Sarah Hansen, Contributing Editor
Raised in Colorado and rural Nebraska
Currently living in Colorado
Guns are inherently a part of my family's life. As descendants of Annie Oakley, we've always been proud of our heritage and have always owned guns for hunting or protection or fun at the shooting range. I can't imagine growing up without guns, and I know that doesn't make me a violent person more likely to commit a gun crime.
I shot my first gun when I was four years old, at a soda can in a field. My parents felt that if my siblings and I weren't curious about guns, thinking they were mysterious or secretive, we wouldn't play with them. They were right in our case — we never went looking for the guns we knew were in the cabinet above the fridge or our parent's closet. I think this is a pretty common cultural viewpoint in Colorado and Nebraska. Growing up in a family of hunters and seeing dead deer hanging in the garage has taught me more about the violence of guns than any crime ever has.
As descendants of Annie Oakley, we've always been proud of our heritage and have always owned guns for hunting or protection or fun at the shooting range
I don't personally own a gun now, but I'm not opposed to owning a small handgun. I think this surprises people because I don't seem like the type to know about guns. I'm not afraid of guns and I know how to handle them properly (please, for the love of all that is right, never point a gun at a person ever ever ever, even if you're just looking at it and it's not loaded!). Even with my experience with guns, I am very pro-gun control with more restrictive gun laws. My upbringing has taught me that you can responsibly own guns for protection or hunting or sport, but there's absolutely no need for civilians to own assault weapons.
Sarah Fonseca, Contributing Editor
Raised in Lincolnton, Georgia
Currently living in Atlanta, Georgia
My present day socialist tendencies and rural background consistently clash over the subject of gun control. I tend to excuse myself from the room when gun control comes up in conversation. More often than not, my hometown denizens speak in misinformed, big government-phobic absolutes while my liberal colleagues speak in obliviously privileged absolutes. For me, the subject is more grey than that, and it's difficult for me to have these discussions without shooting myself in the foot. No puns intended.
When I was younger, my dad used his moderate collection of unregistered guns to keep our family fed during the coldest winters.
Even though I don't participate in the culture, I hail from Bass Pro Shops, wild game supper, "camouflage in every closet" country. In my day-to-day, I frequently see Ducks Unlimited and Browning decals on cars, often right alongside sorority bumper stickers. When I was younger, my dad used his moderate collection of unregistered guns to keep our family fed during the coldest winters. When I go for trail runs in the fall, I wear an orange shirt and think little of it when I breeze past a guy in camo hunting doves on that same trail. I assume that he has a family to feed, too.
While I don't agree with it, I understand why rural folks prickle at the words "gun control." There's an implication there that the government is not only going to compromise your one guaranteed way of securing food, but charge you money in the form of licenses and registration, too. And if you happen to be a rural Southerner, your regional history makes you put more investment in the Second Amendment than the founding fathers ever did.
I was seven when I fired a rifle for the first time. When the searing hot shell casing exited the gun, it became trapped between my arm and ribcage. I screamed for a minute straight, under the impression that I'd shot myself. My father—the same person who'd kept our family fed with guns— was the person who laughed and called me "chicken." I think that memory has lingered because that was the definitive moment when I realized that guns—loaded or not, pointed at someone or not—were inherently threatening. This was a realization that I continued to have throughout adolescence; when my father's tiny armory came to include several unnecessary sawed-off shot guns and an elephant gun, and again when my neighbors aimlessly fired into the air to scare mischievous kids off of their property.
I support moderate gun control because it's 100% possible to keep your family fed with a weapon that is not a multiple round assault rifle. I also believe that gun abuse happens every day in less obvious, non-lethal ways.
Vanessa, Contributing Editor
Raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Toronto, Canada, and Newton, Massachusetts
Currently living in Brooklyn, New York
At first I was going to write about how I have never ever seen a gun in real life, like outside of the movies or a museum or something. Actually I did write that, I wrote "I have never seen a gun in person in my life except in a museum" but almost immediately I realized that's not true, not at all. Honestly I feel like that would be sort of impossible, living in America and all.
What I meant was that I've never seen guns in a casual social setting, never seen my peers go hunting, never seen my parents keep one hidden in our home, have been lucky and privileged enough never to see them used in a violent situation. I have never been handed a gun, have never shot a gun, have never wanted one or wanted to know what it was like to shoot one. I think I would faint if anyone ever gave me a gun, even just to hold. Guns scare me.
It's not like I thought the policemen were gonna start shooting me, and I know guns don't just float in the air and fire themselves, but the idea of being so close to a thing that is designed to kill a living being was so scary.
I live in New York City now and I see guns in police holsters all the time. I feel particularly afraid when I'm on a subway with a group of policemen/women because the idea that there is this machine that kills people in a small enclosed space with me and that anyone could just take it and use it to harm lots of people and we'd have no where to go and there'd be nothing we could do is really terrifying. Once on my way home from the Met my friend Jess and I got on a subway train with 40+ policemen -- I think there had been a parade of some sort and they had been patrolling -- and I just sat frozen, so scared, trying to count how many guns were on the train with me at that moment. It's not like I thought the policemen were gonna start shooting me, and I know guns don't just float in the air and fire themselves, but the idea of being so close to a thing that is designed to kill a living being was so scary.
Maybe I inherited my gun-phobia from my mom. She didn't let my brother and I play with toy guns when we were little and she didn't like me watching violent TV shows, and to clarify, I don't think that's a bad thing. She believes that guns are the downfall of modern civilization. Both my parents are South African and grew up in South Africa but neither ever owned a gun even though it is somewhat normal to have one there. I texted my mom last night to double check this fact -- "You and dad never owned a gun when we lived in South Africa, right?" -- and she responded immediately: "Are you my child?! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO."
I am indeed my mother's child, and I have the exact same gut reaction when I think about if we need guns on this earth, in this country, within reach of so many hands. Can any reasoning possibly make the terrifying consequences worth it? NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.
Crystal, Music Editor
Raised in Australia
Currently living in Sydney, Australia
The fact that countries such as the US allow any citizen to possess a firearm leaves me totally dumbfounded. It's probably partly because while growing up in Sydney in the late 80s/early 90s, I was never exposed to guns. Not at all. My family didn't own any, nor did anyone else we knew. That's not to say that there weren't gun owners and incidences of gun violence, only that I was too young to really be aware of them at the time. In my tiny child brain, guns only existed in movies, in law enforcement or in the form of plastic kid's toys (which I was never given) - they weren't carried by everyday people in everyday life.
My total lack of awareness ended in 1996, when thirty-five people died in the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania and the whole country went into shock. In the weeks following, the government banned all semi-automatic weapons and pump-action shot guns. They also launched a gun buy-back scheme, which I remember so clearly because there was a never-ending advertising campaign instructing people on how to hand over their weapons. Prior to this law reform, there had been 13 gun massacres. In the 16 years since, there hasn't been one. This fact alone has made it impossible for me to comprehend why countries that experience lots of gun violence and mass shootings aren't willing to remove guns from people's hands.
Raised in Berks County, Pennsylvania
Currently living near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
My parents owned a biker bar in a rural area of Pennsylvania. I lived above the bar when I was a toddler through about 8 years old in the late 1980s - early 1990s. Substance abuse and weapons were rampant. I remember searching for guns and knives after fights like a perverse Easter egg hunt. The bar was closed on Sundays due to the liquor laws at the time, so all the regulars got together at farms and showed off their guns. They fired round after round while drunk and high during what they considered a totally normal weekend barbecue.
I'm about 20 feet away from a handgun as I type this.
There was also a pervasive hatred of police. The bikers used me as a lookout while they were conducting their illegal business. I would sit outside wearing the little biker outfit and little cowgirl outfit they got me, complete with holsters and toy guns, and yell "pigs!" when I saw a cop car drive by. Sometimes I would point my toy gun at the car and pull the trigger as it passed. My dislike of police ended when I watched a state trooper at the scene of a fatal drunk driving accident beside the bar. I'm sure that incident has something to do with my choice to go into the law enforcement field.
I'm about 20 feet away from a handgun as I type this. Buying my personal firearm legally was disturbingly easy. All I needed to do to get a concealed carry permit was fill out an application that doesn't even require a social security number, provide two personal references and pay $20. Clearly things need to change. Even as a gun owner, I readily agree that the assault weapons ban needs to be reinstated and high-capacity magazines need to be prohibited. But those changes aren't nearly enough. I cringe each time I patrol by a child who play-shoots me with a toy gun. We live in a violent society.
Next: "I get the fear of walking past certain people who definitely need a gun to protect themselves. I wonder if whoever is fucking with them will accidentally shoot me in that brief second that I'm turning the corner."