Reporter's Notebook

Your Earliest Experience With Guns
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Readers from across the U.S. share what they remember about their introduction to firearms. To tell your story, please send us a note: hello@theatlantic.com.

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'Short Enough to Run Beneath the Bullets'

We’ve heard from many of you about your first experience with guns, so thanks to everyone who’s emailed so far. The details of this reader’s account jumped out among the dozens in our inbox:

When I was maybe four years old, my father brought my older brother and me along with him to the shooting range. He and a friend brought a variety of shotguns and pistols, as well as a supply of cotton balls to stuff into our ears.

Now, this range was an outdoor range, and it was just a bit windy. In the course of watching the others shoot, one of the cotton balls fell out of my ear and went blowing down the shooting range. I—of course—chased it.

Having grown up in Indiana, and with family in rural Illinois (where the itinerary for a family reunion in 2014 included a trick shooting show and a two-hour block of time for “introduction to firearms”), I know more than a few people for whom owning guns is a significant part of their lives. When I’ve asked an ex’s father or a second cousin why they hunt or maintain a collection of firearms, they’ve typically said something about growing up with them in the house, or that they were the focal accessory in bonding time with a mentor.

That’s also the gist of several comments in this discussion thread I found. This passage in particular shows a striking dichotomy of early exposure to guns:

I have an extremely negative memory for my first experience with a gun. My older cousin (who was about 16 or 18 at the time) tried to shoot me. I was about five years old.