Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tennessee Gun Club

Scout Niblett--"Gun" (mp3)

There is a gentleman who walks his two white dogs in my neighborhood every day.  He seems friendly enough when he passes, always waves and then moves on at an efficient clip.  He wears ear-covering headphones, so we don't speak, but I often--no, always--continue to watch him as he waves and strides briskly down the street.  On his hip, he wears a gun.  It's a sleek, modern-looking thing the color of this laptop, with sleek lines and sharp corners, probably a Glock.  He is a retired gentleman, though not particularly old, and the word on the street is that he is retired because he sustained a head injury.  So he takes on the duty of walking those dogs several times a day, well-armed and not worried.

To obtain a handgun carry permit in Tennessee, you must first successfully complete a Handgun Safety Course offered by a handgun safety school that is certified by the Department of Safety. 

You should then make application at any full service Driver Service Center. You will need to bring with you the original copy of your safety course completion certificate, Proof of US Citizenship or Lawful Permanent Residency, photo identification such as your Driver License, and $115 NON-REFUNDABLE permit fee. This fee may be paid in cash, money order or with a certified check. If there are no problems with the application and you meet all eligibility requirements, you should receive your permit within 90 days of the date you submit your application. 

When your application is processed at the Driver Service Center, you will be given instructions on being fingerprinted."   --

So, to carry his gun lawfully through my neighborhood, he must have passed a safety course, proved his residency and citizenship, paid a fee, waited up to 90 days for processing (we would assume background checks, etc.) and then been fingerprinted.  I have no doubt that this gentleman obtained his carry permit legally and I know nothing in particular about the nature of his head injury, so I don't mean (entirely) to suggest that I think he's going to go off some day while walking his dog.

I just don't like him walking past my house carrying a gun day after day.

I don't feel safer.  I don't feel protected.  I don't have anything against him, but neither do I have anything in common with him, save for a shared geographical proximity.  Indeed, the problem may be mine, because through coincidence, dumb luck, sheltered living, or simply a series of fortunate events, I spent my first 55 years of life not seeing a man walking past my house carrying a gun.  I spent those years being told and telling others that guns are dangerous things, best left in the hands of trained professionals, and that too many bad things can happen when they are around.  Nothing has happened during those 55 years to shake or rattle any of those beliefs at their core.

But this year, I'm seeing that gun every day.

And not just in my neighborhood.  The reality of the "Tennessee Gun Club," as I call the reality of pretty much anyone being allowed to carry a gun, either visibly or concealed, is that I am likely see one almost anywhere except schools (I hope) and some public parks.

At least in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, the Shepherdsons and the Graingerfords (based on the Hatfields and McCoys, constantly feuding) left their rifles and pistols leaning against the outside wall of the church while they attended services inside, a detail Twain offered as part of his bitter satire on violence in the western states.

Here a couple of weeks ago, I was walking into Publix on a Sunday morning when I noticed the guy approaching the entrance from a different direction had a gun on his hip.  At first, my brain told me he was an undercover cop until it dawned on me that there ain't too much undercover about packing heat on your hip and until several encounters inside the store confirmed that he was simply shopping. 

With a gun.  For protection.  From what.  I don't know.

I know I'm just an annoying liberal unable or unwilling to face reality of the gun culture in America.  That is undoubtedly true.  But I also know that Tennessee, my state, has gone way off the deep end with guns.  Do you doubt me?  Well, while driving my daughter to Nashville yesterday to the airport, there is a particular gun store which advertises heavily on the billboards heading that way.  And I didn't pay them much attention--guns, assault rifles, ammo, blah, blah, blah.  Until I encountered this one:  SILENCERS ARE LEGAL.    And there's a humongous photo of the kind of silencer someone like James Bond or Jason Stratham would screw onto a pistol in preparation for "wet work."

"Silencers are legal?" I said incredulously.
"What are they?" my daughter asked.
"They are device you screw onto the end of a gun to muffle a gunshot.  I've heard they sound like a cough.  You've seen people use them in movies, I'm sure."
"That's weird," she said.

That's my state.  That's Tennessee.  Maybe it's your state, too.  Go ahead.  Make your best case, you freaking gun crazies.  Tell me why you should be allowed to own a silencer.  I'll wait.  While I cower in my house as you walk past with  
your dogs.


Billy said...

Last year it was said to me by a pro-gun acquaintance, with a frightening sincerity, "If you choose not to own and become proficient with a gun, you are choosing to put the lives of your family at risk. If you choose not to arm yourself and they are hurt or killed, you will share in the blame."

By this logic, it would seem that allowing my children to leave my sight puts me at fault for anything bad that happens to them.

But even more disturbing is the amount of fear and paranoia one must live with, every single day, to be more concerned with the dangers that (don't in statistical truth) threaten us than with making one's environment a better, happier, friendlier place.

Thanks, TN Gun Nut, but if being paranoid and waiting for death and mayhem is the result, I'd rather not drink of your magic elixir.

G. B. Miller said...

I think that if they had that kind of nonsense in Connecticut, we would truly have a new eastern frontier to worry about.

Plus we would make Chicago and DC look little itty bitty weenies.