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Of Rifles and Responsibility: How Can We Speak to Each Other Across the Gun Control Divide?

As a kid, I loved shooting a rifle with my uncle, out back at my grandmother’s farmhouse. My dad and I would go out with Uncle Bill, in his ubiquitous plaid flannel and hunting cap, and my cousin. We’d set a tin can on a stump. Uncle Bill would show me, holding the rifle firm into the crook of his shoulder and aiming at the can. He mumbled a bit around the cigarette that hung out of the corner of his mouth in those years, before he got scared enough to quit. He explained the basic safety rules for rifles along with how to pull the trigger. He was intimidating: even taller than my dad, big and strong from his work building houses, his expression always slightly askew because of the glass eye he had earned in a bad motorcycle accident as a teenager. His deep, gravelly voice held great authority, and he was serious about doing this safely. You can’t mess around with guns, he’d say. And then he’d give me my chance…

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