Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A History of Guns: Part One

Lately, I’ve been thinking about guns. Americans love to fight about guns. The stereotype is conservatives love ‘em and liberals hate ‘em. Guns are right there with abortion and gay marriage and Iraq when you talk about hot button issues (check out these comments at Grits for Breakfast if you've forgotten how geeked up people can get on this subject.)

My own feelings about guns have been quite complicated. I've been a gun owner and very pro-gun. I've swung to the other side and been very pro-gun control. Now, I'd say I'm somewhere in the middle. Above all, I'm a civil libertarian, and, as my good friend Mike and that big, fat lawyer brain of his likes to point out, you can't pretend the Second Amendment isn't in the Constitution. Fair enough. So I wanted to track how I got here by doing a personal history of guns in my life. This started out as one post but it got longer. And longer. And longer. So I broke it up into parts that will gun on consecutive days until I'm done (which as of right now, I'm not.) So let's get started.

Before the Beginning
My own relationship with guns actually goes back to before I was born. I had a great-grandfather Hughs who was kind of a bad dude who gunned down several men. He killed three men who tried to rob a barn dance where he was playing fiddle. He later gunned down a U.S. marshal in what may or may not have been self-defense. The government’s side was Hughs was running a still on his property (which he was), and the marshal was murdered when he tried to arrest Hughs. Hughs' side of things was the marshal started firing into the house while his two baby girls (my grandmother and great aunt) played on the floor. We’ll never know the answer because Hughs was gunned down in a robbery attempt before the case could go to trial.

I know. Kind of a bloodbath. Such was life in turn-of-the-century Oklahoma. The culprit in Hughs' murder later killed himself in jail, haunted by the ghost of my mean sumbitch of a grandpa. More family lore: Many years later, there was a drunken murder involving some cousins -- I never got the full story on that one. But that’s my pedigree. A bunch of drunk-ass, mean-ass, murderous Scotch-Irish bastards. That's my mother's side.

Not all of the stories were that sorid. My father was an outdoorsman and grew up poor in the country, so hunting wasn’t just something to do, it was a way to put food on the table. Later, Dad was in the Army, and then made a little money so hunting became a social activity and not about sustenance. But, the fact is he was comfortable with guns. He wasn't one of these you-can-have-my-guns-when you-pry-them-from-my-cold-dead-fingers types, but he was an NRA member.

So that gets us from the dawn of time until the late 1960s. Tomorrow, we talk about my formative years.

Click here for Part Two.

3 comments:

The Stash Dauber said...

i fired an m-16 on three separate occasions because it was a condition of my employment and i didn't think much of the experience.

my ex-brother-in-law (r.i.p.) wanted to teach my kids to shoot.
i told them i didn't think it was a good idea.

my best friend from ny emigrated to new zealand after seeing two people killed with handguns at close range in his local bar in chicago.

i believe the 2nd amendment predates the advent of a standing army in this country (which is how the majority of folks in america are able to care more about who wins on "american idol" than how many g.i.'s are coming home in body bags this week).

and just because you can doesn't mean you should.

LPJ said...

Didn't Hughs kill a man with a shovel? That takes both ridiculous anger and a substantial level of bad-assitude.

Regarding gun control, I can see what Mike is getting at when he talks about the sacrosanct nature of the Bill of Rights. But it is tough to ignore the fact that we have an unbelievable number of gun deaths compared to any other civilized country in the world.

I brought a group of European journalists to a high school here in Houston. Europeans tend to be holier-than-thou already, but the war in Iraq and Bush's embarrassing behavior abroad have totally pushed their sneering attitude to an "11" on Nigel Tufnel's guitar amp. They were disappointed I didn't greet them barefoot and wearing a rope belt, like Jethro Bodine.

Anyway, they spent the entire trip talking about how dangerous and bloodthirsty America is, so I thought I'd try to counter this by asking the class of rosy-cheeked freshman to raise their hands if they personally knew anyone who had been killed or seriously injured by gunfire. I was humiliated when half of the kids raised their hands. All of them reported attending at least one funeral for a classmate killed by gunfire. I'm all for freedom, but that's pretty messed up.

Steve-O said...

Hughs didn't kill a man with a shovel. That was my grandfather Clark. He got into a "disagreement" with his brother Billy at work that resulted in Clark wailing on Billy with a shovel. Billy laughed when he told me that story. When I hear stories like that, I think, "Boy, people are pussies today." People get upset when their boss looks at them the wrong way or doesn't invite them to lunch. Oh, yeah -- did your boss ever hit your ass with a SHOVEL?! You've got it easy!