Guns

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When I was a kid, my dad forbade us to have toy guns. He had served in World War II and knew the damage bullets could do to human flesh. He had other, more personal reasons, to dislike guns. In 1936, his brother shot his sister. Not deliberately. He was cleaning an ‘unloaded’ gun but had failed to clear the chamber. The cleaning rod flew out of his hand and through the head of his sister. She had just returned from church and was dancing around the kitchen, still filled with the spirit. The bullet itself drilled through the floor and narrowly missed my grandfather.

My father, who had been living in Boston, returned home to try to help deal with the shattered family. He didn’t stay long — Humpty Dumpty can’t be put together again.

Of course as kids we improvised. No metal guns or plastic ones allowed we made them out of Lego bricks or with broken hockey sticks which along with clothes pins and elastic bands proved an effective and, occasionally, painful alternative. We even found a bullet once and pounded it with a hammer until it went off. Amazing we didn’t kill someone.

You can imagine the uproar when my father discovered that a neighbour had set up a shooting range in the basement and was letting his 11 year old son fire off .22s. Good thing he didn’t find out we were shooting at toy soldiers.

Kids like guns — maybe it’s cultural maybe it’s the anarchist spirit that wells in every child.

As I grew older I had my own gun experiences. My cousin accidently wounded a girl while clearing crows on his farm. An aunt-in-law blew her arm off while trying to commit suicide during a drunken fight with her husband.

Eventually I discovered a simple fact. The more guns there are in a community or country, the more people get shot with guns. The more people die from guns. Sure, people say if there weren’t guns people would attack each other with knives or clubs. Okay. But guns are so damn efficient. People who try to kill themselves succeed 15% of the time except when guns are involved. Then it is 85%. And the survivors don’t look great. Guns may not kill people but people kill themselves very effectively with guns.

Suicide is not inevitable. Most people (though not all) who try once get help and never try again. Unless guns are involved.

Guns are also the weapon of choice in domestic murders. It is much easier to stalk and kill your ex with a rifle than a knife.

I’m now strongly against guns and wouldn’t give my grandsons a toy one. I’m a bit conflicted of course. My boss is a northern Aboriginal Senator who voted to end the long gun registry in Canada. But we have agreed to disagree.

But that’s ten minutes.

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