The Spectacle Blog

A Letter From Gun Country

By on 6.5.14 | 4:05PM

Dear urban citizens,

I’m about as violent as a summer breeze. There are no fewer than three “animal cemeteries” at my parents’ home because I insisted that all local road kill be properly interred. But I have shot shotguns and hand guns of various sizes in the woods with family, friends, and college classmates. I was never interested in hunting, but I’ve eaten dove with barbeque sauce and venison stew from last fall’s hunt.

The first time I ever heard the term “gun culture” was during a trip to the Grand Canyon with my family. We stopped at an out-of-the-way café and began chatting with a couple of tourists from New York. They told us they were touring the national parks of the Southwest, and we gave them the local skinny on what to see and do. But when my father, a physician, casually mentioned that his knowledge of such-and-such area came from yearly hunting trips, their eyes went wide.

“So, do you own guns?” the woman asked in hushed tones, glancing around as she spoke.

He reassured her, “It’s just part of gun culture.”

To that nice couple from New York and anyone like them, here’s the difference between you and me.

When I think of guns, I think about the yearly trip to go shooting with my grandpa and uncles, all of whom are engineers. There’s a dirt road twenty minutes out of town leading to an open field that’s good for shooting. Before a shot is fired, my dad takes all the young cousins aside to make sure they have earplugs and “the lecture.”

“It doesn’t matter whether this gun is cocked or even loaded,” he says. “You never, ever point a gun at anything you don’t want to shoot.”

When I think of guns, I think about my hometown. The local newspaper will print any picture of a student with their first downed elk, deer, or bobcat right next to the engagement and graduation notices. My classmates in high school (many of whose wardrobe staples included camo pants and flannel shirts), reported “what they got” during Monday classes in hunting season.

When I think about guns, I think about the doctor who employed me for two summers. He has served as an unpaid ecclesiastical leader over 200 people, and in that capacity was one of the first to organize relief for people whose homes were burning down in the Rodeo-Chedeski fire. Yet, while working for him, it was my job to unwrap the heavy ammunition he had sent to his office. He brought one of his guns to the office about once a week, usually to show off a new feature to interested patients. He liked to teach me how to load handguns over lunch while the receptionist rolled her eyes.

A local police officer once told my freshman class that our area didn’t have any gangs—a gang had almost started a few years back, but “the cowboys” of the area challenged them to a shoot-out. Shots were fired, but not at people, and the would-be gangsters were dispatched in short order.

An ROTC student and friend of mine told me that, as a woman, I should consider getting a concealed weapons permit. He offered to help me select a weapon and take me out on the range for training. I haven’t taken him up on it, but when I have the time I might.

Dear urban citizens, this letter isn’t about gun control, mental health, the NRA, or even the Second Amendment. I just wanted you to know that I come from gun country, and when I think of guns, it’s my grandpa refusing to shower on hunts because “the smell will scare all the deer away,” or my father looking me straight in the eye and saying, “You don’t ever point a gun at something you don’t want to shoot.”

Sincerely,

Lucy Schouten

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