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.
Bravo. Thank you.
This is a very fine essay. I hope some anti-gun types read it.
very unlikely. This is, after all, a well-known pro-gun site. If you want any of them to read it, it needs to be published on a news site that supports both viewpoints, in favor of and against, guns.
Forget it, they will just spam the comments with their various degree of idiocy. I don’t concentrate on the rabid left-wingers, I deal with middle Americans.
Thanks for sharing your story. You are not alone.
My family has a very similar story, except that all the children are gun owners. To the best of my knowledge, no one in my family blamed the gun, either.
Both stories are proof that intelligent people don’t blame tools, even when the tools are involved in very emotional situations.
Will save, keep and re-read.
Sorry about your Dad. Wonderful expression of truth. Rights are rights. They are NOT subject to every whim of the week.
Thank you for this.
A year ago, one of my best friends, a man 27 days my senior, went out to his garage and shot himself. He had been a very active motorcyclist for many years, had ridden all over the U.S. and Central America, had survived a boyhood in Nazi Germany, had been a successful businessman, but was suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and was confined to a wheelchair. The gun was his way to end his suffering and to end his family’s ordeal. I do not fault him for it, and the gun was a means and not a cause. I cherish his memory, and respect his decision.
I applaud your respect for your friend’s decision to take his own life. My Dad was good friends with retired form county Sheriff, who upon using a revolver to take his own life, left the gun to my Dad in honor of their years of friendship. The Sheriff was getting on in years, wife had passed on, he was going blind, and had no children. He did not want to be burdened or a burden to others. In my opinion we do better by a beloved pet than we do for people who welcome the same freedom from pain, distress, and unable to care for themselves. What is an act of compassion for an animal, is a criminal act for a person. I will never understand that..
Human life bears a much greater intrinsic value than animal life, even in the case of the most feeble, old, or sick of people. Ending your own life or the life of a loved one under the pretense of “dignity” or “its what they would’ve wanted” is nothing more than an excuse not to deal with the sometimes burdensome nature of our human existence. Those people have the ability, if they so choose, to inspire others by the continued will to live on despite the odds or attempts of nature otherwise. That is something that all the POTG should see, and that to give up when things get tough and end it all is against what we all believe in. Why else would you go through the inconvenience of carrying a gun every day?
So no matter what their illness, pain level, or ability to function is, people should continue to cling to life simply “to inspire others by the continued will to live on despite the odds or attempts of nature”?
Carrying a gun is an inconvenience.
Being a grown man and having to be taking care of as if one was a child again is something else entirely. The desire to put oneself out of that misery is something that I completely understand.
Having taken care of my father through the final stages of metastatized cancer, and watching him waste away in crippling pain, knowing he felt shame for having to burden his children with his care (neither I nor my sisters thought of it that way, but I know he did), I can tell you that what he went through at the end was a hell of a lot more than “burdensome”. He was being slowly tortured to death by his own body.
All this to say that there are a myriad of possible situations in which death truly can be a relief. Is suicide the answer to depression, or financial hardship, or other conditions that can be corrected? I don’t think so. But it absolutely should be an option for the terminally ill, who are facing a future that promises only pain and suffering (and eventual death, anyway), and are able to make the choice freely themselves.
You are using the exact same level of intellect in your argument as anti gunners.
Which is to say, not much.
It all boils down to “You can’t be allowed to _____ because I don’t like it, never mind that it isn’t my business, that it doesn’t harm me, or concern me in any way…. I’m going to climb on my high horse and tell you what to do.”
Let me tell you something “SigGuy”.
In an issue as delicate and sensitive as this, you’d be well served to keep your opinions of what other people “should” do to yourself.
You can set and speak of the “burden” of life all you want, but until you have watched a loved one slowly wither away, alternating between medically induced unconsciousness, and screaming pain for weeks, you have no right to presume to tell another what to do.
It’s the same “I, in my ignorance, am going to tell you what to do” argument that the anti gunners use.
If you haven’t been there, and it doesn’t involve you. Don’t try to force your will on someone else.
I watched my grandfather die in pain because of people like you, and I can never forgive anyone who speaks as you do. I wish nothing but the worst on people like you. It’s not personal, it’s just the truth. Just like it’s the truth that because of people who think like you, and say things like you said, I watched someone I love go through more pain than anyone should have to endure.
To the mods, censor this if you will, it’s not a personal attack, nor is it anything but 100% truth, and should be completely within the guidelines here.
If you don’t approve of Western Civilization there are plenty of options for you where human life has no particular value. Perhap you’ll consider relocationg to China, Russia, ny moslem cesspool.
I hear in Iraq they will welcome you with open arms and fit you for a nice warm vest.
Way to keep it classy, neiowa.
I hope life never forces you to have cause to re-evaluate your stance on the topic, because having to consider such matters on a deeply personal level is a horrible experience, and likely well beyond your ability, if that comment is any indication of your maturity level.
Alex, thank you for this.
I am sorry for your loss, Alex.
We must seize upon the simple truth here. Our rights are not a function of what Alex’s father chose to do. Throw it right back in the gun grabbers’ faces: how dare they insult our humanity and tell us what personal property we can own and possess. Gun grabbers are monsters for making sure that violent criminals prevail over our wives, daughters, husbands, and sons.
I’m very sorry for your loss, Alex. I hope addressing it here will bring you some measure of peace.
+1. Well put, Ralph.
It’s the mentality of the person not inanimate object that fuels the action. Whether it is a mini mart robbery, someone wanting to kill a lot of people in a shopping mall or in this case, suicide.
Thank you for giving us your story and sorry for your lost.
In the short story by Jack London called The People of the Abyss there is a touching part where these two homeless men are contemplating suicide but don’t follow through with it because they can’t ever get their hands on a “revolver”. This was back when judges would throw you in jail for 30 days hard labor if you attempted and failed. They’d say, “Next time pick a taller bridge and quit wasting the court’s time….30 DAYS!” The entire east side of London was essentially starving to death and what I took from this true story is how merciful it would have been to have a firearm to end the misery. I could never live like they lived and it seems to me that a quick way to end it all might actually have been a blessing to these men. If, God forbid, I ever come to that point I will be very grateful to have a gun and not some greasy rope or uncertain plunge into a icy river. I warn you, if you read this story be prepared to feel depressed.
Thank you for your story. I wished your dad found a way to accept circumstances. In the end its about choice…your father took a path, which others will disagree, but made sense to him. My friends father had enough of chemo (third round), cleared up loose ends, note in the pocket, dial 911, and made the choice as well.
Alex, that was a gift, not the least of which is the point on suicide taking many forms, and not being the fault of the tool used.
Editor: My vote for #1, or special category winner, if voting is closed.
No one can understand completely why a suicide does what they do-
depression is a very powerful condition, and people dont make good choices, but you obviously know that, and have made peace with that,
and deepest sympathy and condolences for your loss.
I’m sure your father is proud of you, and you will see him again.
Thank you for sharing a very personal issue.
It is a shame the second 320 essay isn’t on the merits.
Thank you. Very powerful.
My father in law did the same thing. My son now has the gun because it was his grand dads. We didn’t blame the gun either.It was the pain he lived with that caused to use the tool he had available to him.
Thanks for sharing something so personal.
I’m sorry for your loss, but there is something to be said for meeting your maker on your own terms, I suppose.
Alex, as a son and a father, reading your story was very touching. Suicide is a devastating event, and we sons suffer especially when we lose or fathers. I admire you for be willing to share it, and I’m sorry for your loss.
Whereever he is now, I’m sure he’s proud of you.
Thank you for the kind words, everyone. I’ll be sure to share them with the family.
And for those who’ve gone through something similar, I hope reading this was in any little way useful to you.
For what it’s worth, I wrote something completely different as my contest entry, which was much better written. But at the last minute I decided that I’d rather get this message out than try to win the Sig.
The last paragraph was the most polite expression I could come up to explain how I feel when the ghouls in the anti movement use my, and others’, loved ones in their machinations.
Thanks again, everyone.
Thanks for sharing your very personal story with us.
Gosh man why can’t there be like 15 contest winners?! There are a lot of good articles.
I’m sorry about your Dad. That sounds all kinds of tortuous. Thank you for your thoughts though. I almost stood up and yelled YEAH! When I was done. 🙂
I am sorry about your father’s death.
Since you have chosen to discuss it because of your belief in gun ownership, I want to write this.
You mentioned your father was 61 years old, working 2 minimum wage jobs and in failing health.
I wonder why you do not feel the health care system was at fault?
Your father was a hard working man who made some bad financial choices. I feel he was entitled to the best health care period, no different than a rich man.
While I also do not blame the gun for his choice to take his own life, since he had the legal right to own a gun and the natural right to commit suicide, but the gun debate is a distraction to the real problem of public safety. That includes a health care system for all.
Without ramming home the political nature of your question, I doubt his father wanted to be a burden on his children or the state. So no, I doubt a “healthcare system for all” would have been the solution either. After all, the VA does a pretty good job waiting for the vets to die off before giving proper care, so I expect no different from a nationalized system.
Nationalized health care systems in other countries is not a liberal/conservative issue.
As for the VA, is the answer that a national system overburdened and underfunded has to be discarded? Or do we take steps that we do not overburden the VA with unnecessary wars and that we fund the VA properly when we do go to war?
I’m not offering any answers. I am trying to reframe this discussion.
Sorry for your loss. And thank you for sharing your story. I’ve also lost someone (pills, not a firearm), and I appreciate your insight & thoughtfulness about your dad’s decision. It’s refreshing to hear comments coming from a place of love and understanding rather than the usual social stigmas or disgusting political agendas.
In my opinion, this article and the one by the Vietnam Vet, who received his High Power back long after the Vietnam War, are the “winners” in this contest.
Well said. So very, very well said.
Thanks for sharing.
The right to keep and bear arms is as important as the right to live your life as you see fit – and the right to end your life as you see fit.
This account brings major truth to the TTAG site. Keeping it very real. We need to present more of this and less caliber wars.
Very moving. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing! My grandma committed suicide too due to long term ill health and suffering over many years. She was in a house full of guns which were kept in my grandpa’s closet and the ammo was on the shelf right there above them. This was in a time before trigger locks and gun safes. She took pills to end her life instead. If according to the antis, easy access to guns makes suicide much more prevalent, then why didn’t she use a gun? Because we know that is bunk.
You are correct in that if someone has made the decision to end their life the means is irrelevant, they will find any way they can to do what they have set their mind to.
This is the kind of thing that I think should be submitted to the “Moms Demand Action” website, in their “Faces of Courage” section:
For those who don’t know about this, it a section of their website that asks people to submit a short story/personal experience of “how gun violence in America has impacted your life”. I’d like to see stories like this submitted to the site. Even if they never get posted, I believe that whoever reads them for evaluation has to be moved, especially with good writing like this.
If this story was submitted to MDA, I would not want to read the sure-to-follow “tolerant” comments by the “sensitive” MDA.
There was another facet about your father that you failed to mention…………..he raised one-helluva son!
My mother is doing chemo right now and sometime in the next couple of months, if it doesn’t work, she’s going to face the decision of whether she’s going to lose a kidney and go on dialysis twice a week for the rest of her life… or not. They don’t do kidney transplants for cancer patients unless they’ve been free of it for at least 5 years. The doctors tell her people who survive on dialysis usually don’t last more than three, maybe five years . And quality of life would I think, suck.
If she has to make that decision… I can’t make it for her. The doctors can’t either. If she chooses to just let the cancer take her some would call that suicide since she would not be doing her utmost to last as long as possible. And if someone tries to force her to lose that kidney when she has decided not to keep trying, they will be going to war with me.
It is her life, and her choice. Her right and her freedom to decide. I don’t have to like it, I just have to respect it.
My sister, my only sibling, died last year… in great pain. The last thing she said the day she died was to whisper a prayer for Jesus to take her. My real father died when I was 4, also of cancer, he stayed as fit as he could and fought to the end, to stay as long as he could and he died at home, in bed with my mother asleep beside him. We buried my step-father last Monday, he went quick, and in the shape he was in, everything crapping out on him, his back, knees, lungs, bladder, heart… it was a mercy. He might have lived longer if he hadn’t hated hospitals, but he did hate those places and he hated becoming an invalid too, so he kept on pushing his heart to get up and go about town like always and he died in his bed of a heart attack. I love my mother but I have no right to force her to stay around any longer than she decides she’s going to. Doing a thing like that is not doing it for her, but doing it for me, for my convenience in not having to deal with another funeral for that much longer.
If someone is decided on dying, whether by suicide or by ceasing to pursue or just not following their medical options, it is their choice and their right. Being free means being free to make that choice. Freedom and Liberty isn’t just about the happy stuff. If it also the freedom to ruin yourself and the freedom to end yourself if that is what you choose to do. Liking it means as little in that as demonstrating “need” means to the right to own a gun.