…Well, at least I think I am.
I’m still trying to figure it out.
You see, after years of not using it, I finally decided that this was the month I was going to use my “NJ Firearms Purchaser Identification” card.
And I did.
For Christmas, I became the owner of a Remington 870 Home Defense shotgun. Now, I’m sure that aside from maybe a grunt of approval, 80% of you guys feel like this news isn’t much of a big deal at all. But to me, it is.
For that, I blame the government.
If you had told me 5 years ago that I’d eventually be a gun owner, I’d probably be terrified, guessing wildly at the no-doubt-horrific situation that forced me into such a savage state.
Had the world gotten bad enough that I needed to own one of those vicious weapons I’d been warned of so often as a kid? Batman, The X-Men, Spider Man, even Gargoyles had anti-gun episodes – and those are just a few off the top of my head. My entire childhood was filled with anti-gun messaging.
Gun ownership & use was something that only villains sought out. If you were handling a gun, you had bad intentions, with very few exceptions. In cartoons even the police rarely drew their weapons for good reasons. In fact, if you saw a cop draw a gun in a 90′s action cartoon, there’s a strong chance that he was actually a bad guy.
It almost makes sense; the super hero main characters wouldn’t have much to do if the police were able to do their jobs successfully; something that would most likely involve using their guns to stop whatever crime was being attempted. However, at least in my case, the way that guns were portrayed in popular children’s television had a profound and stigmatizing effect on me.
Until I met actual gun owners, that is.
Through the magic of online video games, I was able to connect with people outside of the liberal haze of New Jersey. People from Arkansas, Texas, and Arizona. Awesome people who I respect tremendously, and without whom I probably wouldn’t be blogging at all, least of all about conservative politics.
Anyway, it was through them I eventually was exposed to enough rational gun discourse that I decided to obtain my aforementioned “NJ Firearms Purchaser” card.
Enter stigmatization round deux.
I’m not a crook. Seriously.
I’ve never committed a crime, I help old ladies walk across the street, I even hold open doors for people I know to be Democrats. The last time I can remember “being in trouble” was when I was in first grade and got snookered into flipping my teacher the bird by some of my classmates. That was 17 years ago. I was 7.
I’m about as squeaky clean as people come… so it was a bit unsettling to have to go get fingerprinted, be briefly interviewed by a local police sergeant, and to have to sign a bunch of papers saying that I was not a dangerous felon. And this was just to be able to purchase long-guns.
It was an off-putting experience to say the least. I felt like I was doing something taboo, something illegal. Like I was a bad guy waiting to get caught. And that was even before I started checking out the laundry list of regulations- and possible violations- that gun owners face.
After trying to digest the legalese waiting for a future, gun-owning me, I was not anxious to use my new “privilege”. Which is to say, I was anxious. Very anxious, and I still am. I, and others like me, have been made to feel like criminals just for wanting to be able to buy guns.
That’s not “use”, or “transport”. That’s buy.
Which brings me way back to last Monday, at Dick’s Sporting Goods, where I was finally ready to make my purchase.
I was nervous standing at the counter, waiting for the firearms attendant to get around to me, even though I knew that there are millions of gun owners in the US. I was nervous picking out the gun I wanted, even though I was well within my rights to be there and to shop for firearms. I was nervous as I made sure to check every box correctly on the 3 different forms I had to fill out, even though I knew I had already filled out similar boxes when I applied for my purchaser card.
And I was nervous, and more than a little annoyed, as I had to stand around for 45 minutes as my background check was processed, even though I knew that I had never done anything wrong.
It’s ironic, by purchasing a weapon to defend my family from criminals, even by doing so through legal means, I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s not just me who feels like I did something wrong.
I feel like I’m getting askance glances from the very institution that claims to protect my right to bear arms.
After all, what good is a super-powered Government if its citizens can protect themselves?