COLUMN: Understanding `gun nuts¿

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When I’d been married a short time, I discovered one day — deep in a filing cabinet — a gun.

I stepped back in shock. I stared at it, afraid even to touch it. Where did this come from?

I grew up in a family that hated guns. My dad often railed against “gun nuts,” people who loved gunning down animals for sport or just liked violence.

Mom never said much about guns, but I assumed she felt the same way. I learned that guns were designed only to hurt or kill. There wasn’t much on earth worse that these maiming, murder machines.

Why did people like them so much? They had to be nutty.

My dad’s plan for home defense was a baseball bat. He figured if anyone came into the house, he could beat them away. He was large and strong, and it probably would have worked.

Later, my parents put bars on the windows of their California home and installed a security system. No violent intruder ever gave them trouble.

Guns were for the violent. That’s what I believed, and when I saw the gun in the filing cabinet, I wondered what terrible deeds my new husband did with this gun. Was he robbing convenience stores in his off hours? Who was this man I’d married? I spent that afternoon wondering if I’d made a huge mistake marrying him. He seemed so nice! How could he possibly have a gun?

He explained that he used it as a starting pistol for swim meets (he was a summer swim coach). I believed him, but still looked at him with suspicion — and I paid attention anytime news articles described robbery suspects who were male, 135 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair.

Over time, I began to understand “gun nuts” and why they owned their “death machines.” Some wanted to protect their families, and though I thought they’d be as likely to kill a family member by mistake, I listened as they explained.

Some believed gun ownership was a western and proud tradition and liked collecting and owning things that linked them to a free and heroic past.

Some associated hunting with good family times and getting into the outdoors.

Some thought that freedom demanded it, citing the Bill of Rights, and pointed out the sorry state of nations that meekly submitted to gun confiscation. They told me that not long after gun confiscation in the Soviet Union, Germany, China, Turkey, Guatemala, Uganda and other countries, massive numbers of people were rounded up and slaughtered. All in the 20th century. Not all that long ago.

We can be citizens or subjects, they say. Without widespread gun ownership, we are subjects.

All were persuasive arguments.

Not long ago, my daughter, doing genealogical research, discovered that my mom had won marksmanship awards in her youth. Mom was a good shot!

My mom confessed and also revealed, to my astonishment, that Dad himself had owned a gun. It was his father’s shotgun, and he’d kept it in several pieces, hidden around the house. He thought it was a secret, but my brother found the parts and put it together for a while. Later, he dismantled it and hid the parts back where he’d found them so that Dad wouldn’t be the wiser.

I appreciate Dad’s caution. Guns aren’t toys. But most gun aficionados realize this and value safety and training.

As for “nuts,” school officials punishing young kids for having L-shaped paper scraps are nuttier, if you ask me.

Donna Marmorstein writes and lives in Aberdeen. You can contact her at dkmarmorstein@ yahoo.com.