Transcending Bullets

Here is a revolver.

It has an amazing language all its own.

It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.

It is the last word.

A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.

Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.

It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful.

It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.

It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.

It is less subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten.

When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of execution in and interfere with the original purpose.

And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.

(Unpublished Poem by Carl Sandburg)


In what could be viewed as a heroic vision of citizenship, the idea of possessing a gun can be traced back to the Lockean tradition which fiercely believes in the independence of the individuals who make up a political society. The government as an institution arises out of this society which makes some social goals more achievable, limiting itself from attaining vested interests. For instance, Government could abuse its monopoly over violence, which would be dangerous to an individual. In order to protect the self from the state’s abusive powers, civilian gun ownership is believed to reduce such dangers. It may be socially inefficient, especially when guns are sometimes used against society but that may be a price worth paying to maintain a free society. Beyond this social contract, it is also in the good faith that the individual would be able to protect himself or herself in the face of the fall of the state or a foreign attack.

In America, gun has become a powerful tool to not just solve issues on your own but also express emotions. Nevertheless, a vicious cycle of violence continues along with paranoia and insecurity.

Can we get rid of violence in the absence of the guns?

Is it an institutional failure to prevent homicide and suicide cases?

Amidst these many debates that seem impossible to solve this Gordian knot, The Atlantic took a step further into the most humane aspect- growing up with guns. Readers have shared positive as well as negative experiences with guns in their surroundings. While some bonded with the elders over it, some grew apart. It merely depended on how it was used.

Following stories reveal the reasons why certain Americans agree and disagree over the Guns Control policy. Sometimes the most irrational arguments can only be understood by peeping into the times that the individuals have faced.


“I felt it before I saw it. The gun was metallic, and it was hard. It pressed my T-shirt against my back and looked just exactly like a handgun always does in the movies. The man who held it had run up behind me before I could even see where he’d come from. We were on a dark street corner, and that was pretty much like the movies as well.

I was 15, female, in a quiet residential neighborhood in a liberal city on the West Coast. People didn’t own guns where I lived. We thought hunting was barbaric. We thought the NRA were nut cases. Half the girls in high school were vegetarian.

He pushed that gun in my back and shoved me through alleys for half an hour. He raped me.

It’s important to note, in this story, that the gun never went off. The gun may not have been loaded. The gun may have even been a fake. All it needed to do was convince me that he could kill me at any moment. Guns do that better than anything. This crime was reported—even prosecuted—but the man went free. He can buy a gun whenever he wants to.

This crime doesn’t show up in gun violence statistics. Those only cover shootings. I think it’s important to remember, in our conversation about firearms, how much damage they can do without ever being fired.”


“I only ever knew guns to be for hunting. Nobody in my family ever touched a gun except my father when he hunted. We ate tons of game when I was little because we were poor. I picked a lot of buckshot out of my food, but the gun was a tool to feed us—not a weapon of harm. Once we got rich enough to raise livestock to butcher, the gun was left to rust.”


“When I was maybe four years old, my father brought my older brother and me along with him to the shooting range. He and a friend brought a variety of shotguns and pistols, as well as a supply of cotton balls to stuff into our ears.

Now, this range was an outdoor range, and it was just a bit windy. In the course of watching the others shoot, one of the cotton balls fell out of my ear and went blowing down the shooting range. I—of course—chased it.”


“I have an extremely negative memory for my first experience with a gun.  My older cousin (who was about 16 or 18 at the time) tried to shoot me.  I was about five years old.  My four-year-old cousin saw him aim the gun at where I was swinging. She jumped off of her swing and pulled me back.  I was really mad at her until I heard the crack of the rifle.  I froze while realizing what happened.  The bullet missed me but went through the window of our trailer.  He walked away, angry.  I still have no idea why he tried to shoot me.  I can’t ask him because his younger brother killed him about seven years ago. 

Luckily a short while after this incident, my father gave me a positive memory with a firearm.  He taught me how to shoot.  It was a great bonding experience.  He taught me how to aim and care for a gun, mentioning that the most important things were to treat guns and people with respect and to properly clean guns.  We spend most of the afternoon shooting the target in the yard.  I think it was a mock-up of a deer.”


“He worked as a sheriff (before he was thrown off the force—and you can imagine how bad he was to get thrown off a sheriff force in rural Florida in the 1960s). He decided to use his guns to keep his family in line.

If the kids didn’t line up to be beaten for some transgression and ran off (if one of us did something, his philosophy was to beat us all), he shot after us. More than once we went hightailing it away with shots hitting the road behind us. Luckily he was usually drunk and a bad shot.

So my experience with guns was intimate and informs my judgement today. Guns are weapons that can escalate to fatality very, very fast. I am not comfortable around them, and am glad I live (and will continue to live) in a state that regulates them strongly.”


“My first encounter with firearms involved a few cousins, uncles, my father, and I all driving out to rural deserts in east San Diego county. I was eight years old.

We pulled off the road when we found a good place to set up targets. We had old fruit, water jugs, paper targets, and other odds and ends we would all shoot.I don’t remember much of the day, but I remember my dad’s firm stance behind me when I shot his .22 rifle for the first time, lest the kick of the gun knock me off my feet.

I remember the strangely comforting smell of gun powder, oil, and dry heat all through the afternoon. It was a good day. We stopped for Mexican food afterward, on our way home, and I knew I’d found a hobby that I’d always enjoy. I still do.”

You can read more stories here


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