How I stopped hating guns — and embraced self-reliance

News & Politics

This winter I turned on the light on the nightstand and stared at the 45-70 rifle propped up in the corner of my bedroom. After thinking for a moment, I got up and put it in the living room. This was the first time I had a gun under my own roof, and I couldn’t get to sleep knowing it was there. I’ve been prone to depression all my life, and it just seemed to be tempting fate. Mind, I’m not suicidal, but I gave myself one night to be a big baby about it.

The gun is on loan from my handyman and friend, Paul. “We’re gonna redneck you right up,” he’d grinned months earlier, while we we worked together to slop out and rebuild the flood-ravaged downstairs of my rental property, on a dirt road in rural Vermont.

Frankly, it was a small step to rethink guns after it became clear that the government recognized no natural or legal check on its actions.

The summer 2023 deluge couldn’t have come at a worse time. I had bought the house in foreclosure years ago, originally to give family members an affordable place to stay. Now I was about to move in. I was in the process of selling my primary residence near Burlington, and I had to make this place habitable fast.

Burlington blight

Paul is right about needing to redneck me up. I’ve been a city boy my whole life, but the deranged progressive politics of urban New England drove me out. It started with the blue-haired set; an influx of lumbering 6’5″ men tottering around in heels and eye shadow soon followed.

Then there was the crime, a relative novelty in our land of quaint bed-and-breakfasts and fall foliage tours. Burlington transformed into a miniature version of San Francisco, complete with boarded-up businesses shuttered by the lockdowns and covered in graffiti, human feces on the sidewalks, and hypodermic needles littering what used to be manicured lawns in nice neighborhoods.

When my curbside trash bins got “tagged” for the first time after living in the city for 15 years, that was the final straw. Now I’m learning about life with septic systems, well pumps, propane heating, backyard trash burning, and bears. Having a gun and knowing how to use it is just good sense when you live out here. In fact, I’d say it’s good sense no matter where you live.

Confessions of a former gun-grabber

This is a recent development. See, I’m a former leftist. I drank the Kool-Aid of progressivism (and served a lot of it too) from the time I was a teenager. There wasn’t a welfare program I didn’t want expanded nor an “oppressed minority” I didn’t think needed special support from the state. My views were the typical politics of resentment. Like millions of other leftists, my orientation to the world was simple: “The government should take care of that for me.”

Of course I wanted gun control. Everyone knows that guns kill people, right? It sounds stupid to me now, but as someone who spent his life exclusively around other leftists until the age of 41, I believed a lot of very stupid things for a very long time.

Most leftists won’t even listen to a conservative point of view. Or more accurately, perhaps, they
can’t. Confrontation with anything they perceive as “right-wing” provokes an almost involuntary emotional reaction, a kind of contamination-disgust reflex. I know it well because I often reacted the same way.

Until I didn’t. A crisis that unmasked the mental and moral illness in my family was the first event that started to open my eyes to the real world. What I’d been taught at home — men are inherently dangerous and toxic, the government should regulate and tax everything so that single mothers can get bigger benefits checks — had disturbed my moral compass until middle age.

Cured by the CDC

And then came COVID. I had already begun to let go of my leftist beliefs and turn to the right, but nothing pushed me farther or faster than watching the government trample the constitutional rights of citizens. It was unbelievable how many people obeyed extra-legal orders to stay home, wear masks, take jabs, and tell on their families and neighbors who didn’t obey Big Sister (it’s definitely “sister” in the 21st century).

The extraordinary nationalization of rental properties by the Centers for Disease Control infuriated me. As a landlord, I could not believe that some “health”-based federal agency thought it had the right to tell my tenants they could just stop paying rent and that I had to suck it up. I count this turn of events as a blessing, as it cured me of the remnants of my allegiance to, well, communist views. Because that’s what leftism is today.

Back to guns. I can’t explain why I believed what I did. Over the years, more sensible people patiently explained to me that criminals don’t obey gun control laws. They pointed out that when you have bad guys with guns that good guys can’t get, you end up with bad guys in charge and good guys in coffins. This is so glaringly obvious that a 4-year-old could understand it, and yet I didn’t. Never underestimate the average leftist’s capacity for self-delusion.

Actually, I
can explain why I believed what I did and why millions of leftists believe the same. No actual thinking is taking place, only feeling. I had emotions about guns, but no thoughts. To be a leftist is to be ruled by fear, disgust, and the projection of one’s own negative motivations onto other people.

Taking responsibility

I can’t live that way any more. Not after the real world slapped me in the face — and slapped some sense into me. Being a small business owner educated me about the plain thievery of our taxation system. Being excommunicated from my job, my friends, and my social circle over my refusal to take a dangerous vaccine — and worse, my persistence in talking about it loudly and publicly — taught me the difference between friends and “friends.”

Frankly, it was a small step to rethink guns after it became clear that the government recognized no natural or legal check on its actions. We’re all responsible for defending and protecting our lives, our property, and our families.

So this summer Paul is going to train me more on the rifle. I fired it a few times at a target in the back yard (an old microwave oven, and yes, the explosion was as satisfying as you think), but now it’s time to get proficient. I’ll learn how to operate, store, and carry guns safely and sensibly. If a bear or — God forbid — an intruder threatens my safety, I’m my own line of defense, as it should be.

After that first night of putting the rifle outside my bedroom, I put it right back. It’s not good coddling yourself; confronting reality is the cure for fear. Ever since, I’ve slept like a baby.

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