I grew up around guns. My stepfather kept one in his car’s glove compartment. That is, until the night a drunken neighbor shot a policeman responding to a call. After that, everyone’s stepfathers kept their guns in closets.

For a while.

I got a BB gun for Christmas when I was 10, and remember going out with my uncle that day to hunt birds. He mustn’t have thought I could actually hit one, so off we went hunting birds in a field behind the Pick-N-Save near our house on Christmas Day. Within a few minutes I spotted my prize–a catbird in the brush. I centered him in my sights and squeezed the trigger. The bird disappeared. I ran over to where he was, and discovered him dead.  I held the dead bird for a few minutes–staring into the hole in his eye. A few moments before, this creature was happily foraging for food. Then I shot him. My excitement turned to remorse, and I cried on the walk home. My uncle didn’t speak.

For a long time after that, I only shot at inanimate objects.

We lived all along the Gulf Coast, and once I got over the catbird situation, I honed my shooting eye by picking off lizards from rain gutters. Years later in East Texas, me and my friends would take our air rifles out into the bayous to hunt water moccasins. Reptiles were somehow expendable. One summer we killed hundreds of the treacherous vipers.

We thought we were doing a community service.

After high school, I joined the USAF where they handed me an M-16 and told me to shoot at a target. I killed the target. Then they gave me a .38, and asked me to do it again. Same result. It turned out that I was a natural. And for four years of active duty, I was decorated as a marksman. It was kind of cool being the only one in the squadron who got the weapon with the live ammo during training exercises. That’s what we called them–weapons. We respected them as devices to kill. And from when I was 18 until 22, I was itching to kill. We all were. We wanted a common enemy. We were crazy, invincible, uneducated punks from the suburbs of big cities–and we wanted someplace to put our angst. Only, there was no war in the early 80s, and so we put our angst into partying.

When I got out of the Air Force, I wandered the planet like Caine in Kung Fu for five years, and never fired a weapon. But there were times when I definitely wanted to. I was complete mess. A penniless, nomad alcoholic. And if I had access to guns during that time, I’m pretty sure I would have used them. Probably on others. Definitely on myself.

Fortunately, the skies cleared when I turned 27, and my life’s been on a steady ascent ever since. I’m now free of a lot of baggage–including any desire to own or use weapons.

I understand that guns are an important part of American culture and history. And I understand why they’re important to so many people. I just don’t endorse them. I see them as devices to kill. Period. And, well, killing is bad.

Last Friday a crazy person shot up a school and killed 20 kids. You know the story. We seem to go through it a few times a year in America when some crazy person uses guns to kill masses of innocent people. These crazy people almost never use garden shears or billy clubs. Sure, sometimes they use bombs. And they’ve even used planes. But mostly they use guns. Guns are accessible, easy to use, and compact enough to conceal. They’re perfect killing devices.

If you are crazy enough to kill masses of innocent people, and you can somehow convince people that you’re not crazy enough to kill masses of innocent people,  then you can get your hands on some quality killing devices. Then you have a chance to be king of the world and get your picture all over the news. Who cares if you die? At least you’ll die with your boots on. And thanks to sensationalistic media, you’ll be remembered forever.

I don’t know how to process this thing. I hate guns. And I pity the insane. But you can’t ban insane people. I just want to move away to a Caribbean island where we can fish and eat bananas. Where I don’t have to think about having to fight fear with fear in a country where the answer to gunmen slaughtering children is more gunmen guarding them. The paranoid and patriotic among you will say, “But there is crime everywhere, Jim. And guns.” No shit. Thanks for the reminder. And thanks for dancing in the fresh blood of innocent victims to sing me a song about how the answer to the problem of gun crime is more guns, and that the second amendment is still relevant hundreds of years after its inception. You’re brilliant.

I had a dream last night that an idiot wanted to prove a point to me so he broke into my home, took my family at gunpoint, and tied us up in the living room. And as he pressed the muzzle of his Glock into my daughter’s temple, he said, “I bet you think differently about guns now, don’t you? Because if you had a one, you’d have used it to stop me.” To which I said, “No. You just help reinforce why there shouldn’t be any guns at all. Dick.” Then I shot lasers out of my eyes and smote him on our living room floor–leaving only a pool of raspberry jelly behind.

I thought I was doing a community service.



Jim Mitchem


A Routine Day
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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.

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