My Year of Guns

The first time I shot a gun, I got a black eye for my troubles.

My father, who was the consummate outdoorsman, had taken me to a shooting range so that he could properly sight a new rifle, and had brought along his .22 K-Hornet so that I might get my first taste shooting a gun. I don’t remember having ever asked to go shooting with him, or even really having had the desire. But my father took me anyway.

Having arrived at the range, I quickly decided that shooting was unbearably dull. I was eight years old, and had all the patience one might expect of a boy that age. If you have ever sat and watched someone sight a rifle, there is surprisingly little to see. Most of the craft is subtle, and done with a slow steady hand that looks not entirely unlike someone sitting still.

After my father had completed perfecting the new rifle’s sights to his aim, he checked his groupings and then pulled out the K Hornet. Like many old school gun enthusiasts, he was a stickler on both gun safety and etiquette. He spent some time explaining to me exactly how to hold the rifle, how unlike with a shotgun you let a rifle lean into your shoulder rather than the other way around. I pretended to listen, then picked the rifle up and – holding the butt of it right in front of my face – pulled the trigger. The recoil that hit me square in the cheek was as hard as I had ever been hit by anything and I ended up on the ground, dropping the K Hornet. For weeks, half of my face was an ever-changing sea of browns, greens and deep plum as the bruise shifted through its various stages.

I had never really had an urge to shoot a firearm prior to going out with my dad that day. Or perhaps to be more accurate, I had never had the urge to shoot a real gun. I had several toy guns, all of which I would imagine were phasers from Star Trek despite their lacking the cool grip that came down from the center of the barrel the way Kirk and Spock’s weapons did. I liked playing with them, but I knew that firing a real gun meant that I would have to do it with my father. When I was eight I was still vaguely afraid of him. He was both a workaholic and the family disciplinarian; being a child that liked to press boundaries meant that most of the times when he was home I was being disciplined. (Not really, in retrospect. But that was the way it seemed to me at the time.) Because he valued gun safety so highly, there was a firm rule in our house that you could not point toy guns at anyone, which for an eight-year-old boy made them fairly useless. Because of this I never took them out when he was home, or if I did I would make sure that my friends and I played Star Trek, cops and robbers or army men far away from the house. So the idea of playing with real guns, in a grown up way with my father, held zero appeal.

After shooting the K Hornet, though, I decided that I wanted more.  But I wanted more without any supervision.

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I knew that my father’s rifles and shotguns were locked in the garage, and were therefore quite literally untouchable. But I was also pretty sure he owned pistols, and I knew they were not locked up in the garage. I spent time, here and there, slipping into my parent’s bedroom and closet when I was sure I wouldn’t be caught trying to see if I could find them. I might have spent a total of twenty minutes, broken up over a two-week period of time (I was really afraid of being caught, so I limited my searches to just a minute or so) before I found the revolver. It was in his sock and underwear drawer, along with two Playboy magazines. Being eight the Playboys held no interest for me, though I can still recall the sheer joy of remembering they were there a couple of years later. Finding the revolver, on the other hand, was like finding a pirate’s buried treasure.

I waited to take it out until the next week when my parents were out to dinner and my sister was left to babysit me. At some point when she was caught up in a TV show I went into my parent’s bedroom, got the revolver, and went into the back yard.

It didn’t take long to figure out how to open the gun, and to see that there were no bullets in the chamber. After that, I snapped it back into working order, aimed at the fence and squeezed the trigger. I remember being surprised by the force of the hammer coming down, and by how loud the sound of an empty gun being fired was. I squeezed two more times, and again felt the impossibly loud snap of metal striking metal. Then I slipped the revolver under my shirt in case my sister was wandering about, and holding it there, went back inside and put it back in my father’s drawer.

Guns are known for their ability to make those that wield them feel powerful, or safe, or dangerous. But what I remember feeling that day was adult. In my mind I had just done this very adult thing, and what’s more had done it entirely by myself. Firing a gun by one’s self had just gone from something that only grownups did to something that only grownups and I did.

I never went back for the revolver after that day. I didn’t tell anyone what I had done, not even my friends. Keeping this secret to myself was, I was sure, what a man would do.

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My father was one of two gun enthusiasts on our block. The other was Mr. Rice.

The Rices lived several houses down. Robbie was my age, and his sister Annie was two years younger. His parents were each unusually attractive. Mr. Rice was tan, mustachioed and worked out with weights before doing so was a common thing for adults. Mrs. Rice was blond, slender, and on the weekends walked around the neighborhood in a bikini top and hot pants, a cigarette in one hand and a glass of Cold Duck in the other, striking up conversations with the neighborhood dads as they tended to their lawns. My mother hated her.

“Hey, she’s not so bad. She’s really quite friendly,” my father would say when my mother would make an icy comment about Mrs. Rice. “You just need to get to know her.” Being a kid I wasn’t really sure why my mother didn’t like Mrs. Rice, but even I knew my father was only digging whatever hole he was in that much deeper.

I, for my part, could not stand Robbie. My dislike of him was visceral and immediate upon meeting him; he clearly felt the same way about me. He was smaller than I was and so gave me wide berth, but he liked bullying the kids on the block who were smaller. Sometimes he’d just walk up to a younger kid and punch them. Sometimes he’d punch them in the face, which was considered against the rules where I grew up unless someone had either stolen your money or your bicycle. The only time we ever played together was if there was an activity that all the kids were doing, like paying baseball or elephant tag. But even then, if we could avoid it we didn’t talk to one another.

Mr. Rice was a gun enthusiast, but one of a different feather than my father. For one thing, Mr. Rice did not hunt and wasn’t an outdoorsman. He collected military weapons and on Veteran’s Day dressed up in a Marines uniform that he bought at a military supply store, as he himself had not served. He liked to work on his guns in his garage with the door open. If you walked by their driveway on a Saturday or Sunday, you’d see him cleaning them while listening to a large Ham radio that picked up the fire and police channels. If there was a big fire, or if the police were called to a crime in progress, he’d collect the family in the Rice station wagon and drive to the address where the authorities were being called and watch events unfold.

I remember when I was about seven, we were playing pickle in the street when Mr. Rice drove up in what would be his pride and joy for the rest of the years we were his neighbors. It was a green army surplus jeep with a small flat bed trailer in tow. On the trailer was a mounted .50 caliber machine gun. (Actually, as it turned out, it was more of a representation of a .50 caliber machine gun. It had no firing pin, the turret was welded stationary, and if you looked down the barrel you could see that after a few inches it was filled with cement.) It was the coolest thing I had ever seen in real life, and I was disappointed to learn that excepting for celebrating the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Christmas, the machine gun would be kept hidden under a chained heavy canvas tarp.

In a neighborhood filled with a lot of oddballs, the Rices might have been the oddest. Aside from all of their quirky eccentricities there was always something off about them, but being eight I never bothered to wonder what it was exactly that was off. It wouldn’t be till I was a bit older that I would finally start noticing the bruises that would often appear on the faces and arms of Mrs. Rice or the kids; it would be a lot of years past that before I would really understand the story those bruises told.

When I was eight, however, all I really knew was that I didn’t like any of them.  That and I was completely terrified of Mr. Rice, even before the afternoon he pulled his gun on me, and pressed the barrel to my temple.

It was maybe six months after I had briefly engaged in my tete a tete with my father’s revolver in my back yard.  All of us kids had been playing baseball in the street, but it was a scorching hot day in our Southern California desert town, and we were looking for an excuse to quit when Robbie Rice invited us all to play assassin with his new toy guns.

These guns were pretty common back then, and I’m sure most people will remember them even if they didn’t own them. They were plastic pistols with a spring-loaded projector built in. It’s “bullets” were small, grooved red soft-rubber darts with suction cups on the end. They came with a paper target that you could shoot at. Part of the idea was that the suction cups would stick to the target, similar to darts on a dartboard, and you could compete to see who got the highest score. Of course, they never stuck to the target – or anything else for that matter. They just lightly bounced off what ever they hit. Robbie had gotten a set of twelve of these toy guns for his birthday. We divided them up, each taking five “bullets,” and then scattered as Robbie counted to ten. Once the countdown was up, it was to be an every-man-for-himself killing spree.

We’d been playing for a while as the heat took its toll, until it devolved into twelve kids arguing about who really hit or missed who. We were all gathered in the Rice’s garage trying to hammer out some kind of rules that didn’t rely on the honor system that was so clearly failing, when Robbie’s little sister Annie walked in and stared us all down.

“No one,” she announced seriously, “had better shoot me. I’m not playing!”

As she stood there glaring at us, everyone stopped talking, and a long pause just froze up everybody. And then, without even thinking, I raised my pistol and shot her from across the garage. I can’t even begin to say what I was thinking. The rubber dart arced across the garage at a laughingly slow speed. It hit her, lightly, right in the center of her forehead… and stuck there. I couldn’t decide which was more surprising: that I had actually shot her right after she told me not to, that I’d hit her right where I’d wanted to from across the entire garage, or that the damn suction cup had actually stuck to something. The silence continued for another few seconds; then, as the rubber dart finally fell to the ground, Annie threw back her head and started wailing.  I knew I was in trouble, and all I could think of was that I had to make sure that my dad never found out that I had shot a girl – a girl! – with a toy gun. But before I could reach Annie to grovel for her silence and forgiveness she was gone, running into the house.

I’m sure one of us said something at that point, but I can’t remember who spoke or what was said. What I do remember was that a few minutes after Annie disappeared indoors Mr. Rice burst into the garage, Annie in tow.

“Which one!” It was more of a shout than a question. Annie pointed to me, her eyes still wet with fury. Mr. Rice walked over, grabbed me by the hair, and marched me over to his work bench. “Come here!” he barked at Annie.

As Annie stood next to me Mr. Rice let go of my hair and grabbed my wrists, holding both behind my back with just one of his hands. He used his other hand to open the wooden drawer on his work bench, and fished out a pistol. I had no idea what kind of pistol it was, but unlike my father’s revolver it was all black; in his hand it looked sleek and light.

“Are you watching?” His voice dripped with both anger and contempt, and his breath smelled like old beer bottles. I was about to answer when I realized that he was still talking to Annie. For just a moment I thought that it was Annie who was getting in trouble for something, not me. But before clearer thinking could dislodge that thought by itself, the gun swung up and the muzzle was pressed hard against my temple.

“Is this where he shot you?”

Annie nodded.

“Then this is where you shoot him.” He was till barking out his words. He handed the gun to Annie, who pointed it at my forehead. My head was still spinning, numb to what was happening, when I heard the hard click of metal striking metal. Annie had pulled the trigger, and the gun was of course empty. My panicked brain was just starting to get up to speed on everything that was happening, when Mr. Rice said, “Again.”

Another click sounded, and then another, and another, and then my numbness just washed away in a torrent of despair. “I’m sorry,” I choked out between sobs, “I’m so sorry.” And I really was. I was just a kid, and the gravity of what Mr. Rice was doing – the immensity of the lines being crossed – were lost on me. All I felt was a deep and burning shame for having betrayed my father when I pulled the trigger on Annie.

Mr. Rice turned me around and looked at me for the first time – ever, I think.

“Are you ever going to shoot a girl again?” he asked. I shook my head as I looked at the floor, too ashamed to meet his gaze. “I’d like to think that I don’t have to tell your parents what happened today. Do you want me to tell your parents?”

I shook my head again, this time much harder and with much more conviction. “God no, please don’t tell my father” was what I would have said if I could have gotten the words out.

“OK. Lesson learned. Now stop crying and start acting like a man.” And he was gone.

I was an adult out of college before I ever told my parents what happened. For a long time I was just afraid to tell them. For a long time after that it seemed like no big deal – just one of many crazy stories about our crazy neighbors from our crazy old neighborhood we moved away from when I was fifteen.

When I did finally tell my parents my mom said, “You should have come and told us, Tod.”

My dad just looked hard at the wall for a while, and finally with a voice that sounded like he was weighing just how hard it would be to track down Mr. Rice after all those years said, “Maybe it’s best that you didn’t.”

That year, the year I was eight, was the only time in my life that I’ve ever felt emotional reactions to guns. I’ve handled them since, of course. As a young man I used to go out and shoot both trap and skeet with my dad. I got really good at it, actually. (When my kids ask what trap is like, I tell them it’s like playing a video game, only louder and you get to go outdoors.) But even when I shot regularly my shotgun was just a tool, to be treated with respect out of concerns for safety – much like the cleaver in my kitchen. But that year of being eight, guns grabbed my emotions by the throat and shook hard. They quickly and easily seduced me into thinking I was finally an adult, and they just as quickly and easily brought me crashing down to childish vulnerability.

Today I’m as old as my dad was back then – older, actually – and I have two boys of my own. Sometimes they express an interest in learning how to shoot; someday, I’m going to teach them.

But I choose not to keep guns in my house until they are grown men themselves.

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58 thoughts on “My Year of Guns

  1. “Mr. Rice was a gun enthusiast, but one of a different feather than my father. For one thing, Mr. Rice did not hunt and wasn’t an outdoorsman. He collected military weapons and on Veteran’s Day dressed up in a Marine uniform that he bought at a military supply store, as he himself had not served. He liked to work on his guns in his garage with the door open. If you walked by their driveway on a Saturday or Sunday, you’d see him cleaning them while listening to a large Ham radio that picked up the fire and police channels.”

    So … you basically lived next door to this guy?



    heh …

     

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  2. You are an excellent story teller. Thank you for sharing.

    As a woman and a mother, I want to hunt down Mr. Rice (and any man like him). I would like to think that I would calmly explain why his behavior was unacceptable, but I’m afraid I would just slap him.

    “Mrs. Rice was blond, slender, and on the weekends walked around the neighborhood in a bikini top and hot pants, a cigarette in one hand and a glass of Cold Duck in the other, striking up conversations with the neighborhood dads as they tended to their lawns. My mother hated her.” As did every other woman within a 100 mile radius.

    Stories like these make me nervous. Just the other day there was another story on the news about a little boy bringing a loaded gun to school and shooting a nine year old girl. When I read that you snuck into your parent’s room and took the gun, all I could think was that you were going to shoot someone. Guns and children in the same area make me nervous, even if they are unloaded. Kids are crafty and smarter than adults give them credit. If they wanted to get bullets, they could.

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    • Thanks, Mary.  I hear stories similar to the one you mentioned every so often.  I wish that when we talked collectively about second amendments rights we did a better job of acknowledging that these things are part of the price we agree to pay for those rights.

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      • I’m not willing to pay that price if it means any human has an experience similar to yours, Annie’s, or the nine year old girl (who is still in critical condition, last I heard). The physical and psychological damage caused is too great, if you ask me.

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        • My husband’s been lost in the backwoods up in Tennesee (in a place where you can’t turn around until you reach the end of the road — where the whiskey still is). He’s been shot at (and nearly hit — the bullet was spent by the time it got to the backseat of the car).

          But there’s the other turn — when you are miles out from a neighbor, and that shotgun might just be able to stop whosever’s coming — be they bear or man.

          I FAR prefer guns to the alternative. And trust me, the alternative would kill a lot more 9-year-olds.

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    • The best way to keep kids away from guns is to introduce them to the guns early and often and make them a regular feature of the household. As soon as you hide them away they become tabboo.

      In our house my guns can sit out (unloaded) for weeks and the kids just ignore them. That’s the way it was when I grew up too. My grandfather’s service revolver hung on the chair of his desk when he got home and we knew it was there but also off-limits. My dad kept a rifle by the backdoor during deer season. Same deal.

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  3. Wow!

    The first real fire-arm that I ever shot was an AR-15 in the army during basic training. Even wearing earplugs, the sound of the rifle going off was surprising. That was also the first time I had ever smelt gun powder. And the silence afterwards was eerie.

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      • Mandatory. I served 2 years 4 months full time after which I am part of the reserve where I am liable to return for 10 cycles of in-camp training, 7 of which are no less than 2 weeks long. Until I complete the tenth cycle, (They are nice enough not to call me up while I am studying) I am liable to take and pass an individual physical profficiency test every year beforemy birthday. Failure to attempt can get me court marshalled. Failure to pass for that year makes me liable to attend remedial physical training. Also until the end of the tenth cycle I am liable to be activated in which case I have to be in camp within 4 hrs.

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  4. You have a genuine gift for narrative.

    Guns aren’t a subject of any familiarity to me.  I don’t have the faintest idea how to use one.  A summer when I got a job in a small town, I was shocked to walk into the local outdoors store and see that they had guns.  When you say “trapping”, I think of old times in northern Canada when people had trap lines for rabbit and mink and such, but based on the “like a video game” that seems to be the wrong association.

    The Rice story is horrific, but what I can’t get over is the impact that must have had on his daughter.  Having a six-year-old pretend to shoot someone point-blank…I don’t have words for how disturbing that is.

     

     

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    • I wondered about the impact it had on his daughter as well, Katherine, and wonder what kind of woman she turned out to be, given what a sadistic bastard she had for a father. Same for the son. I hope he didn’t turn out to be a chip off the old block.

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  5. Great story Todd. I went to the gun show yesterday and have a post planned for later this week. I’ve been thinking a lot about American gun culture lately and this post is a fantastic example of the kind of thing I want to discuss.

    It’s fascinating to me how many men I know who had similar experiences to the ones you describe with parents away and handling their guns. I put a hole in the wall in my dad’s basement when I was about 13 because I just HAD to shoot the one pistol that was off-limits to me.

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  6. Great story, Tod.

    Although it’s not relevant to the bulk of your story, I’ll say that I had a very similar upbringing vis-a-vis guns to the one you describe in the first section of your story.  My father owned several hundred rifles, shotguns, and handguns, and he went to several gun shows every year, probably at least once a month (although my memory might be faulty….there were some months where he seems to have gone almost every weekend and others where he probably didn’t go at all).  He even built a walk-in safe in the basement to store them.  We even had the rule of never pointing toy guns at people, except perhaps when it came to water pistols, which were 50 cent dinky and clear colored plastic things, not the realistic looking ones.

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      • Yes, he usually sold.  He usually had two or three tables and everybody (it seemed) knew him at the gun shows, at least the ones he went to in Colorado.  (Less often, he went to ones in Reno, Los Angeles, Houston, Salt Lake, or Oklahoma.) Most of our family trips were actually trips to gun shows.  Although the trips themselves were usually fun, the gun show parts were kind of boring, for me at least.  Perhaps that’s one reason I never was really fascinated or even curious about guns–I don’t have the story of sneaking into my dad’s guns and pretending to shoot them, probably because I just found them a boring chore (I would sometimes help my dad unload the car whenever he got back).

        It wasn’t his career–he was an electrician by trade–but it was probably more than a hobby.  Maybe you could call it an avocation.

        Come to think of it, it’s possible that “several hundred” is an exaggeration.  But it was certainly more than a hundred

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  7. Hi Tod,

    I remember you telling me that story when we were in high school, though not with this level of detail. I shudder to think of the “lesson” Mr. Rice taught his daughter. How could she even know whether or not it was loaded? Like you, I had little interest in guns as a child. I still have no particular love for them; however, I just used mine. I used it on a sheep. Since the breeding season is over, I put my old rams back with the young one I used for breeding this year. Normally, they face off in a gentlemanly fashion and butt heads until it is clear which ram is stronger. The young one, perhaps outmatched by my big old rams, instead waited until the oldest one was eating and gave him a hard shot to the flank – putting a hole right through the muscle wall. I found the old guy lying on his side, dying. Since I was fond of that even-tempered ram with the big curling horns, putting a bullet in him was very hard. Two others had been hit in the same place, and they succumbed as well. Not wanting to have a killer ram, I took him out too. Last night, we ate his shoulder, roasted with tarragon herb rub.

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    • Hey, Andrew!

      I’m finding that I am feeling saddened about both your loss and that it was you that had to pull the trigger – which must have been hard, even under the circumstances.  And yet I might also feel a little jealous about the roasted shoulder with tarragon rub.

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      • He had two shoulders – come on out and I’ll cook you and your family the other one.

        In my memory of your story, Mr. Rice said he would kill your parents if you told them (and not surprisingly, you believed him). No? Well-told story, regardless. Audrey plans on using it for the unit on stories she is teaching.

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        • I do not think that last bit happened.  If it did, I no longer remember it.

          I’ll talk to the family about traveling West for shoulder; we’d love to see you guys!  Plus now I’m really curious to find out how Audrey is going to use this story.

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  8. What ever happened to the Rices?

    You paint a picture of a man dealing with a high degree of internalized fear. It’s hard to imagine many happy endings for him or his family.

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    • I have no idea.  One year after we moved to Oregon some of our old neighbors stopped by on their way up to Canada, and spent the night.  They gave us a rundown of what everyone was up to, and I have a vague memory of them telling us that the Rice’s were divorced and had each moved out of the neighborhood.  But I might not be remembering that correctly; I be confusing that with another family from that night of catch up.

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  9. Rice sounds like the kind of guy who was all set for someone to jump out of the bushes and yell “yer money or yer life!”, and spent his life in a state of barely-contained rage that it hadn’t actually happened yet.

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  10. Wow. That is a really great story. There are just so many wrongness-esses there. You really made it easy for me to follow the story both with a child’s eyes and then as an adult (gun owner too).

    Did the transgression warrant any response at all? If so, did he need to be stern with you, really? If so, he did WHAT?

    The funny thing is, as a kid, I would not have thought much of it either other than the guilt if that was happening to me. Did you actually feel existential terror at that time?

    When I was a new gun owner, I always had this little fear in the back of my mind: “Is the gun really loaded? Will it really not go off when I pull the trigger?” As a children, I think that mortal danger is lost on us, especially those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s on “gun violence as artful entertainment.” I had the privilege of growing up in a Chinese-American family where watching John Woo movies was no big deal.

    Once, I dealt with some bullies by asking my little sister to go inside and grab a cheap, plastic water gun shaped like an Uzi submachine gun, which I had painted black. Those kids ran away pretty quick. Of course, if that happened today, it would be really bad and irresponsible. Oh, Delta Force Chuck Norris, you were such a great role model.

    I’m not an absolutist on gun rights. Although I would love to tell people to get bent and tough shit that’s freedom, 3 toddlers were killed by gunfire in nearby Oakland, California. Though they haven’t sounded a clarion call for more gun control, I wouldn’t blame them if they did. Guns come from someone’s house.

    Would I ban cars if someone I knew was killed by one? Heh, don’t even need death, a friend of mine got a Quasimodo-face from an SUV. And I may not return on my walk from the market tonight. I find it personally unfair that I can’t openly carry a submachine gun or personal defense weapon (PDW).

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  11. Jesus! That was a good story. A few comments.

    I grew up knowing how to handle firearms from an early age and I read this story with a growing sense of fear. There were so many red flags being thrown up about the Rices, and frankly, your own actions Tod, that I knew some “stuff” was going down.

    You’re fortunate the revolver was unloaded, and probably as well you didn’t tell you dad what Mr. Rice did. Your Dad would have probably done what I was thinking I’d do reading this..there would have been some “confrontation” going on up at the Rices.

    I don’t know about your Dad, but I knew what my Dad would have done if he’d caught me / found out, I’d messed with any firearm without his permission, let alone taken one. Yeah, I fall into the “old school gun enthusiasts” category. No ONE touches a firearm without personal training, education, and permission…EVER. I’ve seen too many fools get that adrenalin rush and do something dangerous.

    A motto of sorts I’ve used is this: “never point the barrel at anything you’re not prepared to see destroyed, and be willing to accept / live with the consequences of destroying it.” It tends to focus the mind. Again, nice story!

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  12. an unused weapon is a useless weapon. i believe i first heard this in a in a classic film of the espionage genre, Spies Like Us. i was reminded of this some months back when power was shut off in most of southern california. my neighbors were in the middle of our cul de sac discussing the snippets of news they had heard and speculating on the causes. my elderly neighbor (who usually busies himself by taking pictures of people he believes are speeding from his yard) was standing there with a .45 trying to convince the group that it was al-qaeda. after i brought out my phone and pulled up news stories discussing the cause of the blackout, he pivoted to the inevitable looting of our neighborhood and implored us to be vigilant and armed. i did go in my house and made sure our handgun was loaded. not because i was afraid of looting. it was because my neighbor’s behavior put me ill at ease.

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  13. When I was a kid, my neighbor took me upstairs to his parents bedroom to show me his dad’s rifle. He took it out of the closet and pointed it right at my chest. He swore it wasn’t loaded, but I was a bit more than pissed off, and left.

    I’ve not shot guns frequently in my life, but there was a year where a friend of mine took me to the range regularly and taught me to shoot properly, and I even participated in his competitive shooting club a couple of times. The first time I accidentally swept someone without realizing it. They put me straight right away, and I felt like shit, even though they were exceptionally nice about it.

    A couple of years ago I performed in Of Mice and Men, which required us to go onstage with rifles at the end. The guy who supplied the rifles checked them before every show, and again at intermission. I was the first guy off the stage before we grabbed them, and I also checked each one before handing them to the other guys as they came backstage. So I knew they were as certainly empty as any gun can be, but one night as we were just about to go back on-stage, one of the other guys was holding his carelessly so that it was pointed straight at my head. He was a great guy, he just didn’t know guns at all, and at first he chuckled when I said, “Don’t point that fucking gun at my head.” When I said, “I’m serious,” my tone of voice must have been pretty convincing, because he instantly looked shocked and apologetic.

    And if that’s all the gun-pointing stories I accumulate through my life, I’ll be more than satisfied that it’s already a few too many.

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    • Is it a “fucking gun” if it’s a prop in a play you’re choosing to be part of?  Seems like you’re bound to have some untrained people among you in the cast of a play. He might actually have believed you  were serious the first time if you’d been a little more calm about it.

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      • This is really none of my business, so pls disregard.  And I do understand that these were *real fucking guns* – I get the impulse.  But I’m just still kind of struck by that level of brusqueness as an initial move to communicate that problem in that setting.  But who cares that I’m struck by it?  James should handle his life as he sees fit.  Apologies. ;-)

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        • Eh, tone doesn’t come off on the internet well.  It wasn’t as brusque in real life–the reason he didn’t believe I was serious the first time is because I wasn’t that brusque. And for me, “fucking” is an all purpose adjective.  I just got back from Tim Hortons–my apple fritter was fuckin’ awesome!

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          • There’s a Japanese comedian who does a pretty good impression of Quentin Tarantino. He just stands there in a popped-collar suit with dark sunglasses screaming “fucking guuunnn! Fucking guuuuunnnnn!” over and over again.

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        • I know of it, but haven’t seen it.

          The funny thing in this case is that the guy just looks like a guy who’d have grown up hunting, but it turns out he’d never handled a gun in his life.  In case my initial comment gave the wrong impression, he’s a great guy, and we had a great time performing together. I don’t have any ill-will towards him.

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