BLOG: Shooting Off About Guns

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Shooting off about Guns

by Eric Beetner

Here’s my dilemma: I don’t care for guns. They make me nervous. I think the streets would be safer without them. I’d never have one in my house.

Perfectly fine, you say. I’ll never be elected to public office with views like that but that’s not the issue that most concerns me. As a crime reader and writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about guns. And deploying them in the service of plot points and action.

This is no political statement. If you want to have guns, go ahead. Don’t use them to kill me or my family and we’re cool. The fact that I’ll never own a gun means more for you.

I’ll still be the guy who gets a sweaty upper lip whenever there is a cop ahead of me in line at Starbucks with his big ol gun strapped on his hip, taunting me. An instrument of death so close. He could kill me. I could snatch that gun out of his belt and run rampage over everyone waiting in line for a latte. (don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it) What else is there to do but channel those thoughts into fiction?

I never will understand Americans fascination with guns and the justifications they use to own so damn many of them. Then again, I can’t justify why I needed 18 guitars at one point in my life when I can only play one at a time, so . . .

The other thing is, as much as I’d vote for any gun control law that came up, I also need them. If guns went away, my stories would get awfully dull. And I’ll be the first to admit there is little else in the whole wide world as cool as Chow Yun Fat sliding on his back down a banister, a 9mm in each hand, blasting away with a seemingly infinite supply of ammunition. That scene is from my favorite John Woo movie, Hard Boiled (1992), a movie that would be about ten minutes long if you cut out all the guns.

And I have fired a gun. More than once. I went to a shooting range about a week before I got married and shot paper targets with a buddy of mine. Seemed like a thing to do. I didn’t come away with a burning desire to start packing heat.

The gun story from my own life that is most disturbing was the time when my friend Danny and I went out shooting. Danny lived up the street from me when I lived in a small town in Connecticut from the 2nd to 5th grade. So when Danny and I went shooting, we were in the third grade. Let me say that again: when Danny and I went out shooting – not to a gun range but OUT – into the world – I was in the third grade!

The obvious question is how on earth did we get a gun? Why from Danny’s Dad of course. His gun cabinet anyway. Without his permission of course. All this was very nearly used as evidence in my wrongful death suit.

So, bored on a Sunday afternoon, we packed up a revolver of some caliber and a pocketful of shells (apologies to Rage Against The Machine) and headed out to the woods to shoot stuff and quite possibly become a statistic. And what else do third graders (!) shoot at but live frogs.

First we had to catch the frogs. Then, once released from our net, they went out of the frying pan and into the fire. Blammo.

As further evidence of how shit-all stupid we were on this day, and probably many others, we also took shots at – what else? – bee hives. Yep. I shot a gun. At a bee hive. On purpose. Because I thought it would be fun.

The scary moment of the day, and when you’re a third grader with a stolen gun there is always a scary moment, came when Danny shot a frog, as you do, and I figured the obliterated carcass looking like an extra from the beach in Saving Private Ryan was enough for Danny, so I took a few steps forward to continue our shooting adventure. It turned out Danny was not done with the frog massacre and he took another shot which blasted the ground only a few inches from my foot.

But did we stop and run home to stash the gun away again after almost killing one of us? Nope. I think that’s when we switched it up and started shooting at the bees.

And shooting up in trees like that, where did those bullets go? For fucks sake, I was shooting randomly in the Connecticut suburbs like some third grade Billy The Kid. But dammit, this is America and I have the constitutional right to do something that unfathomably dumb if I want to.

Okay, not really since the gun was stolen, I didn’t have a license and again, I was in the third grade.

My point is this: I’m a fan of guns in my fiction, but not in my life. A double standard? Yes. Am I a hypocrite? Probably. But, there it is. I don’t like guns.

I don’t think they are necessary to crime fiction. A lot of damage can be done with a straight razor, brass knuckles, a blowtorch. But nothing quite gets the job done like a firearm. I think of Indiana Jones, so tired and sick of fighting it out with antiquated weaponry like a whip, giving that world-weary sigh and pulling his six shooter and taking out the guy with the big-ass sword. Guns take care of business.

If I lived in the country, maybe I’d feel differently. And, like I said, if you need your guns then good for you. If you hunt for the meat, not just the sport, then you deserve to be a sniper of the highest order. But I live in Los Angeles where guns kill people. Yes, people with the guns kill people but that tired old argument doesn’t fly with me. Hell yes, guns kill people. In south central, in San Pedro, in Pomona, it doesn’t matter. A jackass with a gun is a deadly thing. A jackass without a gun is just a jackass.

Is it my fault that I might like to read a story about a jackass with a gun more than the story about the plain, ordinary jackass?

So until the liberal conspiracy (of which I am a member and yes, we do have a secret handshake) figures out a way to eliminate the second amendment, I’ll continue to read and write about guns. I’ll never join the NRA or anything, but I’ll have to get over my phobia of guns at least in the fictional realm.

There, I can be strapped with bandoliers, an uzi in each hand, the blood of my enemies hot on my face and a girl in a bikini clinging to my leg. Because my use of guns is a fantasy. Yours may not be, and more power to you.

Bet mine is better though.


  1. Thomas Pluck says:

    When writing, I try to always make guns have consequences, even when I am writing for purest entertainment. I think much of the problem with guns in the US is when they are used by the inexperienced, who think they are like laser pistols or magic wands, instead of tiny hand cannons that fire barrel shaped chunks of metal so fast that they tear holes through a human torso.

    And the other problem with guns is when the owner buys them as a talisman and not a tool.
    A gun is a tool for putting holes in paper targets, edible critters, and other human beings who are about to kill someone. It does not make you brave. It does not solve your childhood fears of being mugged or attacked. It does not make you feared by bad-asses who wanna take your date and kick sand in your face. A Smith & Wesson will NOT make you fear no evil when you strut into the valley of death. If it does, you’re not thinking properly. The Evil in there carries more guns, and they trained how to use them, and they’ve learned from birth that if you don’t strike first, and hard, you’re somebody else’s bitch. Your gun makes them laugh.

    I own guns. They are locked up. I live in a suburb, where a young man was shot in the street about a mile from my building. When I go on my late night walks, I carry a flashlight and my ID. Nothing worth stealing, and nothing I can kill someone with, without trying very hard. I’ve almost shot a drunken friend who was banging on our windows at 3am, trying to see if we were home. I walked out the door with my 357 in my pocket, and nearly shot a man… for tapping on my window. It was stupid. If he meant me harm, I put myself in his kill zone. In the house I was safe, but my honor was besmirched. Some dude thinks he can knock on my window?

    I’m not as stupid as I once was. Or as fearful. I try to avoid conflicts, and not to escalate them. When they cannot be avoided, I am prepared to end them quickly. I hope I never have to use a gun to defend my family. If it comes to that, they are in more danger than I ever want them to be in. I would do it if I had to, but if it comes to that, I have failed to protect them already.

  2. Eric Beetner says:

    Damn, Thomas. So very well put. Better than what I had to say. I wholeheartedly agree with you. “a talisman” – Brilliant! Thanks for commenting.

  3. Dan O'Shea says:

    Eric -

    I had many of the same thoughts, which I blogged about a couple months back.

    All I can tell you is, if the pro-gun folks get wind of your post, you’ll get lots of traffic. And you’ll probably get called a few names.


  4. Pro gun person here. No name calling.
    I love guns. Carry one. Enjoy target shooting. It’s just an opposite way to think.
    You don’t like guns, that’s cool.