With all of the publicity caused by the president’s recent speech, my mind turns to a picture created in the late 1940s or very early ’50s.
I was born and raised in a small mining town called Hill Station. From the ages of 12 to 15, we played baseball from sun up to sun down, weather permitting. Like most older people, I fondly look back on those memories.
But there were other activities that were common summer occurrences. I can picture two youngsters, about 10 years old, walking down the streets of Hills, as we called it, with .22 rifles slung across their backs.
One was toting a Mossberg 46 M, the other a Remington 514. Their destination was the nearby slate dump.
Here they would shoot rats or tin cans with the inexpensive .22 shorts they had purchased at the local grocery store.
As they walked through the town, adults would wave from the porch and if the rare car passed, the driver would wave or on occasion stop and advise the two young men to be careful.
While not as common an activity as the ball games, it was such a regular sight that it was little more than two youngsters staying out of trouble and doing a bit of shooting.
Later, we would advance – yes, one of those youngsters was me – and ride to the garbage dump near Hendersonville. It is now the location of Southpointe.
We would shoot rats there. Sometimes, we would be joined by a local constable, Ed Coen, and his friend, Bob Mack. Instead of toting a .22, Coen would be shooting a .30-06, and we would just be in awe of the power and damage done by this high powered deer rifle.
I guess it would be safe to say times were different.
As I reflect on this, I also remember my father’s shotgun leaning in a corner of the closet with his .22 rifle. Didn’t every father own a shotgun?
I don’t remember ever touching it without his permission, or for that matter, ever considering doing so. Many people today would have a stroke when seeing a shotgun leaning in the corner. I ask myself, and think it is a pertinent question: when and why did things change?
While seemingly unrelated, but yet a sign of then and now, doors were seldom locked and neighbor took care of neighbor.
When did we move from seeing two boys with rifles as normal, to the feelings of today, and does anyone care enough to look beyond the veneer surface to hopefully find the truth and cause?
I interviewed only two people about this subject. One is a school teacher, and she blames much of the problem on children going home to an empty house. She says there is little parental guidance today and few youngsters are taught responsibility for their actions.
Blame everyone and everything when caught in a wrongful act.
Someone drowns, the river is to blame, never the reckless behavior. In my youth, when punished by a teacher, the last thing you wanted to happen was for a parent to find out. That would mean another punishment. Now the parent is likely to blame the teacher for their child’s wrongdoing.
In the ’50s, you went to school in jeans, but they were clean, and you hid your shirt tail and definitely didn’t show your underwear, let alone your rear end.
The other person thought bad things were just as common back then, but was less publicized. Common criues didn’t make the papers or the radio.
He might have a point, which only points to the complexity of the problem of violence in society. Perhaps the people blaming an inanimate object, the gun, for the problem is in fact adding to the problem by distracting us from seeking real solutions.
Less than three percent of all murders are committed by a rifle or shotgun, yet these are the things we blame. It’s a Band-Aid approach at best, and places the blame where it doesn’t belong. It’s an easy cop out. Finding the real cause of the problem might be more complicated and harder to find and accept.
Those two boys walked through town with their .22s and didn’t shoot anyone. The adults who saw them did not fear them. Just think, we even bought our own ammunition.
Did you know that the sale and ownership of firearms already involves thousands of laws?
Did you know that the sale of automatic firearms has been controlled since 1934?
Did you know that Utah allows teachers and students to possess firearms on campus without ever having an incident?
Did you know that murder by firearms dropped significantly from 2006 to 2010?
George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.