Last night my husband and I watched on TV an old western with a young Clint Eastwood as the hero. He wore a poncho and without moving it he could outdraw anyone trying to do him in.
When I was growing up 80 years ago, I loved a shoot-'em-up show. I could pretend I was on one of the horses galloping like mad to the rescue. As kids we shot cap guns and rubber-strung rifles and always had an "enemy." During the Depression I remember standing at the counter of the corner confectionary clutching my penny. Which? A roll of caps or a jawbreaker? The caps always won, and I shot judiciously to make the delicious smell of a shot last.
Later, in high school in the '40s, we could choose for P.E. 50minutes in the rifle range in the basement. ROTC boys helped the sergeant show us how to lie on the padded platform, to pull the trigger of the long gun softly and try for the target. The gun retracted to bruise a shoulder, and the gunpowder stung the eyes and brought on a cough. But it was triumph to hit a bull's eye.
That was the last of a gun in my hands, but the cowboy shows kept me shooting and riding and loving a campfire on the screen.
So why now be appalled by Clint Eastwood doing in the bad guys? Maybe it was watching the bad guys laughing as they mowed down men and horses by cranking a Gatling gun, shooting dozens of bullets a minute. Or the same bad guys laughing as they picked off men running from a burning building, some still on fire.
The glee. That was it. The heinous glee in killing. Even our hero Clint manages to wipe out six outlaws from under his poncho and shoot out the rope that was set to hang his tortured friend. The shooting eerily echoed the maniacal gunning down of innocents by a far-from-heroic gunman in recent headlines.
And this old movie is probably a pale comparison to a video game where the player shoots policemen like ducks in a shooting gallery. Surely the mayhem was minor compared to the current bloody violence of three out of four previews of coming attractions inflicted before the start of a movie in any local theater.
After the Clint Eastwood shoot-'em-up my no doubt old and fragile sensibilities sent me reading First Corinthians about faith, hope and charity, topped off with good laughs at some Nora Ephron goofiness about her neck before I could go to sleep.
And before I stormed a letter off to a paper or my legislator, I tried to look at the other side of using a gun. I called my cousin.
Not only does she live on a ranch and own a gun, she also worked for 40 years at the Browning Arms Company plant that adjoins the beautiful acres where my father grew up and where she now lives in Mountain Green. She, her husband and their grown children all own guns and keep them locked in a gun case. They like to hunt and need guns to shoot predators (mostly coyotes) that go after their livestock.
But she uses an assault weapon! For shooting at a distance and being sure to hit. This cousin so attuned to my love of horses and mountains and broad meadows below those mountains. This cousin who loves to read and is signed up to take the writing class I teach to write her own story. Also loving guns? Assault rifles?
I had to sleep on the idea. This morning I'm thinking that guns in her life are probably no more a sign of reckless animosity than my cap gun was those years ago. She, like 70 percent of gun owners polled in a Pew Research survey, wants solutions to prevent killing sprees that have so tormented the nation.
But even upon learning something of "the other side" of gun control, I think enough is enough. Surely bright, creative, feeling people who can take on space and bring the many other technological "miracles" of the past century can find ways on this blessed earth to limit accessibility to military firearms and thwart the inclination to violence. The cowboy shows of the '30s were make-believe. Gun violence now is real to me.
Violence to the psyche results from this kind of violence, especially from violence to children. Fear follows and begs for protection -- please, some protection.
Finding protection demands wise, balanced consideration unpolluted by ideology or tradition. And most of all, unpolluted by the corruption of money.
Please, before my generation is gone, let's find a rescue -- some thoughtful, humane, balanced changes by the good guys, gun lovers or otherwise, to harness the death-dealing bad ones.