After the Virginia Tech shootings I bought a few guns. At the time I wasn’t sure why, but having someone use a gun in anger against my classmates was scary and I knew I wanted to understand them better. I bought a Glock 26 9mm and a Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun. I took gun safety classes, learned to fire a gun in self defense, and learned to store one safely in my apartment. I took a concealed carry permit class and learned how to carry a gun safely in public.
I bought guns because I wanted to understand them, because I wanted to protect myself, and because I was afraid of bad things happening.
Part of that worked: I understand guns now as tools. If I see a gun on a table it doesn’t bother me. If I see a person holding a gun my eyes go to the person and not the gun. When I see someone fly across the room in a movie after being shot I know that’s not real, and I know that guns don’t go off by themselves. The mystery left and I became more comfortable with gun culture.
But what owning guns ultimately caused was that I got more afraid. I thought about the gun being stolen, I thought about the gun being used accidentally by a kid or a house guest, and I thought about whether I would be comfortable using a gun to kill someone who was trying to hurt me.
There’s a famous line about theatre by Anton Chekov: “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.”
For me that’s the key: tools want to be used. Having a gun around makes you think about firing it. Every time you see the gun your subconcious moves through disaster scenarios that build a little fear.
So two years after buying my first gun I took a trip back to the gun store – where everyone is always exceedingly polite and straightforward so that everyone understands that no one is going to be shooting anyone today – and I sold the guns back.
The fear left. The guns stopped being around and needing to be tended to and thought about. The idea of using a gun, or thinking about when or why I might use a gun disappeared.
I don’t know anything about George Zimmerman. I don’t know what he was doing on neighborhood watch or what happened between him and Trayvon Martin that night. What I know is that guns are tools and tools want to be used. Without having a gun around you aren’t tempted to use it.
I have heard that the mental anguish of shooting someone, even if justified and in self defense, is unimaginable. It is a feeling that I am really glad that I will never have to go through.