July 2, 2014

Not All Gun Owners are Evil

I had another topic in mind for today’s post, but I just had a conversation about guns I found interesting. I was talking with a home contractor I’ve used for several years, and we've become friends.

He came to the house this morning so we could discuss several projects I had in mind. We hadn’t seen each other for awhile, so we spent some time catching up.

We were having a good chat, agreeing on many things. For instance, he said the GI Bill had completely turned his life around. He was able to get a college education and buy a house -- two things that wouldn't have happened without the government's help. We discussed how this huge federal welfare program had built the American middle class and helped create the post-war economic boom.

Then he mentioned he’d been feeling a bit bored lately and had decided to return to a hobby he really loved. He’s 60 years old. I’d written recently about studies that showed how being passionate about some pursuit was "a very robust predictor of health and wellness in old age.” So I wanted to hear more.

“What’s your hobby?” I asked.

“I’m a shooter and I like building guns,” he answered.

So much for our amicable conversation, I thought. But I decided to plunge ahead.

“I’m afraid I’m a typical urban liberal. I’m against the NRA and guns,” I said.

“I’m against the NRA too,” he said. “I used to be considered a top shooter, and I’ve met [NRA president] Wayne Lapierre several times. He’s impossibly arrogant. I almost punched him out once."

“When I go to a firing range and talk to people who are planning to buy a gun for self-protection, I tell them: ‘Don’t get a gun. Get a dog instead. It’s cheaper and a lot safer.'”

He discussed the satisfaction he gets from working with his lathe on the gun parts and then assembling them. He’s set up a metal-working shop in his basement. His significant other keeps telling him it would be cheaper to just go out and buy a gun. But I could clearly see the joy he gets from his hobby of creating with his own hands something he regards as beautiful. Hopefully it will keep him living a long and healthy life.

And hopefully this chat will remind me not to indulge in stereotypes like “all gun owners are evil.” Some -- like my contractor -- are good, decent guys.

I wonder. Could that be true of right-wing Republicans as well? Naw. Now I'm being silly.

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