The men in our family were raised to be hunters – bird hunters to be exact. Being the first-born male, I started hunting with him at a very young age. I would be hauled out of bed at three in the morning, dressed warmly, fed breakfast, and arrive at his favorite duck blind while it was still dark. We would scatter his large collection of decoys into an unobstructed clearing in the watery marsh, return to the blind, keep our eyes on the sky, and then wait for the first signs of light.
Those are some of my favorite memories of being with him. In hushed conversations, he spoke about me growing up and being a responsible person in life. He gave advice that only when I became an adult would I understand.
Before long we spotted the birds and I would use the duck caller, but dad used his perfect hand-over-mouth sound, and down they would come. I learned without question that I could never be as good a shot as he was.
As I got older, I asked him why we didn’t hunt deer. We had the rifles but never went out. He gave me two reasons. First, in his opinion, was that deer hunting wasn’t real hunting because deer follow their trails and are predictable, so where was the sport? But his second reason was more profound. There are many responsible deer hunters, he would say, but there were also some men with rifles who go out in the woods with the need to kill. He did not want himself or any of his sons to end up the subject of another story in the local newspaper about a hunter being shot because he was ‘mistaken’ for a deer.
I understood this many years later when I took my family and our golden retriever down a long dirt road deep into the woods where a friend was building a house with his own hands. We climbed out of the car and wandered around at this very remote building site, when three hunters with rifles over their shoulders were wandering past on a low ridge overlooking us. Unaware of how far their voices were traveling, I heard one say to the others, “Lets shoot the dog.” A bolt of fear ran through my body. If they killed our dog, they could kill us too! I rushed my family and our dog back into the car as fast as I could and took off, not knowing if a bullet might hit the car or one of us.
My father was a loyal and patriotic American, and because he was an aeronautical engineer who worked with the Navy on jet fighters, he also knew armaments. He knew what every one of his jets could carry and what they were carrying, and their machine gun capacity. One day I went with him to the Naval Air Station where he had a large house trailer fixed to the ground not far from the tarmac. It was always loud there, with jets taking off and landing. Unknown to me, he also knew much about the world because he had access to classified material. On that day of my visit, I later learned, he was standing there at the classified ‘TWIX’ machine when he read that the Soviet Union was sending missiles to Cuba. Without being told a word, I was taken home and he went back to the base. His squadrons would be among the first deployed.
My dad called it. He was a genius!
I tell you all of this because my father, a patriot, a hunter, a Republican, and an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment, did not believe anyone but the U.S. military should ever own or have access to semi-automatic weapons.
There was no place for them in the hands of civilians. He believed in background checks for all gun owners. This patriot and hunter knew that assault weapons were not for hunting. To put such weapon in the hands of people like those who were impersonating ‘deer hunters’ would be inviting disaster and carnage. Any talk of the National Rifle Association would lead to his well-reasoned and rational dismissal of an organization that preyed on the fears of the ignorant. Most of all, this patriot and hunter believed that it was unfathomable to think or even consider the need to own semi-automatic weapons to defend oneself against our government. The notion that greatest democracy in the history of planet Earth would ever turn against it’s own people was preposterous. End of discussion.
My father, the patriot and hunter, passed away more than twenty years ago. My father, as it turned out, foresaw Sandy Hook, and all the other massacres that have been allowed to occur because assault weapons have not banned, guns and rifles easily obtained, and universal background checks are not the law.
My dad called it. As I said, he was a genius.