No-Gun Culture

[Content Note: Guns.]

So, I'm reading this story about a Virginia pizzeria that is offering a 15% discount to customers who bring in a gun or show a gun permit with their order, and it puts me in mind of a conversation I had with Jess over the weekend about how we talk a lot about gun culture in the US, but not so much about no-gun culture.

This is something Josh Marshall has observed, and probably other people, too, but just as much as there are people in the US who have been raised with and around guns, there are people who have not been raised with and around guns. I am one of those people.

In fact, not only was I not raised in the gun subculture, my formative experience with guns was my grandfather's relationship to his gun, which he carried because he was a detective with the NYPD. I don't remember my grandfather ever being cross with me a single time; I was very young when he died, but he was, in my childhood memory, a source of love and laughter, whose lilting voice would go flat and stern if I got anywhere near the dresser where he kept his gun. Stay away from that dresser.

When he got home from work, he would unholster his gun and put it safely away in the dresser in the corner of his bedroom, and I was not to go near it. Ever. For any reason. He wanted me to be scared of what that gun could do in untrained hands, and I was.

My grandfather, I understood, did not love his gun. He respected it. It was a tool of his job, and I daresay he regretted it had to be.

My only other meaningful experience with guns was being threatened by one. And that did not endear them to me.

I understand, really I do, that there are people who grow up with guns and know how to use and safely store them and who like or even love their guns. I live in a community that includes farmers and hunters, who have practical use for guns, and lots of gun aficionados who keep them for sport or self-defense.

But I'm not a part of that culture. I have only the most basic familiarity with it. I'm not comfortable with it. And it's not because I don't respect guns; it's because I do. I simply have a different relationship to them than pro-gun people do.

I really want gun owners to understand that there is an equally valid no-gun culture. It is okay for me to never want to own a gun, for self-defense or any other reason. It is okay for me to not want to have guns in my home. It is okay for me to want to go into public spaces without seeing unconcealed guns.

There has to be some sort of balance between the pro-gun and no-gun subcultures that coexist in the US, and that balance is upended utterly by the increasingly belligerent displays of carried guns in public spaces. Your right to bear arms is not predicated on your ability to brandish weapons anywhere and everywhere.

You want me to understand and respect that you grew up with guns? Cool. I want you to understand and respect that I didn't.

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