Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gimme That Gun! (Or, Lessons Guns Have Taught Me)

Gun safety is public safety and the U.S. Senate begins its deliberations this week. Our state legislature seems to have already tucked its head neatly into the sand on the issue, despite state legislators going on a shooting junket last week ( Legislators answer a call to arms for fun, education ).

Seattle Democrat Jamie Pedersen, prime sponsor of a background-check bill, said, “We are having serious policy discussions about guns and I don’t think it’s a bad thing for people to have some experience of holding them and knowing what it feels like to shoot one who don’t have that experience.”

Maybe you need to handle a gun to have any cred in talking about gun safety as public safety. OK, so gimme that gun. Here’s what guns have taught me:

My first gun was a Daisy BB pump rifle. We lived in the country and at 10, I’d shoot at targets I set up on the wall below the second floor back porch. One day I aimed at a small gray dove on the wall. I shot it and it fell over— dead. Lesson: Shoot something and it dies. (The other lesson was being made to eat every little bit of that little dove: what you kill, you eat.)

My father liked to show off how good he was hitting targets from the second floor back porch. One Saturday afternoon he was standing with the BB rifle pointing upward and my baby brother crawled over the pulled the trigger. The BB hit the roof overhand and ricocheted onto my father’s chest. The BB gun was put away after that. Lesson: Sh*t happens and you most likely would shoot out your eye.

While in high school, my father’s friend Mr. Nakamura took me to the Koko Head Shooting Range and let me load and fire his .38 revolver. Everyone started yelling, “Shoot the rat, shoot the rat!” as a big brown rat appeared out near the targets. The place erupted in yelling and gunfire. The rat disappeared. The only other time I’d heard that kind of urgent yelling was from my uncle suffering in his final days from Parkinson’s Disease and hollering, “Shoot the green man, shoot him now.” Lesson: Guns and moving live targets bring out very strange human behavior.

One dark night on Lopez Island, I finally cornered the coon that had been killing the hens in my chicken house. I held the flashlight beam on him and raised the single-shot .22 rifle but dropped the flashlight and couldn’t see the coon any more. I picked up the flashlight and saw the coon frantically digging under the coop corner to get out. I put the flashlight down and aimed in the dark at the corner and pulled the trigger. The hens cried out the began fluttering around the chicken house off their roost. I picked up the flashlight and saw the coon still digging in the corner. I took out another .22 bullet and reloaded, then turned to the corner with the light as hens fluttered back and forth. The coon had almost dug his way out. I dropped the flashlight and I shot again, the hens cried out— then all was quiet except for nervous clucking and my heart beating. I shined the flashlight beam at the corner. No coon, just a big hole. Lesson: Seeing your target and shooting at your target are two very different things.

OK, so there. You can have your guns after we close background check loopholes, ban military-style assault weapons and sales of magazines of more than 10 rounds, increase police protection at our schools and on our streets, and increase access to mental health services. These measures don’t infringe on rights afforded law-abiding gun owners; these measures balance those Second Amendment rights with our rights to life, liberty and happiness.

What’s your gun story?

--Mike Sato


  1. Good thoughts, Mike, but I haven't begun.

  2. At about age 21 I got a summer job at a boys camp. Among other things I would run the rifle range. It was a hillside with places for 6 bulls-eye targets faced by a platform about 50 feet away. Six boys (about 11 and 12 years old) were instructed to approach the platform and lay down on mats which each had a single-shot, bolt action 22 rifle there. After several minutes of instruction and safety words, each boy was given a block of wood with 6 22 shells in holes in it. I gave them orders, step by step, to load, to aim, to fire, to set down their gun. 6 times. Then they could go out and retrieve their targets and then the next group shot.

    I went to a training camp to be qualified, and one day was all about how to teach this stuff - by the NRA. Their whole focus was safety, safety, safety. A single-shot target weapon was all any of us needed.

    That was ... well ... quite a few years ago!!!! I admired the NRA then.

    (I also got my little brother to leave the lever of the Daisy BB Gun open and pull the trigger ... a right of passage I thought. Boy did I catch hell.)