Arlo Mudgett: Torn on the gun issue

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I don't think my adoptive dad really liked guns. He had them, he carried one every day for years, but when it came to actually handling them he was deadly serious and we knew that he was not to be questioned or disobeyed in any way. He was such an easy-going, likable guy, but when the guns came out his personality truly changed. One minute he was all about fun and joking around, then when we went out into our woods to target shoot he just emanated this authoritarian, "don't you dare make a misstep" demeanor. It was his way of imparting respect for the weapon.

The first time I was allowed to fire his Hi-Standard 1938 Model B.22 caliber luger, it felt like a visit to the principal's office. He explained the "hair trigger" and how the 10-shot automatic would continue to fire as long as I continued to pull the trigger, and that I was to pull that hair trigger just once. Then I had to repeat what I had been told. By following his stern instruction I was eventually allowed to pull the trigger multiple times. All of this while gun-handling lessons were being imparted.

"Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to fire." "Never point the weapon in the direction of a person or a road or anywhere that people might be."

Gotcha, dad.

Hunting with my dad was all lesson all the time. He was never relaxed when we had rifles or pistols on our person. He imparted the grave danger that a gun posed if handled incorrectly. When we were around guns, his Vermont State Police authority voice was turned on, and we knew that you did not cross the man when he was in cop mode. When he was a Motor Vehicle Inspector, there was always a service weapon in the state vehicle's glove compartment. The glove compartment was 100 percent off-limits.

All I remember of his service revolver was the leather holster. It was never visible long enough to see the actual gun inside. I never touched or looked at the service revolver. Guns were tools, and not to be taken lightly.

After he died, I remember taking home a box of shells left over from his service revolver. After 50 plus years, those .38s still fire. I purchased a Smith and Wesson .38 Special revolver a few years ago and I'm still using the old man's bullets. I am assuming that when he left the Motor Vehicle Department that he turned his .38 special back in, so to this day I still don't remember ever seeing it outside its holster.

My adoptive dad was also a World War II veteran. He was an MP and transported German prisoners of war from France to Kansas. Evidently, he saw some things in Europe that did not sit well with him, and they involved firearms. His family still owns a deer camp on a mountain in Plymouth, Vt., where my grandfather grew up.

He had ample opportunity to bag a deer but always seemed to have an excuse for not shooting one. He ultimately got a deer, but I was not there to see it. My guess is that he was with one of his brothers, had the shot, and took it because he felt that he had to. I never saw him shoot anything but a target. He was a gentleman that abhorred violence of any kind.

That was my gun background. I do not hunt deer, never shot one, and never much cared for deer hunting. I've shot varmints (i.e., rats and red squirrels) on many occasions, even hunted squirrels and ate what I shot. These days I'm really not into killing anything except coyotes and red squirrels. I've never shot a coyote, but as a pet owner, I do not want them around. I have no doubt that I would take the shot if a coyote were in range, it just hasn't happened yet. I don't actively hunt them. However, I do enjoy target shooting. I just don't get the opportunity to do it all that often. By the way, I am not, nor have I ever been a member of the NRA.

I've been around people who hunt and shoot all my life. They've all been responsible, careful and diligent gun owners. Some of them own semi-automatic weapons, as I do. To me, guns are a tool in the pursuit of sporting activities. I own a bunch of them. I question people who have never been trained in how to properly handle a firearm, yet they feel that guns should be eradicated. I respect the folks who don't want to outlaw guns but want to regulate them more carefully, up to a point.

I don't agree with everything in S.55, the gun law that will probably be signed by Vermont Gov. Phil Scott by the time you read this.

I do believe that urban style anti-gun hysteria has gained a foothold in Vermont, a state where that kind of regulatory overreaction is completely unnecessary.

I'm simply attempting to put things into their proper perspective, something that I am afraid that we have lost.

I've been torn by this whole subject for years, but at this point, the complex reasons for mass shootings are not being correctly addressed with legislation that is an overreaction, in a state that has had extremely rare and isolated gun violence issues.

We are making a mistake here, and I hope it can be reasonably addressed at some time in the future.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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