When I was 8 we moved to a new home, in the lovely town of South Windsor CT. One side of the street were the older homes that had been there for a few years. On the other side of the street a developer had bought land and built 15 or so homes. It was into one of these we moved that summer. Up the street from our new house was an older home, the home of a boy named Butchie. He was a year, maybe 2, older than myself. He was a horrible person.
When we first moved into our house, our yard was still all dirt. That part of CT was made up of dirt that was in good part red clay. You could make fabulous mud pies, adobe like bricks and the like with it. It was also full of rocks and pebbles.
One day, as I was playing in my backyard, I turned the corner of my house to find Butchie standing there, with an air rifle in his hands. He didn’t say anything, he just placed the barrel of that rifle to the bare, pebble strewn ground, cocked the rifle, which effectively pulled dirt up into the barrel of the rifle, then pointed it at my legs and fired. I probably do not need to say it hurt. But it did. More than that, I was HORRIFIED. Someone, a child barely older than myself, had taken a rifle, and shot it at me. Three times in rapid succession. I turned and ran in the house, and Butchie left before my mother was able to deal with him.
There was another incident with Butchie, involving him barreling into me with his bike while I was riding mine down the street, knocking me over. I spent a lot of time despising him, and being BAFFLED by the fact that at school, he was a hall monitor, and that the teachers and principal all thought he was fabulous. He was a bully, in the purest sense of the term.
During this same time in my life, we went to dinner at a house of friends of my parents. These were not people that we saw a lot, in fact I really cannot remember ever seeing them again. But we went to dinner that night at their house. They had a son who was slightly older than myself. We ended up playing in their basement at some point. Completely unexpectedly, this boy I didn’t know, this boy who was the son of a friend of my parents, went into some unseen part of the basement, and returned with what appeared to be a rifle. To this day I do not know if it was real. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that this boy barely older than myself pointed that rifle at me, and told me he was going to shoot me if I didn’t get down on my knees and beg for mercy. He wanted me to beg for my life.
I am not sure why, but I refused. I looked at him, as he told me he would shoot me if I didn’t get on my knees and beg for my life, and said I was not going to do that. I said I was going to go back upstairs. He said he would shoot me if I told anyone what happened. I just looked at him and walked up the stairs. It probably goes without saying he did not shoot me.
I did not mention that incident to my parents, not for a very long time. It nestled down, quietly into the dark undisturbed recesses of my memory for a long time. When I did remember it, and I told my mother about it, she could not imagine which friend this was. This boy threatened my life with a gun. Real or not, that gun was used as a threat.
My brother and I grew up going to upstate New York to visit my father’s parents. Dad grew up in the very quaint town of Minetto NY. In the room we slept in most of the times we visited during our young childhood, the room my father and his younger brother shared growing up, hung the rifles that dad and Uncle David used to hunt throughout their young lives. One of them my Uncle David used to try and shoot a squirrel in the yard, from inside the house. He ended up blasting the window sill apart so the story goes. But they just hung there, unlocked, unmonitored. However, we grew up knowing and understanding that these were guns. They were weapons, and they could kill. We never touched them without an adult handling them first. I never touched them in fact. They were as much an ornament on the wall to me as the pictures I looked at as I laid there, unable to sleep, on humid July evenings. But my brother shot them with my dad, and we understood their power, their awful power.
I have spent 48 years not touching a gun. I have no need for one in my own life, but appreciate that others like or need to hunt, that they are necessary for certain lines of work, etc. I am not anti gun. But I do support gun control. I support limiting access to guns and ammunition, to requiring background checks and making it harder to get your hands on these things that kill.
I do not know what became of Butchie or the other kid. For all I know they became positive role models and upstanding citizens. It is just as possible they ended up dead or in prison for pulling the dumbass antics they pulled on me, but with someone who was just as stupid and mean as they were, who didn’t just turn and walk away. These children had access to and thought nothing of using a gun to shoot at or threaten another child. I don’t know where that idea came from, I don’t know if they ever realized exactly how STUPID they were. But I could easily have been a tragic statistic or at least hurt badly if that air rifle had been pointed at my face, or had managed to have more than just dirt and pebbles in it. Or if that kid in the basement had had a real gun with real ammunition and wasn’t just trying to play some weird sadistic game with some girl he never met before.
Gun control won’t stop kids from having air rifles. But it could prevent other tragedies from happening. It won’t keep a complete lunatic from committing horrible crimes against innocents if that lunatic is truly bent on it. But it could slow the lunatic down. Making it harder to kill people with guns is not a restriction of anyone’s Constitutional right. It is a just plain goddam sense.