My father kept his in the bedroom closet. My grandfather said he didn't need one, but when I had to crack his safe because he forgot the combination, I found two old ones in there. My uncle kept his on top of the chest of drawers in the bedroom. As a child, all of my friends had essentially the same experiences.
In my 14th summer, Elvis made the charts with "Heartbreak Hotel." I had a little jingle in my pocket from my paper route, mowing grass and caddying for the rich folks down at the fancy golf course. Because, you see, I wanted one, too. So I worked and saved for it.
Well, there came a day back that summer when I had the $25 I needed, so I peddled my bicycle the seven miles over to the closest Wards store. And therein, I purchased my first one: A brand new bolt-action, single shot 22 caliber rifle.
"Don't load that thing around here," the salesman admonished as he wrapped a sales receipt around the barrel and bagged my 300 rounds of "High Power" ammunition.
That was sold in the basement of the large department store. Picture a lanky 14-year-old boy walking through a department store today carrying a rifle and a bag of ammunition. That would cause a bit of attention today. Back then, no one cared. Nor did anyone say anything as I held the rifle across the handlebars of my bike while I peddled home.
It wasn't that everyone knew me (few did), and had no fear of me shooting them, it was that kids did not shoot at people. Period. No exceptions. There were no problems like that back then. We lived within the city limits of a major city, but on the very last street of that city. Within a five minute walk was a large wooded area. Therefore, most of the guys in the neighborhood had guns and it was rather common to see them carried around.
There were two rules for us kids that were not often violated: No loaded guns within the city limits. And, point it at someone and you loose it. The last rule was important because, back then, any adult could smack any kid upside the head and take their gun away for inappropriate use. It happened sometimes, too.
Lots of guns were around that neighborhood, but no person ever shot at anyone. Not even once.
Yet, in high school, many of us were chided relentlessly by our "peers." That's part of growing up.
I certainly got my share, because there was much about me to kid about. Four eyes and fumble fingers come to mind. Lanky and dumb Pollock were part of it, too.
But even with that, there were unstated rules among us kids. Say something nasty about someone's family or religion and there will be a fight. Ditto for not fighting "fair" by ganging up on someone or picking on someone smaller.
That's how it was back when Elvis was starting to become "king" and Fats Domino was selling records by the many millions. We knew that people were all different and that we did not have to like everyone. But we also were taught that we were not to bother people, that we were to respect their freedom and leave them alone --- as long as they did the same for us.
There also came a time that summer when a group of us were stopped by a police officer while walking down my street at 11:30 p.m. We had shotguns, 22s and there were even a couple revolvers in the group.
The officer asked normal police officer questions: Where do you live? Where are you going? Why are you out this late? Do your parents know you are out this late?
However, there was not one question about the guns. We were sent home. We were going home anyway, so simply replied "yes sir," and continued on our way.
No identification was necessary. We didn't have any, anyway. No one did, back then, unless they drove a car. Nor did the officer bother to write down our names.
We lived in the neighborhood, he didn't. Still, we were required to do as we were told, with no back-talk. Else, the nice officer would have delivered us to our parents and we would have been punished.
The rule was, if a "bad" adult tells you to do something you knew was wrong, you were to get out of his presence immediately. But still, no back-talk was allowed.
And that is the key, the missing attribute today: We had rules. Lots of rules. And we obeyed them correctly.
Usually, anyway. "Society has rules," our old social studies teacher liked to say in his booming voice. "Your responsibility is to obey those rules." All of our parents said pretty much the same thing, continuously.
There were consequences, too. Parents would whip your butt for sassing them or any other adult. Other kids would kick your butt if you went too far with them.
Steal, rob or assault and you got the police. Justice was swift from all sectors of society back then. As kids, we couldn't get away with much of anything.
All of my old crowd still have guns. Many of us are also legally armed citizens in public. Yet, no one out of the whole crowd has ever been accused of using a gun inappropriately. And, as I add that up, we are talking about over 500 years (combined) of well armed citizens.
But, as kids, we had supervision, we learned rules, and we were taught to respect the rights of others. Also, we were not desensitized by a constant diet of murder, mayhem and people bleeding as entertainment and nightly news on television.
In short, the problem is not the guns --- since before Billy the Kid, guns were always easily available to youngsters. The problem is the parents, and the liberal "feel good" atmosphere in the public schools. Children are not adults; they are in training to become adults. Children need strong direction. Rules, in other words. Lots of very clear rules. Providing a permissive atmosphere for children does nothing but allow anarchy in society.
Now, capitalizing on the tragedy at Littleton, Colorado, comes the babbling of vulgar liberal minds. Liberals refuse to admit that the actions of those young demented killers are but outward symptoms of the moral decline brought about by their liberal social policy. Instead, they wish to punish all of society by depriving honest Americans of their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Nothing will be said of the millions of armed American citizens who use their guns correctly. That will never be factored into the equation of freedom. The socialists of the world want tighter controls over the American people and they fear attempting to exert too much control while so many of us are armed and skilled with our firearms. For that, they have the Clinton administration.
I, for one, will practice my birthright and remain as always, an armed American citizen. So should you.
Mr. Fiedor publishes a newsletter Heads Up --- A Weekly View from the Foothills of Appalachia that is free to all at http://www.uhuh.com/reports/headsup/list-hu.htm. His e-mail is email@example.com.
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1999;4(5):180-181. Copyright ©1999 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).