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Posted: 3/13/2001 4:59:36 PM EDT
How we love them? Count the ways

Sunday, March 11, 2001

MISSOULIAN EDITORIAL

SUMMARY: The interests of gun owners are often trivialized. Understanding
why people value their guns might help foster constructive solutions for
curbing violence.



A reader, in today's Letters column, asks an interesting question of
firearm owners: Why do you love your guns?

That's a very good question, one reflecting the huge gulf of understanding
in America separating people who own guns and value them from those who
fear and despise them.

It's hard to pick up a newspaper or tune into a news broadcast without
seeing a reminder of why many people disdain guns ­ another school shooting
in California, some punk waving a gun at women outside a shopping mall in
Missoula, white supremacists threatening to stage an armed march through
Coeur d'Alene this summer. Rare are the opportunities for people who don't
own guns to see what makes them attractive to the rest of us. Because the
desire to own and constructively use guns is unfathomable to many people
who don't own guns, it's not altogether surprising that many people think
they should be banned or greatly restricted.

Maybe if gun owners did a better job of explaining their interests, rather
than merely proclaiming their rights, we could achieve better
understanding, if not agreement between the two camps.

Why do we love our guns?

The simple answer is that we don't. Not really. It's probably not healthy
to love inanimate objects. Rather, we value our guns, value them greatly.

Why? Several reasons, which vary in priority from person to person.

We value our guns largely because of what we do with them ­ hunting,
mostly, along with some target shooting. Hunting is no mere pastime for
most of us who do it. It's more a way of life, a means of connecting to the
natural world and our heritage, as well as a way to gather food. It's
impossible to completely separate a gun from the time spent afield using
it. We value our guns as we value a mountain meadow, a brisk hike up a
ridge, the clean air and an autumn sunrise ­ not to mention meat on the
grill. Target shooting, some forms of which are Olympic sports, is fun,
engaging and challenging. Shooters enjoy breaking clay pigeons, hitting
bull's eyes, or plinking cans much as golfers enjoy driving a ball or
basketball players enjoy shooting hoops.

We also value the various aspects of responsibility associated with guns.
Most gun owners can recall in detail the first time a parent or grandparent
entrusted them with a gun, saying in deed more powerful than any words that
they were ready and worthy of the responsibility. We earned that trust

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