A Really Terrifying Issue
by Evelyn Pyburn
I can still see it as clearly as if it were yesterday. The view from the second floor window of my high school, looking across the sprawling lawn and street, into the gravel parking lot. It was pretty much full of vehicles – mostly rather dusty, very used, older pickups of every make and color, the vehicles of teenage boys.
Standing there looking out the window —which I often did waiting for the after-lunch bell to ring — so common place was one of the things I could see, that I never once thought about it. It was something that if it existed for just one moment today it would generate absolute hysteria. Whatever my 16-year-old mind dwelt upon in those days, it never focused on the fact that in the back of every window of almost every one of those pickups was a gun rack with at least one gun hanging very visibly, for all the world to see. And every bit as amazing was the fact that probably not a single vehicle was locked.
As perilous a situation as one might be inclined to see it today, it is indeed astonishing that I do not recall a single problem ever occurring in school because of the guns or even because of the unlocked vehicles.
The fact is most high school boys either owned a gun or had access to at least one family-owned gun. Never was there any attention, that I can recall, paid to the fact that there were guns on the school grounds or anywhere else. As far as I know there were no school boards making rules about them or protocols in handbooks, but then we didn’t have any handbooks either.
It might have been considered a natural thing for a kid to show off a new gun to a friend, but I cannot recall ever seeing any such interactions nor conversations among the guys about guns, except for the occasional question of “Hey, do you want to go shoot gophers after school?”
If anything very significant had happened one would know, it was a small town where everyone knew most everyone else and not much excitement ever happened.
It was also very common, especially in the summer, to see two or three boys walking out of town toward the hills with guns swung over their shoulders going out to target practice or shoot gophers… although those two things were often considered the same.
Also, I grew up with three brothers and tons of frequently- visiting cousins on the farm, and all through our growing-up years, even though there was a gun rack in the living room with numerous guns and ammunition in a drawer below, and we were often with no adult supervision, never do I recall anyone wanting to fool with the guns. Not that they were model little boys, they simply were never interested.
They all knew how to shoot and what a gun was for. They did enjoy going hunting occasionally but they never viewed the guns as play things. So when I think about what life was like “way back then” I realize that whatever the issue is about when debating whether guns should be on campuses or school grounds, today, it has absolutely nothing to do with guns.
This is not to say I don’t “get” people’s concerns nowadays, it is to say that I realize we are talking about the wrong problem.
What has changed so much that the thought of young people having easy access to guns is alarming when it was never alarming before?
These kids weren’t saints, some were noted trouble-makers, but none of those troubles ever involved guns.
Nothing about guns has changed so we have to be more honest about the real problem. The change is in what we teach our children and the philosophical premises upon which they are raised.
When you think about it like that, the issue is far more terrifying than when you thought it was just about guns.