Friday, January 25, 2013

Remembering a Father's Advice

1. I got talking to the Police Chief today. We have no prospect of gun control measures because we're getting worse: America now puts politics before country, he said. We tried it before, but it's worse now. And he's no pessimist. There are those of us who see the absurdity of the polar voices and wonder where our democracy has left the masses in the middle. Possibly we're disorganized; perhaps disenfranchised by the lunacy of the lunatic fringes on both sides, stockpiling cash and political favors, one to defeat the other, over and over.

2. I worked with a media arts company this summer. It was a pleasure seeing young people design and produce videos about exercise and nutrition. Messages "by the kids, for the kids"; something good was going on. Today my colleagues were concerned with the short film depicting the young actors running through a field on a summer's day, laughing and screaming as they played an innocent game of hide and seek with water pistols. We probably shouldn't show that one, they said.
3. I was around 19 or so when I bought my first shot gun. A lovely 12 bore side by side, walnut and bluing - I loved the thing. Before I could buy it I had to go to the police station and complete a license application, stipulating where, what and with whom I would be shooting, among other details. When I bought the gun I had to keep it securely locked in a steel cabinet of specified thickness, which in turn had to be bolted to wall and floor (the gun is gone, but my father still uses the cabinet as his safe). Weeks after buying the gun we were visited by a police officer, who inspected the cabinet, and no doubt had a good look at me. My gun was registered in my name.

4. This all seems perfectly normal to me and I don't see why the purchase of any gun wouldn't require such obvious scrutiny. After all, no hunter with sport on his mind should balk at this. I was taught gun safety every time I went shooting. It was part of shooting, and it went a lot like this Father's Advice:

If a sportsman true you’d be
Listen carefully to me. . .
Never, never let your gun
Pointed be at anyone.
That it may unloaded be
Matters not the least to me.
When a hedge or fence you cross
Though of time it cause a loss
From your gun the cartridge take
For the greater safety’s sake.
If twixt you and neighbouring gun
Bird shall fly or beast may run
Let this maxim ere be thine
“Follow not across the line.”
Stops and beaters oft unseen
Lurk behind some leafy screen.
Calm and steady always be
“Never shoot where you can’t see.”
You may kill or you may miss
But at all times think this:
“All the pheasants ever bred
Won’t repay for one man dead.”
Keep your place and silent be;
Game can hear, and game can see;
Don’t be greedy, better spared
Is a pheasant, than one shared.

5. For the most part I always believed hunters to be safe people. Sporting people. And there are 14 million hunters in America. That's 10 million people who aren't members of the NRA, an organization that look for all the world like they're auditioning for the next caricature villain from Gotham City. But I'm rubbing my eyes: this one's real and the fear is catching. I read that at least one school in California has decided it prudent to amass a cache of weapons in school to deter would be assailants and/or cut down police reaction time. It's enough to make me miss the cold war. At least that arms race was with someone else. A country outside of this one.

6. This is no rallying cry. No assumptions about how this can happen. I can't speak for other hunters, nor do I want to. But I have a bad feeling that we, the vast majority of sporting folk, are now at the margins, and almost certainly at risk from being tarred by the wrong brush. I wonder what this will do to an already suspecting view of our ethics.

7. I'll continue to feel disgusted if, in the weeks and months after the latest slaying, we come to reconcile that this is all too difficult; just the way it is now - the down-side to where we happened to end up. So I encourage you to read the thoughts and proposals of another gun advocate and hunter on Sipping Emergers. There are small steps listed there that I hope some folks will read and consider, perhaps even cherry pick a few. Because I'd like nothing more than to prove the Chief wrong.

Hell, I know he'd like nothing better. 



  1. I want to thank you for linking to Sipping Emergers. I found not only a great CT blog on fly fishing, but a voice of reason in a world that has lost its way.

  2. Pleased to be of service, Peter. Reason is highly underrated.

  3. You and Steve both nailed it.
    Those of logical thought in the middle must make sure our voices of reason prevail.
    We owe that to those kids, their teachers and future generations.