When I was nine, I went to Camp Arcadia in Maine, and I went back the next two summers. You could sign up for various activities, and although I would happily have spent all my time playing baseball, I took riflery and learned how to shoot. I got my pro marksman badge, but I didn’t get beyond that modest skill level.
My father’s Claremont friend, Cal Oakes, owned cars and guns. Childless and generous, Mr. Oakes let my sister and me know that we could borrow a car or a gun any time we wanted. “Just come over and help yourself,” he told us, and we did. My sister Phyllis, who turns 87 this month, would borrow a car now and then, and I would borrow either a shotgun or a .30-30 Winchester rifle.
My training at camp was limited to a .22 rifle, but I figured shooting other kinds of guns was pretty much the same, and I wanted to go hunting with my friend Ray. We went out several times, hoping to bag some game, but if we ever came across a pheasant, a grouse, or a woodcock, my reflexes, eyesight, and shotgun skills were so limited that the bird ran little risk. As for deer, we must have been looking in the wrong place because I never saw one. I don’t know what I would have done, but I’m glad I didn’t have to decide.
Those were simpler times. Mr. Oakes owned nice cars and guns, but no racing cars and no semi-automatic rifles. I doubt it ever occurred to him to purchase such items, much less offer them up to my sister and me.
Here in New Hampshire, almost anyone with an ID can buy a gun, all the way from a .22 to an assault weapon, and you can carry it loaded, openly or concealed. No background check, no waiting period, no permit necessary.
When it comes to gun regulation and safety, the battle lines are drawn in our Live Free or Die state. Republican state representatives and senators are supporting a bill that would prohibit local enforcement of any federal regulation that would control the purchase or ownership of semi-automatic rifles or limit magazine capacity. For the time being, at least, we won’t see any new gun laws enacted, since the Legislature is now in recess. But I don’t think supporters of such a “no enforcement” law have much to worry about at the federal level.
Times have changed since my innocent youth. I once asked my mother if I could buy myself a .22 rifle. She said I would have to earn the money, so that’s what I did. The notion of home protection did not occur to me, and I had never heard of the Second Amendment. I kept the rifle and ammunition in my bedroom closet and used them for target shooting at a sand pit near Claremont Junction.
I did know Claremont kids who died—one from illness, two in automobile accidents—but none from bullets, not even in a hunting accident. I never heard the words “active shooter.” Today, every kid in America knows them.
Is it too much to ask that lawmakers take sensible steps to protect school children and the rest of us from being shot by someone who has no business carrying a semi-automatic rifle or any other kind of gun? From what I’m hearing and reading, the answer seems to be yes. A pound of funerals is apparently better than an ounce of prevention.