Similar to what I’ve heard from my extended family in the Midwest, a good number of readers wrote about positive first experiences with guns, which led to a lifelong respect and passion for firearms. Our first reader:
When I was about age seven and living in semi-rural Illinois outside of Chicago, I remember my Aunt Marge inviting me to go outdoors with her and watch her fire a .22 rifle at a target hung from the apple tree. She was wearing a suede jacket, which seemed unusual to me, since she was a businesswoman and an accountant for a string of movie theaters.
I remember her giving me safety instructions, including where to stand and how to remain alert around a shooter to avoid mishaps. It was very cold and windy. And I remember, most of all, the sweet smell of gunsmoke—which I enjoyed.
Then, we went inside, and I watched her carefully unload the gun and put it away in a long, cardboard box—with the ammunition put up high in a safe place separate from the gun. She gave me repeated warnings about “not playing” with any firearms.
So my earliest memory of guns is that Aunt Marge really knew how to use them. They were dangerous but useful, and you needed to respect them and be very grown-up before you could be trusted to use one for target practice. I like guns, and I have a healthy respect for them because of early exposure to good training about their purpose and use.
I was four years old when I announced that I wanted a BB gun.
“What would you do with a BB gun?” Pappy asked. “They’re no good for anything but making noise. A real man uses a real gun.”