by Aaron Warner
I grew up in a city neighborhood where when gunshots were heard, it was never a good thing.
My parents were both relative pacifists and we were poor, so the thought of owning a gun was antithetical to how we lived.
Toy guns, on the other hand? We had plenty of those. Like most kids we fashioned our hands into one for a quick game of cowboys and Indians, back when that was still socially acceptable. Even my Native American friends Lloyd, Jason and Bryan didn’t mind playing and didn’t mind being a cowboy when it was time to change roles. Kids back then weren’t easily offended and when you live in the same neighborhood with the same relative conditions the idea of social justice was a nonstarter.
I moved to New England in 2007. I was in my early thirties and still unarmed. However once I arrived I heard more gunshots out here than I had ever heard in the city. I learned gunshots out here meant someone was either practicing or putting food on the table. Now a full grown man, and father to a son, I felt it my obligation to purchase a firearm and learn the ins and outs in case my son becomes like so many of the local boys who go hunting with their dads and carry on the family tradition.
I purchased a Ruger 10-22, which I was told was the right small caliber rifle with which to start. One of my friends had a spot up in Thetford where we could practice. The slightly louder than a firecracker report from the barrel was intimidating enough to someone like me who had never held or shot any type of gun other than a summer when paintball guns first came out.
The skill necessary to hit the target excited the competitive athlete in me. The etiquette necessary to keep everyone safe also struck a chord. Unlike chasing each other around on foot as we played, or on horseback like they did in the movies, the seriousness with which gun owners conducted themselves commanded my respect. Gun ownership was not a game, nor was it about killing your enemy. Guns are tools, just like a lawnmower. And like a lawnmower, if you don’t handle it with respect you can do some serious damage.
Something changed in my perspective after that day. I felt an obligation to learn more about guns, the history of their use, their many uses, and our right and responsibilities as Americans to own them for the good of our homes and communities. I re-read the Second Amendment and realized it was speaking to me, although I wouldn’t have known a well regulated militia had I been invited nor was I looking to join one. At the time I had total confidence in both my government and our military to defend me, my family and our country.
Then ISIS started terrorizing western countries and showing videos of beheading people who looked like me or people I knew. That’s when I realized gun ownership for personal protection wasn’t just for police or ex-military types. Though Vermont seemed like a far stretch for a terrorist attack the amount of attacks and school shootings was on the rise. Like with cars you don’t notice until you own one – I didn’t notice the amount of gun violence against ordinary citizens until I understood I may be in that situation some day. Owning and knowing how to use a gun could mean I don’t suffer at the hands of evil men like the poor souls I was seeing on my screens.
Around the time I moved to New England was also when I became a Christian. I had thought Christians were the perpetual other-cheek-turning pacifists who laid down their lives. I met many men, and women, who taught me otherwise. Confirmation bias happens when you read the Bible too, apparently, and these folks were nice enough to help me understand the same God who teaches us love and peace also instructs us to do battle and protect. The book of Ecclesiastes explicitly states “there is a time for peace and a time for war,” including the time when one needs to engage in self-defense against those whose intentions are evil. If you read all the way to the end, even ‘loving Jesus, meek and mild’ returns not to pass out hugs but to exact justice on a world given over to evil. Sure, He’s going to use a sword, but He’s Almighty and I’m not. I am certainly not mighty enough to take on a bad guy with a gun, so it was time to reconsider yet again.
As for my boys, I never found the time to get my hunter safety license, but I was lucky enough to meet one of the best hunters in the area. The entry way to Kevin’s house has more animal body parts mounted on his wall than museums have paintings. If he likes you, he’ll show you the issue of Hunter magazine he’s on the cover of, with a prized turkey.
Kevin grew up in the hills of Vermont hunting and trapping as a young boy. His sharp sense of humor and ebullient personality gave me confidence my boys would be in good hands. They were and they were lucky. My nephew, for whom we were legal guardians, got his first deer on a youth weekend, thanks to Kevin and the story is better if you hear him tell it. Like Kevin, it’s a one of a kind tale.
A series of armed robberies and some shootings in my home town of Hartford, one of which was close enough to my house I could hit a golf ball into their front yard, and my obligation to protect my family was staring me in the face. I bought a Walther .380 MP circa 1950s Germany, almost as much for the nostalgia as anything. This wasn’t like so many other person-to-person purchases where you show up and exchange money for goods. The person who sold it to me was ex-military and took the time to explain its history, how to break it down and clean it, store it, where to buy ammo, practice range options and even threw in a couple boxes of ammunition all after taking me out to shoot it and make sure it was comfortable.
I found out along the way, oddly, he’s an atheist, yet his love for America, its Constitution and its values embodied the spirit with which it was founded. The notion for freedom and the need to protect it transcends so many of our differences, even enshrines them.
Gun and ammunition sales in the United States have exploded since Barrack Obama became president. The politics of firearms in the U.S. has too. As I’ve realized my duty to bear arms is tied to my duty to keep an eye on my government I’ve begun to notice the same people who clamor for gun control are surrounded by them and in control of billions of dollars in weaponry. I was in Oregon when the Kip Kinkel shooting started us down this now bloody road of school shooters. Other than guns, what they all have in common is mental health issues and government-regulated pharmaceuticals. Most of them are young men and many of them either have no father or were estranged by theirs.
Having also been abandoned by my father I know all too well what that does to a young man, having watched my brother end up in prison. I should have been there, too. I just never got caught. Some horrible life decisions later and a few evangelical Christians found me face to face with a different Father. One who would stay and who would never be unavailable, who’s will I could know at all times if I bothered to get to know Him. This renewed in me the desire to not only be the father I never had, but to also reassure young men without fathers to not give up hope. There is a better Father who will fill in the holes left by the ones who either didn’t know how or didn’t bother.
This also was why I was dedicated to not only raising my son but felt the need, like the two avuncular men mentioned, to show them what it means to be a man in America. Taken seriously it is an awesome privilege and it offers a role coveted by people the world wide.
These school shootings are becoming more and more common, and sadly our abhorrence at the thought is becoming numb. What once caused us to recoil in horror now has become a predictable script. Breaking news. Active shooter. Kids killed. Shooter dead. AR-15. Mental health problem. Daddy issues. Celebrity and politician outrage. Blame the gun. Rinse, repeat. This outrage from the same crowd who has no problem killing innocent babies even after they’re born. The same crowd who encourages mental illness and the desecration of both biological and spiritual norms then ignores the tragic consequences that abuse women and kill children. Who one week send billions of our hard earned tax dollars to buy guns for a corrupt Ukrainian regime to defend themselves while bleeding our earnings dry at the pump and telling us we can no longer afford to have guns.
Am I to believe this same government who claims it can listen to every phone call, track every disease, note every purchase and has the most vast and well funded intelligence community in the world yet can’t prevent these shootings even when they have foreknowledge of the shooters, is going to defend me? A government who couldn’t keep the most high profile prisoner in the country from killing himself? A government who has made gun free zones like Chicago and schools turn into mass shooting zones?
Luckily I learned that guns prevent over a million violent crimes each year, and school shootings, however tragic and horrifying, still number in the very few. The outrage doesn’t match the data. I thank fellow gun owning, freedom loving Americans like Steven Crowder for doing the research I don’t have time to, however I strongly recommend you listen as they real story, surprise, is not what you’ll hear on your propaganda devices.
It used to be I thought I would need guns to defend myself from ISIS. Now I keep them to defend myself from my government, which is exactly the reason for the Second Amendment.
The author is a business owner and Hartford resident.