“I think all bullets should cost five thousand dollars… if a bullet cost five thousand dollars there would be no more innocent bystanders.” – Chris Rock
By Eddie Whitlock
I had planned to write a humorous column this week for Classic City News concerning political campaign signs, but in light of recent events across the country I decided to push that subject back to the fall, when the November midterm elections will be the talk of the town.
Instead, I thought I would use this opportunity to write about a truly serious topic: Guns.
For the record, I’m a liberal Democrat so, if you’re a conservative Republican, you can hate me now and avoid the last-minute rush.
I’m going to start this piece with a personal story that I don’t tell often: My father once shot a man. This happened around 1970, I think.
My father had a little gas station and garage. He was repairing a flat tire at the time. A man came in and wanted to use the air hose. My father said he would have to wait.
Words were exchanged. My father was no saint. He probably spoke harshly to the man, but he didn’t threaten him. Instead, he turned his back and continued to try to get the tubeless tire to inflate.
The man picked up a two-by-four nearby and struck my father in the head.
My father fell, rolled over, and pulled a two-shot derringer from his back pocket. The man was standing, facing him, the board drawn back. My father shot the man in the midsection.
The man was hospitalized and survived. Years later, he was involved in the kidnapping and shooting of a deputy.
My father, who would probably be a Trump supporter today, was traumatized by shooting someone. He didn’t want to do it. He carried his hidden little pistol for self-protection and used it for that.
After the incident, he still carried a gun. He was traumatized, but his using the gun kept him from getting hurt worse or even killed.
I’m not against guns. I’m against murder.
I try to be open-minded. It’s been said that a liberal is someone so open-minded that he won’t take his own side in an argument. I want to be open-minded on this.
I tried to watch some opposing viewpoint videos on You Tube, but I couldn’t sit through them. The two fellows I thought were most civil proved self-righteous and condescending.
Unfortunately – and honestly – I think that’s how gun-control advocates come across to Second Amendment advocates.
Like abortion, gun control seems to have no middle ground, just two opposing viewpoints that grow further apart. If you’re certain you’re on the high moral ground, it’s hard to compromise.
Unless you’re wearing a tee-shirt promoting your stance on abortion, it’s probably not going to lead to a confrontation with strangers. The open carry of guns both prompts confrontation and discourages it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Goodwill and encountered a man with his pistol on his belt. I stared at him, and he acknowledged by staring back and asked if I were having a good day, and I told him I was.
I wanted to talk to him, but I knew it would not be an easy conversation. It probably wouldn’t be a conversation at all.
I look at the open-carry folks as threatening the public places they visit.
If their purpose is to be “the good guy with a gun,” I guess wearing that pistol on his belt was a preventative to any bad guys with guns who were thinking about doing something bad. Does that mean his open carry is a good idea?
If my father had been wearing his derringer on a holster, would the bad guy not have struck him? I don’t know. He might have struck him and taken the gun. Or he might have been dissuaded from the attack. I don’t know.
I don’t have a problem with guns for self-protection. I can’t quite accept open carry as a good idea. It still seems more like a challenge than a response.
I’m a lousy hunter. I went a few times with my father. I never killed a deer. He did, but I didn’t. I never saw one on the trips we took. I would have certainly taken a shot. If I had killed a deer, I would have been proud of myself. That’s my upbringing, my culture, my class – whatever you want to call it.
When I heard a right wing talk show host reference gun control proposals regarding “modern hunting rifles,” I could only shake my head.
No, I am not a gun expert. I know that. I don’t pretend to be.
There are gun experts who are concerned about the mass shootings that are now commonplace in our country. Those are the folks who need to step up and find ways to move the debate to a reasonable, addressable place.
As an adult, I kept two pistols in my home for self-protection. I never had to use them. One was a semi-automatic. The other was a seven-shot Italian revolver, a weird little .22.
When I went through some major depression a few years ago, I packed up guns and ammo and asked a friend to keep them for a while. I’m lucky that anosognosia didn’t stop me.
Improving mental health services and removing the stigma around seeking help would be a positive step for us. It wouldn’t be a total solution, but I think it would be a start.
Here’s another story that I don’t tell often: My grandfather once shot a man’s ear off. It was an argument over a watermelon patch.
The gunshot was clearly meant to kill the man. Ear removal was a better outcome for all involved. If my grandfather had killed the man, he would have probably gone to prison and – yadda, yadda, yadda – I wouldn’t be here now.
Later, the man got his revenge and shot my grandfather in the back with a shotgun. I’m assuming it was either bird shot or a very long distance since my grandfather lived.
I learned about this in the mid 1970s when my grandfather was hospitalized and the shot still in his back showed up in x-rays.
So my family has a history of both shooting and getting shot – and I have a personal history of mental illness. Maybe I’m not the right one to push for dialogue on the issue of guns.
And I’m not an optimist. I subscribe to Lily Tomlin’s comment, “No matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up.”
If I had to make a bet on it, I would bet that nothing will be done to alter the current availability of weapons.
But I keep hoping.
Eddie Whitlock is a Georgia native, a graduate of UGA, and wannabe writer. He retired in 2021 from the Athens-Clarke County Library, where he worked as coordinator of volunteers, community service supervisor, and vending machine scapegoat.