I’ve only recently rediscovered it. Books and television and movies focus on the visual and auditory report of a shot, and if they do dare to dive into another sense, the sense of smell, it is usually the rancid burn of gunpowder and the thickness of blood and death associated with a firefight. But they never talk about the other smells. The cold iron rubbing against the skin as you disassemble or tinker; the pleasant, warm sweetness of gun oil as you clean and clean and clean and try to prevent your old friend oxidation from taking hold. There is cotton fluff in the air as you pull the swab through the eye of an overblown needle’s head and when you shove it down the inert blued metal of a barrel, coming back clean, you are finally satisfied and can put all your trinkets back together where they belong. You lock them up in a big, green safe, and you smile and tell yourself you are responsible…but just in case…you can unleash hell should it be required. It’s a calming, wonderful feeling.
I don’t pretend that these fond reflective times and the smell of oils and the rhythmic -thump- and trickle of gunpowder into a shell hull is something everyone experiences. I grew up knowing that guns were not toys, but that if you treated them with careful respect they were no more likely to blow your head off as the oven or microwave or dog next door. I grew up knowing that no gun was safe until both mom and sister had a chance to look at them in addition to my father and I. Only when everyone was sure was the gun allowed to stay in the house. I like that rule.
With adolescence thrusting me firmly into the anime side of culture I relished in the more elegant bladed weapons for a while, but honestly, the fond -thump, splish, kachunk-thump- of reloading a round with my father never lost the romantic, idealized joy from my childhood.
Days at the range…just me and dad…trying out new rounds in my .22 rifle and laughing at the comically underpowered nature of them – or the uncertain pride I felt when he’d exclaim that I grouped something at a range and there were meters and yards involved. Then there was the sheer explosive joy of me and my sister watching him explode…and I do mean explode…watermelons with the hydrostatic shock of a proper rifle round. Never did they seem scary…always did they seem important to do right. Hunting grouse in the woods and bringing home the tiny birds for mom to make ‘mcnuggets’ out of felt better than any surprise drive-thru-treat.
I tell myself that the reason I decided to try shooting again was due to writing. Partially…I suppose. I never liked how popular media turned guns into either the heroic answer to any bad situation, nor the vilified weapon of scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells. I had firm opinions burnt into me from events like Columbine and Sandy-Hook, but as I thought about them I realized that I hated firearms no more than I could hate a kitchen knife or a car, despite the fact that they are responsible for some of the more gruesome and horrible murders in my city’s history and day-to-day tragedies.
Pro-Gun folk love people like me…the undecided, on the fence types. The ones with enough sense (maybe) to respect firearms, but those without some kind of media or culture driven fear hammered into us just yet.
Canada’s gun culture is admittedly a strange beast. We’re outright told that leveling ANY weapon against another human being is a terrible crime, and even in cases of clear life-or-death self defense, there will always be portions of the law working to put you away as a terrible human being for not letting the police somehow magically step in to save the day. Watching the news in Canada, looking for gun related stories, is an exercise in “What the Actual Fuck??”. Between labeling anything more powerful than a CO2 powered pellet gun an “assault rifle” or police/RCMP being less knowledgeable about firearms and their laws than a citizen who is forced to take a specialized safety course….well, it’s comical and sad most times.
There’s no doubt in my mind that we get some things right here in Canada VS Gun Culture in the US. A lot of it is indeed attitude…the idea that anyone has the right to blow a hole in someone elses head because they’re drunk, high or hopped up on cold medicine and try to open your door VS theirs is terrifying. But we are also a nation of people who grew up with guns. Who see them as tools and not some Rambo-inspiring Superweapon. We hunt gophers on the plain and wolves in the mountains and there will always be people who say we’re not shooting enough and we’re shooting too much. Either way, I’m glad we have the mandatory training and safety courses…I feel that’s a damn good place to start and I think any state that wants to give away the permit to carry an item that could potentially end five-to-twenty lives in the span of a few heartbeats deserves at least that much respect and consideration.
What we don’t’ get right is the common sense elements. Our magazine capacity laws are ridiculous as I am just finally learning and learning to appreciate them. We are at the mercy of a misinformed and hollywood-ized public opinion mixed with a blatant desire for the law enforcement elements of the land to wish for a simpler job where they don’t have to worry about law abiding citizens having access to long-range weapons. The last major incident on Canadian Soil, a gunman in Moncton NB gunning down RCMP officers, used no restricted or specially controlled weapons – there was no controversial clip size or calibre here. As insane as Justin Bourque was for firing on ANY living soul, he needed nothing more than what the average Canadian requires to make those delicious Grouse McNuggets I spoke of earlier.
Intent is everything.
Some people want a silencer because they think it will turn them into Agent 47 in the Hitman video games…while anyone who has actually seen and heard what a silencer REALLY does / sounds like is more interested in the safety aspects: primarily the lack of hearing protection required to use a firearm that has been ‘silenced’.
I suppose that’s part of the reason I’m bothering sharing this element of my childhood and my current life, is that it’s important to demystify and remove the perceived demonization of certain phrases and ideas and things in our culture.
Even during my course on firearms safety, I realized how much of my perception had been altered by media and the words associated with firearms. After a while, you need to realize how many of these words…ideas…images…are being fed to you by someone else, someone who may have their own agenda or plan or sponsors. Phrases like ‘Zip Gun’ and ‘Polymer Lower’ and ‘Assault _____’. If you ever wanted 100% proof that the media was in charge of legality, I invite you to review the labeling of a couple of 60 year old Russian semi-automatics as ‘assault rifles’ as per our good friends at the CBC.
It goes both ways, of course. Many NRA-like organizations will tell you a loaded AK 47 is no more dangerous or strange than a swiss-army-knife you keep in the kitchen drawer, ready to fix Little Timmy’s toy fire-engine with the crying bald eagle flag and the image of the World Trade Centre plastered on every corner of the cheap, red, made-in-China plastic.
I don’t honestly think there’s a way to fix gun violence in the US. In Canada, it’s a bit easier with the sheer number difference we show compared to our southern brothers, but even then we’re only fixing the laws for those who abide by the law.
For some, when you mention Gun, it will always bring up images of hiding under the stairwell, the blasting flash of blue and red, and the wail of someone who has just lost their best friend, their brother or sister, or their community’s protector to a 1/10th of an ounce of unfortunately placed copper and lead.
For those who remember only the sweet smell of gun oil, the crisp freshness of a fall midday hunting with their father, or the laughter of a target range echo, I implore you…don’t be assholes about it. Share your experiences and always remember that for some people they will be seeing things from the muzzle, not the breach. But it doesn’t have to be that. It can be different. All the fruitless hunts but hours bonding – the computer-geek-like joy of discussing the latest extractors or bolts or optics on your Mossberg and Remington and how you found just the *perfect* powder load….Demystify and reclaim the Gun from the frontier of Hollywood Boogiemen.
Let’s put the responsibility for ending another soul back firmly onto the person doing it.
And when I write about firearms, I hope I’ll do them some proper justice, instead of the bullshit that Hollywood tries to pander to us. I hope to write about the seriousness of each trigger-pull and the smell of gun-oil and the recoil and the visceral experience instead of just saying ‘BOOM BOOM BLAM BLAM!’ In the meantime, I’m going to call up my father and thank him again for teaching me how to reload 12-Gauge shotgun shells. Because, honestly, that was some fun stuff.
=- Studio Shinnyo 2014. Khattam-Shud, EOF.Posted under Manifestoes