I grew up in a house with guns, yet the first time I even touched one I was in my late 30’s. And that was six years after my father killed himself with one of his own pistols. My dad had always owned guns. In fact guns were a tradition in our family. My maternal grandfather was a union rep from the 1930s through the 1980s and always carried a revolver. My paternal grandfather, a WWII veteran, owned a shotgun and a couple of rifles because he swore he was going to take up hunting someday. But as an immigrant who was always either working or raising his two boys on his own (Grandma passed away young), he never got around to it. And one of my uncles runs armed security company . . .
So it was perfectly normal that my dad always had guns. When I was in grade school, it was a couple of revolvers, one of which was a Smith and Wesson snub .357 magnum. Later on, after my parents split up, he moved to Texas and built up a pretty good collection.
But Mom was no fan of guns, so my brothers and I were under strict orders regarding them: “Don’t touch. Not ever.” And we didn’t. Having been thus mildly indoctrinated by Mom and with Pops living halfway across the country, our family gun tradition was pretty much over.
Flash forward to the 2000s. Pops had a moderately successful transportation business, was remarried and looking forward to retirement in a few years. In fact, one of his old business associates had moved to Florida, was doing great and offered to get him in on the ground floor of a new venture which would set them up for their golden years. So he sold his home, the business, convinced the wife and off they went.
Three years later, my dad, now 61 years old, was broke. The business failed, his wife left him, his health was deteriorating and he was working two minimum wage jobs just to get by. He’d sold all but one gun to pay his bills (he kept his EDC, a Walther PPK). And when he’d sold everything he could and the two jobs still weren’t enough to pay the rent, he moved back up north to stay with me.
It was that, having to rely on his kids the way we had once relied on him, that was the final straw I think. Though I’ll never know for sure, because after a week at my place, he got up early one morning, said he was going to sell the Walther at a local gun store and that’s the last we heard from him.
The police found his body late that night in his truck, parked behind a local outdoors store. The note he left just said “It’s no one’s fault. It was just time. No big funeral, please.” I’ll spare you the description of how tough that was, how much guilt we felt for not seeing it, how many what ifs we all went through. Suffice it to say there was a lot of that.
But the one thing none of us — not even my mother — thought, felt or expressed was the idea that it was the gun’s fault. It didn’t even occur to any of us to blame an inanimate object for what Pops did. I mean yeah, maybe, just maybe, if he didn’t have a gun he wouldn’t have done it. But I don’t think so. He was at the end of his rope (at least in his mind) and that kind of desperation, the kind that drives you to put a gun to your head and pull the trigger, will also drive you to jump off a bridge, swallow a bunch of pills, do whatever to end the pain.
And even if in his case not having a gun would have prevented his death, that still doesn’t — cannot — trump the natural, civil, constitutional, human right to own a firearm for the defense of oneself, one’s family and one’s liberty.
In the decade since my father’s death, both myself and my strong, beautiful, wise old Mom have become first-time gun owners. She’s amazing, not just for her resilience, but also for her ability, at 70+ years old now, to be open-minded, even in the face of a tragedy like this. She now keeps a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver, a lot like Pop’s old .357, in her nightstand.
And if there’s one thing I would want the antis to know about our story, it’s this:
We loved our father at least as much as you love your family members. And when you use him and others like him, to further your goal of depriving others of their rights, you are unjustly dishonoring his memory and disrespecting us, the actual survivors of a tragedy that happened to involve a gun. You don’t speak for him and you certainly don’t speak for us.