The Wrong Hands For Guns
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., September 17, 2005.)
I've never been shot, but I've been lucky.
As you enjoy this hunting season, ask yourself, "What kind of hands are mine?"
A close call came many years ago when I was walking up the trail alongside Brown Run with a teenage buddy. He tripped, and as he lurched forward to catch his balance he jammed the barrel of his .22 rifle into the soft spot just under my earlobe. Like I said, I was lucky -- if there's such a thing as luck. I was lucky his finger wasn't on the trigger. If his finger was on the trigger, I was lucky he didn't pull it when he instinctively tightened his grip as he stumbled. If he did pull it, I was lucky the safety was on.
Years later I met a local surgeon in the woods. He looked at my shotgun and said, "Guns scare me. I've seen what they can do." I've also seen what guns can do, and they scare me, too.
Guns by themselves don't scare me, but guns in the wrong hands do. Careless hands are the wrong hands for guns. Careless hands are hands attached to an unthinking mind. On the day my friend jammed the barrel of his gun into my ear, he was carrying the gun in a cross-body position. Had he (or I) been thinking, he would have been pointing the gun the opposite way. The thinking gunner considers whether he should carry cross-body, or on the shoulder, or pointed down and forward, or up and away in front.
The hands of a person influenced by alcohol are the wrong hands for guns. Excess alcohol impairs judgment, and handicaps one's ability to assess his impairment. When I see beer in a camp it bothers me, but not because I oppose alcohol. It bothers me in the same way beer cans on the floor of a car bother me. Alcohol can weaponize a person.
The hands of bullies and show-offs are the wrong hands for guns. Some people are victims of their own machismo, thinking they are as invulnerable as Muhammad Ali. He is said to have told a flight attendant when refusing to buckle his seatbelt, "Superman don't need no seat belt." She calmly replied, "Superman don't need no airplane either." All men sometimes need reminded, especially when around firearms, that we're not Superman.
The hands of an angry person are the wrong hands for guns. A chip on your shoulder is best left home when hunting or target shooting. A fight with the wife or the boss isn't a good prelude to hunting. Anger can cloud judgment.
The hands of a poacher are the wrong hands for guns. There is a good reason for poachers and felons to lose their gun rights. Lawbreakers can be motivated to attack those who might reveal their lawlessness.
The hands of a person who doesn't respect others are the wrong hands for guns. The inability to consider the rights of others, the lack of common courtesy, and the notion that anyone who is in the woods is in my way reveals attitudes that invite trouble.
The hands of a person who doesn't respect guns are the wrong hands for guns. People must be taught respect for guns. In a day when young people see hundreds of murders on television and in the movies we are desensitized to the seriousness of firearms. That's a good reason for gun safety to be mandated in our schools. But now I'm dreaming.
Come to think of it, guns don't scare me as much as hands scare me. It is the hands that are unpredictable. In the proper hands, a firearm is a tool that can bring challenge and enjoyment to you. In the wrong hands, it can bring suffering and tragedy to many. As you enjoy this hunting season, ask yourself, "What kind of hands are mine?" That's no dream. It should be a reality for all of us.