So the lovely Jennifer had a great idea, have us gun bloggers tell our stories. Not sure how much of this is already out there, but seems like a good enough cause.
I was born and raised in Portland Maine. That’s pretty important because gun culture can very widely from location-to-location. A Massachusetts Liberal isn’t any more or less Liberal than a Vermont one, but unless they’re a transplant from another state the Vermont Liberal won’t be bat-shit afraid of guns, while the Mass one will be. Simply fear of the unknown, and cultural history.
My family was and is fairly liberal, and certainly the area where I grew up leans pretty hard to the left, still its Maine, there were natural Woods abutting my parent’s property, and you don’t have to drive far to find safe hunting land. Could have been a sign or the times, or a factor of the area but guns were rarely discussed as defensive tools, but lots of people had rifles and shotguns for ducks and deer. My Grandfather who lived in Bridgton Maine kept a .22 rifle near the back door with a bowl of loose .22 shells nearby for killing various varmint species that might disrupt his garden. Nothing was locked up, and the ammo was right there. Still even as a VERY young boy I was told I was not to touch those things, and that was it.
My Uncle is an avid hunter. When my cousins and I would play we’d sometimes tinker on his computer in his office. His hunting rifles hung on the wall there. Unlocked. No ammo.
None of this was a big deal. Nor was it for anybody else. To add to the culture, here in New England there are revolutionary war forts, and you can see the graves of British soldiers killed by the Patriots fighting for independence, and the whole city was burnt to the ground by the British during the war. In my whole life I never once thought the Second Amendment meant anything but the keeping of arms to fight against a tyrannical government.
Still I was coming into my teens in early ’90s. I loved action movies, and fantasy novels, and weapons fascinated me. I drew guns and swords in the margins of my notebooks and on the flaps of my subject folders. The news was awash with guns. The politicians were ramped up to ban “Assault Weapons”. Saw lots of cool guns all the time, but it seems always in the hands of bearded men in camo of backwoods clothing and shooting at stuff that invoked a reaction. I remember seeing video footing of some dude in a mullet with an AK-type rifle popping away at watermelons and cinder blocks. It was scary to see all that power, and given that my family and my neighborhood was mostly white collar where Dads would come home at the end of the day in a shirt and tie, I got a strong feeling of “Other” from these reports. These were NOT my people, and these guns seemed so much more powerful than the .30-06 and .308, and .30-30 rifles that hung on the walls of the deer hunters.
I remember a social studies class where we actually talked about what an “Assault Weapon” was. I know the definitions now, but all I remember from them were large “Clips”, “Flash Hiders”, and “Grenade Launchers”. Wow those all seemed pretty scary, and boy that seemed like a good idea to ban those! I also remember asking my Dad one night what the term “Semi-automatic”, Dad’s response “I don’t know”.
I know I’ve mentioned it before that I knew “Fully-Automatic” was what machine guns did, so semi-automatic must have been what describes what Robocop’s Auto-9 (A Dressed-up Beretta 93R SMG) that fired in 3-round bursts, that struck me as not-quite automatic, and scary en ugh to ban. Note I’d seen semi-auto rifles and pistols shot in movies and TV, and frankly that wasn’t a big deal.
Now fast forward to my attendance to the University of Maine, by that point I was a full-bore “Progressive”. Taxes, Gun Control, and nosing into other people’s business, you name it. I also didn’t much care for the military because I had fallen for the talking point that war was simply a rich-man’s game of chess, and the “Pawns” would be perfectly willing to discuss the issue and settle it without killing if it wasn’t for their superiors safe-and-sound in the rear. At some point I had heard of (2nd Hand) of the Arthur Kellerman study that claimed that guns in the home were super dangerous, and by keeping a gun in your home you were more likely to kill somebody you know (I assumed a family member or a friend) than a stranger (I assumed a stranger).
UMaine is in the middle of the state, and in the middle of the woods. Also its the biggest state-school in the state so it was the place to go for lots of Mainer’s looking to get a good education without spending a ton of scratch. Many of these were solid-gold Maine Rednecks. A term I use with the greatest respect. These were people (men and women) who drove pickup trucks, had mud on their boots, and fixed stuff that was broken. Now meeting these people in College also meant that many of these rednecks have higher degrees, and are now working as engineers, scientists, or Doctors (many of the ones I hung with became vets, but I’m sure some are physicians). There was nothing stupid, or backwards about these people.
They also carried tools. They all carried pocket knives, many of them multi-tools, they had tool boxes in their trucks, and at home, they had guns. Also a lot of these people were on the military path. Some were on the GI bill, some Gulf War vets, others were ROTC looking to serve after graduation. I don’t remember exactly, but this had to have been some of the first times I got my ass kicked in the gun control debate.
Still the big tipping point came in 1999. A buddy of mine invited me to his home in a neighboring town for the expressed purpose of shooting guns. I wasn’t all that excited about it, but frankly it seemed more fun than just bumming around campus.
We started off with some sort of .22 carbine, then .22 Pistols. Eventually I shot some beefy bolt-action rifles, a .357 Magnum and….a Colt M1911A1. I mention it last because I could have cared less about anything else in that lineup. They were neat, but frankly nothing worth writing home about. The 1911, now that was something magical. Nothing I could put into words, just everything made sense on it to me, and the .45 ammo was powerful, but not unpleasant to shoot. I was in love.
Now this in no way flipped me. I distinctly remember going back there and asking to shoot the 1911, only to find it missing. My Friend’s Dad was out running errands, and that was his carry gun. Why would he carry a gun? He must be REALLY paranoid.
You see I WANTED a 1911 of my own, but I wanted it the same way I want an Arial Atom, because its cool, and its fun…but nothing practical. And because of that I also still didn’t have problems with making it difficult for others to acquire guns. I found myself thinking the anti-rights mantra of “I don’t have a problem YOU PERSONALLY owning guns…but what about those other unnamed people? Do we really want THEM to have guns?”
I wanted a 1911, and I was an underage college student with no money. I also had an internet connection, so I started reading about guns. I’d heard some of the vets and some of the hunters mention that .223 Remington was an underpowered round. I looked up the information and saw that it was essentially the cartridge for the M16, and the “Assault Weapon” AR-15…wait I thought “Assault Weapons” were more powerful than the .308 and .30-06 Deer rifles the hunters had. Also I found myself getting into the foolish caliber war. I was strongly on the side of .45 ACP, and against 9mm. Didn’t see the point on the expansive magazine, when you could have more power. Really made the AWB magazine ban seem stupid, especially when I knew how fast I could throw a fresh box into my Buddy’s 1911.
I started learning about how guns worked, and what they were used for…and I found lies. Given that I felt that the NRA were the bad guys, and the Gun Control groups were the good guys, and the “Good Guys” had been lying to me, well the NRA had to be lying too, right?
Except I couldn’t find any serious lies in their talking points. Also the more I shot the more safe I felt guns were, and the less hesitant about letting people keep guns around.
After I graduated I moved back to Portland and worked various jobs on the waterfront and in the Marine Biology community. I went shooting a few times a year with friends, and by this point, while not a gun owner myself I was a big proponent of the 2nd Amendment and the keeping of arms for personal protection and personal liberty. It was also around this time (specifically after the 9-11 attacks) I started identifying as a Republican.
I had been dating Mrs. Weer’d this whole time, and she landed a job down in the Boston area and moved down there. We’d see each other on weekend, or when I’d have time off from work. Given I was working for the Observer Program at the time which was based out of Mass, I decided to request for a transfer to Massachusetts, and I moved in with the Mrs in Medford Mass and we got married the next year. I’d contemplated buying a gun several times while living in Maine, but never did. I finally decided to take the plunge when I lived in Mass. I looked up what I needed to do and I found Bruce and his ordeal. Bruce took almost 4 months to get his permit just to BUY a gun. That made me REALLY mad, and made me want to get guns even more. FYI Bruce was the big inspiration for me to start blogging.
Went to the Local PD and asked what I needed to do to get my permit. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of carrying personally, but I wasn’t opposed to carry in general so I asked for the LTC A which was also a carry permit. “Oh we don’t give those” was what the secretary told me. I had JUST met her, what did she know about me? My permit process was uneventful, and about a Month later I had my LTC A, but with an ugly-red “Target and Hunting” stamp on it. I could buy a gun, but I could NOT carry. My government trusted me to own all sorts of guns, but not to carry them outside my home.
That was the biggest insult. I still have that permit here on my desk, and it fills me with anger just to look at it. “Shall Issue” is “No Issue”, and “police discretion” is simply the “discretion” to only issue to friends and relatives. I Bought my first 1911 that day, and kept bringing home more and more guns. Also at this point I joined the Northeast Shooters Forum, and met many new friends and learned a lot about guns and the laws. Still of all the online conversations I had the one I remember the most was what really solidified my thoughts on carry. I was complaining about my restricted permit, and mentioned I wanted it removed mostly for my own personal freedom, but I thought I’d only carry when I thought I might need a gun. I was thinking of the times the wife and I traveled into Boston to see shows and to go to dinner. There are lots of dark and crummy streets we’d be traversing, and having a gun seemed like a good thing to have at hand. The woman responded “How do you know when you’ll need your gun?”
WOAH! Talk about a door being opened. Obviously if I thought I REALLY needed a gun in X location I wouldn’t go there. There are some really dangerous sections of Boston that I will NEVER go to, because the Gangs control those areas, and I might get killed for my skin color alone there. Doesn’t matter if I have a gun or not, I won’t go to those places. Still did everybody who got attacked think they were going to need a weapon? Why did I have a home defense plan, yet was happy where I was living? I decided that day that when I could carry I would carry every time possible.
I moved to a different town a few years later, and I contacted the licensing authority, and was again told I couldn’t get my restriction removed. This officer was nicer, and pointed out how dumb the rules were, but that was how his department stood.
Finally when we bought I house I declared I would NOT buy property in a town that wouldn’t trust me carrying a gun. I consulted this list, and I didn’t look at a single house that was not in a “Green” town.
A few months after moving in I had my carry permit and I’ve been carrying every day since.
If people are interested in my stories of carrying, that’s a tale for another day, but that’s how I came to be the gunnie before you from a wimpy “Progressive” gun-grabber.