Joanne Palmer: Of guns and men
September 7, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Nothing says "I love you" like a gun.
Yes, a gun.
Christmas is months away and my 14-year-old son already is badgering me to buy him a gun and put it underneath the tree. Truth be told, he badgers me all year long, but when hunting season starts, he dials it up a notch.
My son loves hunting and guns.
How can this be? His father doesn't hunt, and I am terrified of guns. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and no one I knew hunted. I was a mini Dr. Doolittle who dragged home every wounded bird and stray cat in the neighborhood and tried to nurse them back to health or find them a home. I desperately wanted to be a veterinarian and at one point had 20 rabbits, a wounded chick, a couple of hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, an aquarium teeming with tropical fish and my beloved Boston terrier, Polly. Then, I moved to Colorado and discovered hunting was a popular pastime.
I understand both sides of the argument because, trust me, I've had it countless times with hunters as well as my son. I know, because I occasionally eat meat, that I am a hypocrite. I accept that. I believe most hunters are responsible and fill their freezer with food for their families. But I am such an animal lover that I could never kill an animal. Even if the fate of the animal otherwise would be starvation or death from old age, I could not pull the trigger.
My mother always said she could endure anything except the death of one of her children. I feel exactly the same way. In my mind, owning a gun increases the risk of injury. Even if it's unloaded and locked in a gun safe in the garage with a hidden key, it's still a presence in the house.
I can't wrap my head around handing my son a gun before the state of Colorado issues him a driver's license. But I don't want to deny Peter something he is so passionate about, so I've tried to find a compromise.
I signed him up for hunter safety. He passed with flying colors.
I enrolled him in the 4-H shooting class and dutifully drove him once a week to the gun range. He loved it. I took him skeet shooting at Three Quarter Circles Sporting Clays. Thanks to Maureen Hogue — the epitome of patience — I enjoyed myself. But no animals were killed. Nothing had to be skinned, gutted or butchered.
I hoped his interest in hunting would be a phase, like Legos or Pokemon cards. I hoped once he actually killed an animal he would feel so bad that it would be the end of it. So last fall I reluctantly agreed to let him go hunting for pronghorn with a responsible adult friend. He shot and killed a pronghorn on the first day. Instead of feeling remorse, he was thrilled.
I was depressed.
He is going hunting for pronghorn again this fall with a borrowed gun. His primal instinct may be to hunt, but my maternal instinct is to protect. I will continue to listen to his arguments and try to support his passion. I have to love him for who he is instead of who I think he should be. That is the challenging part about love and parenting. Sometimes you have to give your blessing even when love pushes you in a direction you don't want to go. We'll get there, I'm convinced, because in the end, love does conquer all.