I wanted to thank Abigail Kohn for her delightfully refreshing exposé of the "gun culture" ("Their Aim Is True," May). Though I was not technically raised in the gun culture, I was exposed to shooting and hunting by my grandfather. I'm fascinated by the clever mechanical engineering of today's firearms, and also with the wisdom of our founding fathers in crafting the Second Amendment.
I'm not really a hunter -- I feed the deer in my backyard about 150 pounds of corn a week -- but I take considerable pleasure in developing the skills involved in shooting accurately. Though I've yet to explore Cowboy Action Shooting, I have been dabbling in International Defensive Pistol Association activities, which provide definite skill-building and camaraderie.
In my experience, those involved in shooting sports are as heterogeneous a group as can be imagined. I've tried to explain my interests to my more liberal friends. But they've managed to so thoroughly demonize lumps of metal and wood that they just can't begin to understand. I intend to share your piece with those skeptics, and see if your eloquent and -- forgive me -- disarming approach might work where mine failed.
Peter P. Henry
Abigail Kohn's article is the most well-written discussion of the "gun culture" that I have ever read. I am a second-year student at the University of Virginia School of Law, and I wish I could get my classmates to read it. I was in the military for almost eight years and attended an undergraduate institution in Kansas, so I was quite surprised at the open hostility I faced in law school once it was discovered that I owned guns.
To make matters worse, my fellow students seemed disgusted that I was a National Rifle Association member and taught firearms instruction at the local range. I had a very difficult time going from an environment where all of my closest friends were fellow gun enthusiasts to one where guns were thought to be inherently evil. Kohn's article confirmed that my friends and I aren't as abnormal as the up-and-coming lawyers at my school believe. I look forward to reading her book on American gun enthusiasts.
I read Abigail Kohn's article with interest, surprise, and enjoyment. I got out of a highly specialized Navy unit in 1971, convinced that, having survived the Vietnam war, I wasn't ever going to need a weapon again. Unfortunately, the United States was a more dangerous place for me than Vietnam. It is a perfect irony that the only time I've ever been hit by a bullet was in Aspen, Colorado -- the Mecca of rich Berkeley refugees.
I promptly rethought my distaste for weaponry, and got into combat pistol shooting, which I've now been practicing for about 25 years. Among other things, I found it to be a great diversion from the stress involved in surviving law school. In terms of stress reduction, I found it to be slightly better than martial arts and not quite as good as distance swimming.
Recently I've become hooked on "clay" shooting -- trap, skeet, and sporting clays. There's something completely satisfying about blowing a clay frisbee out of the sky, knowing you have been able to get out into the sun and fresh air, generate some noise, exercise a skill, and harm no living thing.
There are a large number of subcultures within the larger "gun culture" the author describes. There are the folks who shoot race guns, combat shooters, extreme-accuracy riflemen, black-powder enthusiasts, full-auto people, and hunters, among others. I am grateful that Kohn's essay informed non-shooting readers of the attractiveness of at least one element of this community, along with the fact that its participants are more-or-less sane people.
Los Angeles, CA
"Their Aim Is True" discusses a segment of gun enthusiasts who are perfectly good citizens. But what of the irresponsible segment, consisting of thieves, kids, and others who feel that guns give them power and control over everyone else? What of the mentally ill who kill without social consciousness?
Handguns have no place in a civilized society. Rifles and shotguns can be justified for pleasure and hunting, but handguns only have one purpose -- to kill people -- and for that reason should be banned or at least regulated. The government through the Second Amendment should not be sanctifying murder.