(Almost) Everything I Know About Guns I Learned from Uncle Ted

First, a bit of a confession: Though I haven’t used a handgun or a rifle in many years, in my younger days I loved shooting. I didn’t come from a family of hunters or sport shooters, far from it. Rather, my love of Riflery was nurtured within the friendly confines of Pine Hollow Camp for Boys and (almost) everything I know about guns, I learned from Uncle Ted.

Like every boys’ camp of that era, Pine Hollow was an outdoorsy, scout type camp in the middle of a “forest” founded by Uncle Ted, Sr. and run by Uncle Ted, Jr. (If that doesn’t sound cliché enough, one of my best friends was named Froggy and one of our counselors was Corky).  As you would expect, we learned about such things as camping, knot tying, archery, and of course, riflery, which became one of may favorite activities.

Before we could begin riflery each summer, we had to sit through a safety talk that included the story of Uncle Ted, Sr. By the time I knew him, he was a kind and wizened elder storyteller who was only too happy to show us the long ago healed gunshot wound in his belly (so gross, therefore very cool for a young boy).

Each year, he would share with us the tale of a hunting trip gone bad. It involved a rifle whose chamber was not cleared, which fell out of a canoe being prepared for a portage and then discharged into his gut. It also included the, from today’s perspective, seemingly apocryphal story of his “100 mile” journey to the nearest hospital with a slug in his gut.

The point of his story was not to scare us about or away from guns, but to teach us to respect them. He taught us that guns can be valuable tools or deadly weapons, an enjoyable pastime or a dangerous endeavor. He taught us that guns need to be handled with care, used wisely, kept safely, and above all not be used as toys or for play.  A gun was a tool to be respected, carefully controlled and never used as a source of amusement. His story always concluded with its most important lesson: “Boys, always safe your guns.”

“Always safe your guns.” This is rule one for any responsible gun owner.  I doubt you would find any that would disagree with this point. Yet mention gun control and lobbying groups such as the industry supported NRA, will be up in arms opposing even the most common sense of proposals. In the end, though, isn’t common sense gun control simply a matter of society following rule one and “safe-ing our guns”? Common sense gun control isn’t about taking away the right to bear arms, it’s about making gun ownership a well-regulated endeavor for the common good.

In a recent Huffington Post Article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cory-booker/gun-law-reform_b_2346911.html), Newark Mayor Cory Booker outlined just what common sense gun control should look like. He wrote:

 “There is no shortage of sensible reforms to pursue: We should immediately restore a modified version of the Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004, which included a ban on high capacity magazines. We should pursue one-handgun a month restrictions, which will allow law abiding gun owners to purchase up to a dozen handguns a year, but will significantly hamper gun traffickers due to the mechanics and economics of straw purchasing (having another buy guns on one’s behalf). We must empower the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to do its job. BATFE has been without a permanent director for over six years, which is representative of Congress’ obstructive treatment of the agency.”

 To these proposals, he added three more simple, yet sensible legislative ideas: Make background checks universal, improve mental health and other prohibited purchaser sharing with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, tighten anti-trafficking laws.

It would seem hard to argue with these or any of the similar sensible gun control proposals being offered by other thoughtful legislators. But, that is just what is happening as the NRA and other gun lobbies ramp up their rhetoric, and loudly voice their opposition to any new regulations.  They have learned from their past experience that in Washington, it is not always the most rational voice or popular voice, but the loudest voice that wins the day. Past efforts at sensible gun control have withered in the face of their obstructionist shouting.

That ends today, as we become the loud voices in congress’ ears.  Today, as people of faith and as people who care for the safety and security of our families, our children and our neighbors, we can raise our voices as one for common sense gun control by taking part in Faiths Calling to Prevent Gun Violence (www.faithscalling.org). Faiths Calling is an interfaith call-in taking place today.  Today you can make a difference by taking a moment to call congress and tell our legislators that common sense gun control laws work. It’s as simple as visiting the Faiths Calling website, www.faithscalling.org, and entering your information in order to be connected directly to your own legislator.

Today you can speak out and be heard. After all, isn’t gun control simply just another way of doing what Uncle Ted called rule #1 so many years ago, “Always safe your guns.” Let’s join together today in calling on congress to “safe our guns”.

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