I am not a gun nut

I’m a gun owner, have been since I was a child. My dad bought me my first Daisy BB gun when I was 5 or 6 years old.  When he gave it to me he modified it by taking the back sight off of it. I did not have any BBs to load in it for months. We spent those months in the evenings when he was home sitting or standing in the living room learning the safety rules of shooting and then going through pointing drills that instilled in me a natural connection to the weapon. I learned how to get my face down on the comb so I looked directly down the barrel. I learned how to throw the gun toward the target when mounting from a relaxed position. I learned to never, NEVER EVER point the gun at a person or anything I did not want to shoot. EVER! 

When dad finally gave me some BBs we went in the back yard where he had hung milk cartons on the clothes line in front of the fence, he made sure that we had a safe backstop and that everything was good, then he began calling the targets he wanted me to shoot. I would throw and shoot, and low and behold I could hit those milk cartons. Dad taught me to watch the BB as it flew which instilled in me the ability to naturally, instinctively gauge for “Kentucky windage.” I have very fond memories of those days shooting my Daisy BB gun. 

I am not a gun nut, I am an outdoorsman. I am a Democrat, I am a Christian, I am a believer in the rule of law and I cherish life, not only mine but of all. And I am disgusted. Last month our nation was dealt a blow that will not easily heal. When a lone gunman attacked an elementary school in Connecticut the entire nation took note, and the gun nuts went to the store.  I am disgusted that huge profits are being piled in the accounts of gun and ammunition manufacturers because 27 people died innocently at the hands of a crazed individual. I am disgusted that the first response of the organization that represents the American gun owners to the public was to address the tragedy with more guns, which will add even more profits to the gun and ammunition manufacturers. This is a sick, twisted system perpetuated by fear manipulated to increase profit, nothing else.

I am disgusted that I am associated with such a fearful group of people — fellow gun owners — who allow fear mongering lobbyists to manipulate them into hoarding firearms and ammunition driving up the cost while at the same time driving up the profits for the people the lobbyist group really represents, gun and ammunition manufacturers and retailers. What a sick response to a national tragedy. I have been astounded and saddened that a fear fueled buying frenzy has effectively cleared the shelves of certain ammunition, a repeat of the fear orgy after the 2008 election.  After such a tragedy as what has happened in Newtown just the mention of a conversation about guns and how to control them started the automatic response in the minds of gun nuts: “Their gonna take yer guns!  Better load up on ammo and get that AR you wanted for Christmas.” Just disgusting, and shameful. This nation should be in mourning, joining with folks of Newtown, but instead, the self-centered response is to go out and buy more guns and ammunition. Sick, just sick.

In all of this there has been a little glimmer of hope. A few retailers have suspended sales of assault weapons, one has committed to cease carrying them. I don’t know that this is the answer in the long run, but at least it was a response that gives time to breath, to grieve, to think about solutions to the issues of violence in our society.  Damn the profits. 

Another ray of hope for a civil and productive conversation has been the response of some media outlets that have tried to have people talk about the complexity of the issues we face in regards to gun violence, gun control and the social issues that stimulate violent behavior. This is not a simple fix, and politicians who react with a knee jerk response are not better than the gun nuts.

I feel alone, and yet I know that there are a lot of gun owners like me who are devastated by what has happened in our nation over the past two decades with mass shootings becoming the next news cycle item de jour. We want our families to be safe and protected, and we struggle with the moral obligation to protect our families from danger while at the same time respecting all life. We struggle with the issues of violence and being seen as violent people because we own guns. We long for sanity to prevail in the conversation over gun ownership because we treasure our sport. We want non gun owners to know that we are not fanatics, we enjoy firearms sports that demand from us athletic discipline, hand-eye coordination, and a certain knowledge of physics. We want non gun owners to know that the thrill is not in destruction of a target but rather in the well-executed shot that is possible by the effective management of the body, calculation of trajectory, and proper lead in conjunction with the path of the target.

I am a gun owner, and I want to have a conversation about gun ownership. I am not afraid to have that conversation because I know that if we talk with one another solutions to our most significant issues can be found. Posturing and puffing up old ideologies will not find the answers, honest, straightforward, difficult conversation will and I look forward to it.

About John VanDerWalker

John VanDerWalker II serves as a Mission Research, Assessment and Support Specialist with the Western USA Mission Field of the Community of Christ.

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  1. John, I appreciate your willingness to weigh in on the subject John and I think you are not alone in your thoughts and position.

    I do not own a gun…unless a bb-gun counts, I know, I know, it can “put your eye out”.

    I guess the part of your post that makes me a bit uneasy is the way you talk about those “gun nuts”. I fail to see how demonizing the possible excesses of others somehow justifies or sanctifies one’s own ownership?

    “I am not like those other people”, starts sounding like the folks who always claim a “gay friend’ when trying to justify their own position on homosexuality. I am not trying to make you defensive, I am just thinking through my thoughts when I hear someone quarantine off the “other” to avoid the guilt of association.

    As for money is to be made on capitol hill by all the lobbyists and capitalists, including the hyporcitcal actors in Holywood who fleece the America public with their violent, gun flicks that portray all the horros we are decrying, but for entertainment. They get rich shooting people for our viewing pleasure!

    Now we will pass a law that prevents the size of the ammo clip from 30 to 10 and everyone will feel good about themselves for saving lives. Of course that doesn’t address the amount of ammo clips someone can carry in their jacket or tape together for fast reload but hey, we did something, so now we can pat ourselves on our backs so we can get back to our real loves:

    -Our violent movies…is ‘Dajango Unchained’ still playing?

    -Our Video Games…can I get a upgraded sniper rifle with heat seeking capabilities with increased headshot and quickscope skill or a chainsaw attachment for upclose gore kills?

    -Our Military campaigns…I hear we just drone bombed Yemen again, on Christmas! Can I sign up, kill for the government, avoid the moral quagmire of guns in America but use guns for America, (tax payer paid) and…get school scholarships too?

    -Slap on the tunes, especially the agressive, misogynistic music that praises thug life, unrestrained and degrading human sexuality that is part of the fueling of a rape culture and violence against personhood in relationships.

    But hey, that stuff, the real work of root removal, is much harder to face than voting on the number of bullets a killer may or may not be able to load into his/her weapon before he/she unloads on the intended victims.

  2. Django Unchained is a fantastic movie that really gets across the feudal, Roman-esque power and glory that owning people brought. It wasn’t out of racism (DiCaprio’s slave owner character doesn’t believe black people are inferior; he just enjoys the benefits of owning them.) Django’s “restorative violence” is a retexturing of a very deeply felt theme in black cinema. Everyone who can see it should see it. Violence in drama is a powerful narrative tool to metaphorically illustrate cultural or personal catharsis.

    It’s not the media. It’s not even the guns, although the guns are as important to the murder sprees as matches and propellant are to an arsonist. There’s something about these mass shootings that we’re either unwilling or mentally unequipped to understand.

    Banning guns is dumb. People are going to find ways to kill like an arsonist is going to find ways to start fires, even if matches are banned. Actually, in old West mining colonies, explosives were a more common tool of murder than guns because explosives were just around and available, and guns were banned in many townships and camps. (Although I think it’s pretty stupid to market and sell matches specially designed to burn down buildings quickly, right? If there’s a wave of horrific house burnings, maybe we should restrict matches for a while until we can figure out what’s going on and why? Sounds reasonable to me.)

    I won’t even venture to guess why these strange, creepy young men want to go on a shooting spree. Maybe it was 2012, end of the world anxiety? Maybe it’s the recession? Maybe it’s something completely out of left field, like an unknown side effect of a prescription drug or food additive? Maybe they were just rotten people? Maybe each and every killer had a completely different motivation.

    The way I see it is, each and every additional regulation, like limiting magazines to a certain size, is an unknown number of lives saved. The Aurora, CO killer apparently had his 100-round magazine jam (as they are apparently prone to do) and so killed less people than he would have. Maybe if a killer can only obtain a six shot, instead of thirty or fifty shot magazine, he can kill one or more less people than otherwise. Each life saved is worth the price of infringing a little bit on people’s freedom. You’ll never, ever, ever have a society where young men, hormonal and aggressive, never commit acts of violence. You’ll never have a society where people won’t die in bar fights, in car accidents, or even from an overly powerful fist blow. But you can tick down the deaths, and save as many people as is within your power. That’s the argument for regulation.

  3. John VanDerWalker

    Sam and Eric:
    The readers of Spokane Faith and Values can always count on you both for some thoughtful commentary.
    Eric: I’m busted. The demonizing you mention is the very behavior I abhor and thanks for calling me on it. I have very good friends that are gun nuts and while I enjoy the shooting sports I don’t hoard guns or ammunition. My difficulty is that when buying orgies like we have witnessed in the past weeks occur out of fear and “getting ready for when they come to take our guns” happen the none gun owning public must look at all gun owners aghast. I was not terrible eloquent, nor charitable in my effort to distance myself from folks who I mostly like, but and terribly disappointed in.

    Further, I think that it is the environment of fear that gun lobbyist feed on since they can energize huge numbers of people to make profits for those that they lobby for.
    I agree, with you concerning the hypocrisy on this issue. Anti-gun entertainment personalities who fuel and industry that thrives on gratuitous violence.

    Sam, funny you should mention dynamite. My Great-grandfather was put out of business by mine owners in Victor Colorado who blew up his assay office during one of the mine strikes, because he was supporting the mining families by processing their high grade that they brought him so the families could eat. Guns were present, but a couple of sticks of dynamite make a larger statement. Alas, the beginning of the VanDerWalker depression, which continues to this day, as my grandpa was apt to say.

    I appreciate this forum and feel privileged to be engaged with you in this discussion. i wish I could attend tomorrow’s coffee meeting, but I am in Boise this weekend for a wedding. Thanks to both of you

  4. Sam,
    “If there’s a wave of horrific house burnings, maybe we should restrict matches for a while until we can figure out what’s going on and why? Sounds reasonable to me.”

    That sounds about as illogical to me as banning sex for awhile because of rape, stds or abortion.

    I get your line of thought but if we used the same logic and applied it to other amendments I think it falls apart.

    Restricting freedom because of lawlessness isn’t logical to me.

  5. Ernesto Tinajero


    You are correct to blast our culture that glorifies violence, though I find it ironic. The Gun makers and the NRA have been actively cultivating these images. Samuel Colt knew that his myth of the brave homesteader fighting the savages on the great plains was hogwash, but he knew such stories were great for business. From the gun magazines that glorify war, the NRA has been actively encouraging dun fantasies.

    Now to answer your charge. Would sane gun laws effect deaths in a culture that glorifies violence. Well we share a culture with Britain and Australia. Dajango Unchained will be a hit there. The violent video games will be played there. There crime rates are going down due to similar demographics since the early nineties. Where they differ from the US is the rate of gun murders. They have had hundreds fold less deaths. They also have similar governments. Neither would be called oppressive and are thought of as Democracies. You are right not to care about these two countries’ results with gun control. Because most of the NRA arguments for assault weapons fade in the light of truth.

    Bu fret not. The reality is that the NRA has mastered the manipulation of the media. There template works. Lay low and then say the people calling for gun control are nothing but idealistic liberals (even though conservatives like Judge Larry Alan Burns come out for sane gun controls http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-burns-assault-weapons-ban-20121220,0,6774314.story because of his sitting over Jared Lee Loughner case) followed by talking about our violent culture and the deaths form Drunk Driving. Stall, stall, stall until the American public and the media move on. The use the power you have to both kill any sane measure and continue to chip away on the state and local levels on any gun control. It works. It worked after Columbine, after Virginia Tech and it will work after Sandy Hook. You have thought me a idealist, but I am more a realist. What Sandy Hook did was up the ante. Now, any weak willed man who wants to gather attention will have to make a more spectacular attack to prove his manhood, he will have to top Sandy hook. I am realist and there will be another attack, and another and another.

    There will be no meaningful gun control. There will be more and more Columbines, Virginia Techs and Sandy Hooks.

  6. Where were you today Ernesto?
    You should of brought your passion to the fire.
    You’ll get your gun laws. We will see if it ends the mass killings.

  7. Eric,

    My wife works for her father on Saturday. I get to play and take care my three year old. While I pray you are right about the gun laws, my long history with this issue makes me pessimistic about any meaningful laws. Even the so call bann on assault weapns between 1994-2004 was just a limit on the selling of those weapons to gun shows and it only increased the number of gun shows.

  8. “There’s enough gun violence in the film (Django Unchained) to make the movie Scarface look like a Disney adventure,” Leslie Sisman wrote at the Huffington Post, and Chiderah Monde of the New York Daily Newscalled it “this season’s bloodiest movie…”


  9. Alan Eschenbacher

    John … thanks for your comments. I too, owned my very own Daisy BB gun at the tender age of 7 and after the same training with my father and uncle I was out there plinking away. I still own several rifles and handguns, although I don’t think I have ammo for any of them, and have not fired any for over fifteen years. In 1997 I was foreman of a federal jury that heard a sensationalized trial that lasted 6 weeks. A group that lived in the north Idaho mountains and called themselves heirs of the Phinehas priesthood (see Numbers 25) had bombed several buildings and robbed multiple banks in 3 states had finally been caught and were on trial. When they arrested these men they found a compound and seized hundreds of weapons including fully automatic AR 15’s, and literally millions of rounds of ammo, they also had acquired a 50 caliber machine gun! The fellow that sold them the 50 cal was caught and he helped lead the FBI to this group. After participating in that trial and seeing 6 weeks of evidence and all the assorted pictures and so forth, I think it would be safe to say these folks were “gun nuts”, and criminals and home grown terrorists. My point is that there are plenty of these people out there and more “regular” folk are buying guns all the time, not many are into the criminal aspect like this group that was on trial, but I thought it interesting that in the testimony this group said they bought all of the AR 15’s from local folks at gun shows and then modified them to be fully auto. I wonder how many of the guns being bought in this recent spree will wind up in different hands? And whose hands will those be?

  10. My husband has guns. The NRA keeps sending him a bunch of propaganda and he gets very angry and riled up about it. I don’t like guns and he is angry and aggressive with me because I disagree with him about gun issues. He is threatening me with leaving me and has become very verbally abusive and threatening to throw me out on the streets and he pushed me down on the couch and put his fist up next to my face because I don’t agree with the current NRA’s stance on things. I am disabled, and have no money and no where to go. I am afraid of him. I don’t know what to do. I just wish I could disappear.

  11. You really need to get some help, SJ! That sounds like a dangerous situation. Perhaps you could start here? http://www.ywcaspokane.org/

    Seriously, get some help!

  12. Thanks for the link, Sam. SJ – I encourage you to take Sam’s advice. Please be careful!

  13. This note is for SJ…

    SJ I too was in an abusive relationship. My former husband drank and when he would, he was angry about everything and took it out on my face. I feel your pain so much. There is help and you have to keep believing in yourself. You are special in the site of God. It may not feel like it when you are down about as low as you can go but I am telling you, God Loves you!!! He loves you just the way you are. It doesn’t matter if you do not have money, there are people who will be able to help you if you are really wanting to make a change. There is the Y as Sam already mentioned and the Union Gospel Mission is great.

    In fact: The Crisis Shelter for Women and Children exists to provide a safe, healthy, short-term refuge for women and children in crisis. The address and phone number are: 1234 E Sprague Ave., Spokane, WA 99202 509-535-0486.

    You have to make this call. No one can do this for you. You have to decide that your life is worth making this change. You can do it and there are lots of people who will help you once you decide.

    I am going to be praying for you SJ and believing that you have the courage and confidence to do what is needed.

    Remember, God Loves you and so do we, everyone on this conversation with you…I think all of believe that there are deeper issues here than just the guns. Make the call. Take care of yourself…Love yourself.


  14. I doubt if any of you folks will see my comments because the last post was made almost three weeks ago, but here goes. You people are missing the point about the 2nd amendment; the 2nd amendment was not about hunting, shooting sports, etc, it is about the right to own weapons for defense from a corrupt government and from people who would do you physical harm-home invaders, muggers, rapists etc. The police are only minutes away when seconds count…. If that principal at Sandy Hook who lost her life trying to shield her students from the monster, and that’s what he was, had been trained and possessed a gun, she could have taken him out. Part of the answer to school shootings is to get rid of the stupid “gun free zones” because all of the mass murders at schools has been after the establishment of “gun free zones”. If you’ll notice, the movie shooting in Colorado was in the only theatre in a chain with a rule and posted outside of of the theatre “no guns allowed”. The killer knew that and went out of his way to murder in that particular theatre, even though there was one in that chain closer to where he lived. Limiting the size of magazines is no answer, as pointed out above; all one has to do is tape two together for a quick change. The term “assault weapon” is absurd. Anything I pick up to do harm to someone, whether it be a knife, sword, dagger, sharpened pencil, baseball bat, rock, fist, baleful glare, hateful look, is an “assault weapon”. The other definition is purely military-a gun with a selector switch for single fire or full auto. The AR-15 and other semi-automatic rifles, and pistols, I migh add, are not by definition “assault weapons”. They fire, by law, only one bullet per trigger pull. if you want to fire 5 bullets, you have to have 5 trigger pulls. Gun bans don’t work and have never worked; the FBI’s report said that the 1994 gun ban had a negligent effect on homicides & crime in general. Every time a state or principality has allowed permit concealed carry of a gun, the public outcry has been blood in the streets, but it hasn’t happened. Crime has gone down in every state that has allowed permit concealed carry. The FBI statistics tell us so, and the FBI can’t be wrong.

  15. Larry,
    Welcome to the conversation.
    I think I have heard your rhetoric somewhere else.
    To protect myself from a corrupt government I might need more than an AR-15. In case you haven’t noticed weapons are already restricted, I for example would love to have a fully armed A-10 Warthog with a stock pile of munitions, just for the fun of it mind you. However, as far as I know they aren’t for sale.
    And as for the rest of your comments, Germany and many other nations have high numbers of firearms per capita and the government has the obligation to keep track of those weapons, gun violence is quite low in Germany and no where in the developed world is it as high as it is in the US.
    I think it is clear that old rhetoric is not solving the problem of gun violence, and people who hoard guns and ammunition only give those who would like to restrict all firearms mountains of reasons to push even harder for further restriction. As a gun owner I am sympathetic to anti gun movements when I hear about such behavior. It is immoral to memorialize the death of children and adults in a senseless act of violence with a shopping spree.
    Your argument is old and worn out, and has offered no solutions to gun violence, it only creates avenues for a heightened mentality of violence. I mean no disrespect, but I don’t see the conversation happening in a constructive way, either pro or con when it comes to gun control. That is what this thread is about, an intelligent, fresh conversation.

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