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Guns Now And Then

August 2, 2022

I remember as a youth of 15 going into a liquor store (now called mini market) after hunting in rural California to buy a Coke and some chips while having a .38 revolver strapped to my side. I would wander the aisles a bit, find what I wanted and go to the cash register and pay for my purchase. The cashier could see that I was carrying a sidearm but no one got upset. It was legal and accepted behavior at the time and nothing out of the ordinary at all. In fact, there were hundreds of us hunters and target shooters that regularly did the same without as much as a frown.

Try that today! Someone would scream “gun” and you would be dropped like a bowling pin in under a second. We are talking about a huge change here in the way Americans perceive guns. The pitch has gone from calm to plain nutty.

When I was a child, I can’t remember ever hearing about a murder in our small town. There may well have been some but they certainly didn’t make the evening news. Likewise, I never heard of anyone shooting a thief in a home invasion although I am sure there were plenty of thieves back in the day. And I never heard of anyone shooting anyone else just for the hell of it. So what are we talking about here, facts or perceptions? It is probably a bit of both.

Some sixty years ago, there were fewer guns and yet they were more openly presented as opposed to being hidden away in closets. Today there are way more guns but practically no one wears a sidearm in the open with the exception of law enforcement personnel. (Here in North Carolina, we have an open carry law.) There is way more gun related crime now, even on a per capita basis than sixty years ago yet everyone wants to hide their weapons. These are the facts.

Now the perceptions. Six decades ago, people weren’t particularly afraid of guns or gun ownership. It was a part of the American West that carried over into the twentieth century. Guns were considered a normal piece of family life in America. Sure, there were the exceptions but nobody seemed to get upset at the idea of gun ownership. Then came August 1, 1966. In Austin, Texas, Charles Joseph Whitman, a former US Marine, killed 16 and wounded at least 30 while shooting from a University of Texas tower. Police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy shot and killed Whitman in the tower. Whitman had also killed his mother and wife earlier in the day. This was a pivotal day in the perception of guns in America. Guns were now feared. America had long forgotten about September 5, 1949, then it came back in an instant: In Camden, New Jersey, 28-year-old Howard Unruh, a veteran of World War II, shot and killed 13 people as he walked down Camden, New Jersey’s 32nd Street. His weapon of choice was a German-crafted Luger pistol. He was found insane and was committed to a state mental institution where he died at the age of 88.

Today we fear guns as we have seen what they do in the hands of the insane or terrorists. People get shot everyday in America and unfortunately it is viewed as a normal occurrence. Often these shootings are over petty disagreements. Criminals who use firearms illegally put a huge burden on the shoulders of law-abiding gun owners, resulting in the gun hysteria we have seen in recent years. All gun owners are now painted with the same “bad guy” brush.

It is time to take the mystery out of guns, severely punish those who use them illegally while preserving our heritage and rights to own and correctly use firearms. Voices have to calm on both sides of the gun debate. Perhaps both the facts and perceptions will change for the better.

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3 Comments
  1. Many things aren’t looked at openly and logically, which is counterproductive. It’s not possible to correct a problem when the data is examined with a slanted viewpoint and through a lens blurred by emotion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And now they have just announced the new improved super AR15 that can shoot through bulletproof doors.

    Liked by 1 person

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