“This is NOT a gun!”
“That’s right. This is just a ‘T’ you happen to hold like a gun. Mark… it’s okay, I’m not mad. I know you’re playing.”
“You don’t like guns.”
“Nope,” I replied, slicing a butternut squash with a giant Chinese kitchen knife that could almost be classified as a weapon under Part III of the Criminal Code of Canada. “I don’t like guns.”
“If I give you a kiss, does it hurt?”
“No, it doesn’t hurt!”
“Now, if I use a gun against you, do you think it hurts?”
Mark paused for a second. “Yeah. It hurts.”
“Then, that’s why I don’t like guns. Guns hurt people.”
“It makes them dead.”
“Soldiers have guns.”
“That’s true. But they mostly carry weapons to scare people.”
White lie. I wish. I bet some days, they also wished just displaying gear was enough to stop all that madness.
“But hey, Mark… it’s okay. I understand you’re playing.”
Kids pretend to shoot things. Who has never done the “finger gun”? I’m sure I did. Guns and weapons are featured everywhere in movies, cartoons, books. Good guys versus bad guys, some weapon involved, you know the script. The hate—or love—for firearms comes later, when you understand concepts like death or killing.
I know Mark likes to “shoot monsters.” He claims he doesn’t when I’m around but he does. I won’t make a big deal out of it but I don’t encourage him and I won’t buy toy guns (although he never asked). I just don’t want him to hide from me or to feel guilty about something he doesn’t understand.
Funny enough, I held a gun twice. I’ve even fired a gun.
Our neighbours at my grandparents’ place where we spent our holidays were a fifty-something couple who didn’t have kids. She didn’t work, he was a contractor in construction and would go abroad for months working on projects. At one point in his life, he started to collect weapons and firearms. Not hardcore armoury like a survivalist arsenal, but rare pieces—a sword with mother-of-pearl handle, daggers, tiny antique handguns, percussion pistols, etc. They were all imported legally, registered and none of them was loaded, of course. I spent hours at their place exploring all the exotic stuff he brought back from the Middle East. There was nothing creepy about the house. It was beautiful, like an art gallery.
On weekends, he used to go to the shooting range and practice. He was a small man, slightly effeminate. I think he just enjoyed being around other people who appreciated firearms but he wasn’t interested in self-defence. He wasn’t the kind of person to sleep with a loaded gun under his pillow.
One summer, when I was about 10 or 11, he offered to take me to the shooting range. I can’t remember my mother objecting to the activity which, looking back, is strange. I think she had her hands full back then, caring for my siblings and my cousins—four kids under five. I was older and I was bored with so many babies at home, she may have thought it was an opportunity for me to get away for the afternoon.
We drove to the shooting range. After learnings about gun safety and basic handling, I was invited to shoot. I did. I hit the paper target a few times. The following weekend, I was invited again. This time, we skipped the gun-101 lesson and went straight to shooting. And as I was about to fire, something clicked in my pre-teen brain. I was holding a weapon. I was pointing it to a target, which was the silhouette of a man. I had never kissed a guy for real, I wasn’t even close to be old enough to drive or work, but I could kill someone with a gun.
I put it down, made an excuse, said I was scared.
I will alwaysr remember this uneasy feeling I had, knowing I was holding something potentially lethal, knowing that taking a life was so easy.
I made the decision to never be in a position where I could harm someone.
I never touched a gun again. Not that I had many chances to do so, mind you—I don’t know anyone who owns a firearm, although I suspect having a gun at home is more common than I think. I’m grateful that Canada doesn’t glorify the use of firearms like our Southern neighbours do and that gun violence is still under control here. When I hear the word “firearm” here, it’s often in the context of hunting, not personal defence. I don’t understand hunting as a sport but it makes more sense to me than carrying a firearm for “protection.”
Maybe one day, it will click in Mark’s brain the same way it clicked in mind.
Meanwhile, all I can do is explain how I feel about guns and let him be a kid.