Cowgirls, Cowboys, and Guns

When I was a young girl about sixty years ago, I loved watching Westerns on television. I admired the way the cowboys rode their horses, especially the trick riders who performed amazing stunts on their horse while riding at top speed. I loved the way they dressed, envied the feeling of so much fringe swinging from their chest and sleeves, and enjoyed watching the sharpshooters always get their man. It was a simpler time then. The bad guys always wore black, the good guys always wore white, and the good guys always won!
My two brothers and I had cowboy costumes, complete with gun holsters slung low, heavy with the weight of Colt 45 cap guns. Most of the kids from our neighborhood loved playing Cowboys and Indians together. The rules were easy to learn…If you were shot you had to fall to the ground and play dead for a moment before jumping back to life to rejoin the fray.
We all played innocently with guns, not really thinking about the actual consequences of shooting a real gun…..until my Dad told me the true story of how the 11 year old son of a man he worked with had accidentally shot and killed his little 8 year old brother with his father’s gun. We attended the funeral, and even as young as I was I could see this was a senseless, tragic accident that would forever mark the lives of the surviving family members with guilt, sorrow, loss, and sadness. I imagined those feelings were written on their hearts, and they would never be able to truly erase every little trace of them.
There was also the story of a neighbor boy who was shooting at squirrels with his new BB gun, when a stray BB hit his brother’s left eye, blinding it forever.
As young children, these were the things we talked about in whispers with neighbors and classmates, trying to come to some kind of understanding as to how and why these things happened. It was apparent to me even in those simpler times that the presence of a gun at the wrong moment could result in tragedy.
When I was not yet a teen-ager I would sometimes spend a few weeks with an Aunt and Uncle and two cousins who lived out in the country, away from any neighbors. One of my cousins was close to my age and he taught me how to shoot a .22 rifle. My very first shot I took aim at a squirrel sitting high up in a tree, never imagining I would actually hit it, and killed it instantly. I was extremely surprised, filled with remorse, and never pointed my gun at a living thing again, but it seemed I was a “dead eye”. After that incident I had an even greater respect for guns, but I also took great pleasure and pride in my shooting ability as we continued to shoot at our makeshift targets. I dreamily imagined I might have been just like Annie Oakley if I had lived in a different era.
Today, my son is teaching my 10 year old grandson about guns, and I believe he is teaching him in the best way possible. My grandson is learning to respect guns, how to handle them properly, and how to shoot them well. They belong to a shooting club where they shoot regularly, and if anyone mishandles a gun, even one time, they are out of the club permanently. They both enjoy spending this time together and learning how to sharpen their shooting skills, so I am all for it….and yet it still scares me…a little.
I’ve lived long enough to know that things don’t always go as planned, and accidents will happen, even when we think they couldn’t possibly happen. I feel today just as I did all those years ago…when the presence of a gun is introduced into any situation there is potential for harm… sometimes deadly harm.
The times we live in today are not as simple as they once were. The bad guys don’t always wear black, and the good guys don’t always win! There are probably many good reasons I haven’t even thought of for people owning and using a gun, and I don’t think guns should be taken away from those people like my son who are using them responsibly.
However, since we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that deadly harm can and does happen when guns end up in the wrong hands, shouldn’t we as responsible individuals be doing all we can to ensure that every possible preventive and safety measure be put into place? If you own a gun, I hope you always, always use great respect when you handle it, and take extra care with how you store it in your home. Whether you own a gun or not, and you care about people’s safety, I hope you will take some time to give some serious thought to guns and how they are procured and used in our country. Think about the laws and how you might like to see them changed to prevent guns from ending up in the hands of someone who has every intention of doing serious harm to others. Think about what you truly believe needs to be done to best protect one another, and then do what you can to make your belief and your vision happen.

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