Wading Barefoot

Rediscovering my barefoot-self

Gun Control

I want to share my feelings about gun control and the recent events that have brought this subject back to the forefront. Like you, I was horrified when I heard about the massacre at the elementary school in Connecticut. Two days prior there was a shooting in a mall here in Portland where two people were killed. On that day my grandson changed his usual plans to have lunch at the mall where he goes every Tuesday. Instead of being in the food court at the time of the shooting, he watched it unfold from the Starbucks across the street as the emergency crews descended on the Clackamas Town Center Mall. His mother was beside herself with worry thinking that he had gone to the mall as planned. She had trouble getting in touch with him when her cell phone battery died – she said her mind when completely blank and she couldn’t remember his phone number, or anyone’s for that matter, the effect of adrenalin I’m sure. She was so relieved when she found him safe.

The days leading up to Christmas were very sad indeed and at times emotionally wrenching.  Again, like you, I struggled to find a way in which I could help those who were so torn apart by these events. There are no words to console those parents, sisters and families who lost loved ones to these outrageous acts violence that seem to come out of nowhere. How can we protect ourselves from such randomness? We walk through our life and most of us don’t think that our lives can change in a blink, but of course we know they can and do.

When it comes to protecting ourselves we have dozens of choices. Everything from becoming a recluse to legally carry a concealed weapon. There was a man at the Clackamas Town Center Mall carrying a concealed handgun. He took aim at the gunman and chose not to discharge his weapon because, as he told it, there were others in his line of sight and he felt there was too great a risk. The gunman however, reportedly saw him aiming at him and ran to the place where they found him, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Did the gunman decide it was time to kill himself because he thought police were closing in? In that scenario, did the man who took aim at the gunman end up causing fewer victims? There has been no further word on the subject in the media. Ironic how these things just fade out of the spotlight and off our minds. I thought it was an interesting bit of information, but maybe b/c it favors the ‘gun’ side of the gun ‘control’ issue, it has been put aside.

I am a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution and I am not in favor of gun or ammo control. I am glad to hear that they are considering applying background checks to all gun sales. I don’t know how this will work with private sales and gun shows. Among other things, background checks are intended to keeps gun owners responsible for their weapons, but it won’t stop guns from being sold, traded and stolen. I guess my reasoning is that if you’ve been robbed and guns were stolen it would be more important than ever to report the theft. It’s amazing how many people are robbed of their guns and don’t report it at all. Often times owners don’t even know they are missing. How can your gun be missing and you not know it? My guns are like my children – I know where they are and in what condition they are in at any given moment.

I don’t have difficulty understanding why an individual would want an assault rifle. We live in our communities together with our neighbors and should anything happen that cause us, as a community, to defend ourselves – I’d want those patrols to be armed with assault rifles and enough ammo to keep us safe indefinitely. I know it’s quite a stretch to imagine our cities and towns in that kind of turmoil – we’re Americans, it doesn’t happen here. *[Until one morning parachutes fill the sky and people start screaming as gunshots ring out.  A strategic advance force from Russia (I’m a Baby Boomer, grew up during the Cold war can you tell?) is followed by a full-scale attack. If your community is prepared for every imagined emergency then you have the tools to protect the lives of your neighbors.]

I personally don’t own an assault rifle but I’d like an AK-47.

This last week there were a couple of guys in two separate Portland neighborhoods walking around with their assault rifles on their backs. Oregon is one of 42 states that have laws allowing loaded guns to be carried openly in public. These two guys caused quite a stir and a flurry of phone calls to 911 dispatchers. The police responded but admit there is little they can do as long as no laws was not being broken. The next day they did the same thing in another part of Portland, with the same result. I suppose they wanted to make a point, but what’s the point to scaring people. The way I see it: just because you have the legal right to do something, doesn’t mean you should. They said that they simply wanted to ‘educate’ people. I think their message was wasted in the foolishness of the act.

I’m going to be very unpopular with many readers when I say that I think it’s a good idea to have armed school police at every school in our country. These officers should be specially trained for the types of incidents that we’ve seen recently. Many of our schools already have police but they are not armed, understaffed and inadequately trained. It’s time to protect our most precious children. School shootings are unpredictable but we can’t hide our heads and pretend that this trend will stop by taking guns away from people. With this thinking the only people who have guns will be the ones getting them illegally.

During my travels across the country I found only one place that really made me feel at ease. That place was Humboldt County California. Yes, the weed capital of America! Here guns are worn openly and while we ate dinner at a busy pizza restaurant there was not one adult in the place that wasn’t carrying openly. There are fewer shootings here than the rest of the USA. Why? My theory is that when everyone is packing a gun, nobody is gonna start shooting.

I’ll end by saying this – I have a dog, locks on my doors and windows and still, without my gun, I would be defenseless. The police don’t arrive in time – that only happens in the movies. It’s up to me to defend myself and my family; without a gun I am at a huge disadvantage, maybe even a fatal one.


© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough, 2012


January 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

You’re Fired

I was not raised around guns but that’s not to say that I don’t have experience with them. In fact, I enjoy target practice very much even though I haven’t been to a turkey shoot in years. My sons are gun enthusiasts also and now that they are over eighteen my oldest has purchased himself a Mossburg 500, 12-gauge shotgun. I think he made a very good choice and I’m especially pleased that it is entirely made in the United States. I still prefer my Remington but that’s probably sentimental, it has good memories attached to it.

Since Richard bought the shotgun he hasn’t had a chance to fire it and the last time he and his friends went shooting he left it at home because he didn’t have a case to carry it in. Oregon state law says you can carry it in the trunk of the car but it has to be in a case, either soft or hard. This past Friday he finally bought a case and Sunday they headed out to find a new range. Some thirteen miles east of Seaside, they stopped at what they thought was a good site. They spent a little over an hour changing up weapons and ammo, firing at different types of targets and at a variety of distances.

John, his friend’s father came along and brought his Taurus revolver and his AK- 47. The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AK-4) It’s well known for it’s reliability under most any condition. I’ve seen these rifles submerged in mud and water and still fire without jamming or incident. Accuracy is a different matter altogether. After the first time it’s fired, it loses accuracy and is really only effective at close range, within 350 to 400 or so meters. The only other guns they had with them were a couple of .22 rifles.

John recently bought a high-powered scope with night vision that I’m sure cost him a pretty penny. Given this gun’s problems with long-range accuracy, I’m not sure why he invested so much money in a scope when it isn’t likely to help improve that problem. I personally would have invested in a McMillan Tac-50 sniper rifle. Yes, I know that’s over-kill, so to speak, but putting a long-range scope on a short-range rifle is like putting a racing cam in a Volkswagen. IMHO that is.

Now, I don’t want to turn this into a rant about the details of weaponry, so I’ll come to the point. Richard has a ton of respect for John; he’d better, he’s dating his daughter. So, when came his turn to fire the AK, he squeezed off only a couple rounds and the new (expensive) scope came off in his hand. Richard said that he was sure John would use him for target practice but of course that wasn’t the case, John just needed to tighten it down a bit. Watching the video they shot you can see Richard with a worried look on his face as he removed the clip and handed the gun to John.

Do you feel it coming? …wait for it.

As John prepared to reset the scope, he rested the barrel on his left foot and…


Yes indeed, there was a round in the chamber. He said it didn’t hurt, in fact he told everyone that it felt like a rubber band being snapped on top of his shoe. Boy was he wrong. The AK-47 had gone off by itself, he never touched the trigger.

There are moments that define a person and for Richard, this was such a moment. It seems he takes after his mom for more than just his impulsiveness, he handles himself quite well during emergencies. He got John to the car and then the hospital where the emergency room doctor cleaned and dressed the wound, which was about an inch or so down from the left small toe; one of the few places in the foot where he avoided major structural damage and the pedal artery.

The Oregon State Police and the Clatsop County Sheriff were notified as is the law regarding gun shots. They came to the hospital to investigate and write a report. The officers told them that where they were shooting was a state park, not a state forest and directed them to a couple local areas for the next time. They brought him home and medicated him heavily. He’s a lucky man. That gun could just have easily been pointed at Richard or any one of them.

Late last night Richard and his friends came over and we watched the video tape they made of the afternoon. Ironically Stephanie turned off the recorder less than ten seconds before John was shot. She said that she couldn’t tell if she was angry at her dad’s lack of safety measures or afraid of what might have happened. Either way it was a very traumatic experience for her.

Watching this footage over and over again I saw many incidents of lax safety measures. First of all, the shooting line was not clearly marked. Second, guns were being loaded well behind the line and not in one designated location. Third, John tucked one of the .22 rifles under his arm with the barrel of the gun pointed behind him. I know this because Stephanie was shooting the video and it was pointed directly at her. Fourth, when he was handed the rifle he never checked to see if it had a shell left in the chamber. Richard said he felt responsible because he didn’t clear the action before handing it over. He has a point and I’m glad he felt the weight of that error but in the final analysis, when you’re handed a gun it is your responsibility to double and triple check and even then, to keep the business end pointed in a safe direction.

I am dismayed and troubled by what I saw in the video. The people I love were put at risk by stupid mistakes that are so easily avoided. It takes only one mistake to change everything, turning an afternoon of fun into a horrible tragedy.

I am reminded of the first and most important lesson in gun safety: Empty Guns Are ALWAYS Loaded. Had this been presumed John would still have a whole foot. I will give Richard some time to process the events of Sunday and then we will have a conversation about gun safety around other people. It’s one thing to follow a strict set of safety rules and quite another to enforce it universally. But now is not the time for talking, it is the time for reflection and a prayer of thanks that no one was killed. Hopefully this will forever change the way John conducts himself while handling his weapons and will serve as a reminder to the rest of them about the very real risks associated with this pastime.

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough, 2011

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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