Inspired by his late father's antique pistol, author, urbanite, firearm novice (and skeptic) Eli Gottlieb traveled through Colorado to figure out why guns still hold such fascination.
If it's the job of each generation to mourn the passing of an innocence they believe unique to themselves, then ours, in part, will almost certainly be the loss—forever?—of the relatively violence-free life we remember as kids, when children went unescorted around the neighborhood at Halloween, newspapers were full of bland cultural happenings from around the world, and the neighbor who invited you over to carve wood in his basement workshop wasn't a potential sexual predator but merely a nice guy. It's impossible, it seems to me, not to link that coarsening of American life to the hundreds of millions of guns circulating through the body politic like so many angry little metallic cells.
Obviously, the world will make up its own mind about these things. The world always has. As has my stepson. I'm putting my hopes for his gun-free future in the passing nature of his enthusiasms, but for now, having received his desired airsoft pistols for the holidays, he's got his sights set on bigger game: an airsoft AK-47 submachine gun, which will spray a fine rain of pellet-mayhem for nearly 200 feet.
As for myself, I've decided that, however beautiful they may be as objects, guns are too loud, too unforgiving of tiny errors, too absolutist in their power over life to keep around the house as pets. My homage to my father is over. Having shot his gun, I now feel like selling it. Guns have their place in the foundational psychology of this country, particularly in the West. But as for me, thanks, no. I've decided to take my chances just as I was before my travels through Gunland, and though enriched by the experience in many ways, I intend to remain as I was: naively, proudly, and stubbornly undefended.
Eli Gottlieb is a contributing editor for 5280. His latest novel, Now You See Him, is now available in paperback. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.