons as props? I can’t shame them. They won’t listen to me. But maybe you can? I feel like this is a cultural thing, something that people within the gun community need to address because people like me have no power in the community. Can we maybe start shaming that behavior so that people don’t think it will earn them some sort of cool points?
Every time one of those photos goes viral, I can hear my Dad discussing proper gun care and I just can’t imagine there aren’t gun owners out there thinking the same thing. Maybe we can start there. If we can team up to fight toxic masculinity, maybe we can at least remove cavalier gun use from the culture that surrounds it?