Guns? I have a few

I grew up fishing and hunting in various places around Utah. As a teen, I loved to tramp the fields and marshes in the fields around Utah Lake, often alone, with a shotgun over my shoulder, hunting pheasants, ducks, quail and sometimes crows and magpies (legal back then).

I own a 12 gauge shotgun, 20 gauge shotgun, a 30.06 bolt-action deer rifle, a couple of .22 rifles, and a .22 pistol.

Also, a year or so ago, I purchased a Rock River Arms AR-15, .223 caliber. It is a sweet gun and I really like it. I had a red dot sight installed. It is a lot of fun to shoot. I have a couple of 30-round magazines.

Some people call it an assault rifle.

I’ve also considered purchasing a Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle. A very nice little gun. It looks like a conventional semi-automatic rifle, like a deer rifle, but it can accommodate a big magazine. It operates exactly like an AR-15, but it isn’t scary looking. So most people wouldn’t call it an assault rifle. 

I’m by no means a gun fanatic. I don’t shoot very often and I haven’t gone hunting for several years. I sometimes feel guilty that I haven’t passed along the hunting tradition to my children and grandchildren.

I live in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City on the 25th floor of a condominium tower. But I also have a small ranch in a very remote location in far northwestern Box Elder County at the base of the Raft River mountains. It’s on the Utah side of the border, but the nearest town is Malta, Idaho. It’s six miles on a gravel road from the nearest paved highway.

All my guns are at the ranch, where my son lives. We raise grass-fed beef, free-range laying hens, and soon will add pastured turkeys, broilers, and probably some goats and sheep, mostly to keep the brush trimmed in the creek corridor below the cliffs.

We have a lot of predators in the area. We’ve lost chickens to raccoons, skunks, weasels and hawks. There are a lot of coyotes. We do have a big, beautiful livestock guardian dog, an Anatolian Shepherd named Dutch. He’s only eight months old, but is already a big boy. We also have a blue heeler and a border collie. 

The dogs are extremely important to the ranch. We’d have predators after the animals every night without the dogs. I still worry about newborn calves at the top of the ranch where we can’t see them, and when the cows are along the cliffs where cougars have been seen.

The only predators we’ve shot have been a few raccoons caught redhanded in the chicken coop. They were dispatched with a .22. We’ve also shot cows and pigs as part of the harvesting process. A bullet to the brain and they never know what hit them. It’s a far more humane way to harvest meat than the typical slaughterhouse where your hamburger and steak come from.

So why do I have an AR-15? I suppose I don’t have a great reason. Maybe it’s just for the fun of it. It’s a great target practice gun, although I seldom shoot. I could get along without it. But it does give me some sense of security to have a gun with a lot of firepower. I can anticipate one of our dogs being cornered by a pack of coyotes and 30 rounds would surely scare them off. The AR-15 .223 shell is not a big bullet, but it is very fast and is accurate at fairly long distances.

We don’t usually pack guns with us while we’re out and about on the ranch, although I’d like to get scabbards for the side-by-side and 4-wheeler.

For a while, my daughter lived at the ranch alone, with two young children. I tried to teach her how to use the 20 gauge shotgun, although she wasn’t much interested.

There are bad people, professional thieves, who specialize in stealing farm tools and equipment in remote areas. Would I ever use a gun on a human? I would not, certainly not for theft, unless the life of an innocent person was threatened.  

I believe there are many things we can and must do to reduce and eliminate school shootings and other gun violence. But I’m not interested in feel-good, symbolic statements that won’t have any impact.

I would happily support banning AR-15s, and I’d give up my gun, if I thought it would reduce gun violence. But it would be nonsensical to ban AR-15s without banning every other semi-automatic rifle that can accommodate a big magazine. And what about the guns already in circulation? There are more than 300 million guns in America, including many million semi-automatics.

In addition to the long guns, many semi-automatic pistol magazines can hold 18 bullets, plus one in the chamber. Those pistols would have to be banned, as well.

I think reasonable people understand that banning future sales of semi-automatic weapons won’t help at all, with so many guns in circulation. And it is totally impractical to confiscate millions of guns owned by millions of Americans.

Gun sales boomed during the Obama years any time politicians threatened gun control. AR-15 sales, no doubt, are booming today as that gun model is being targeted.

I fully support keeping guns out of the hands of mentally ill people and domestic abusers. We should improve background checks and require background checks for gun show and on-line purchases. School security measures need to be improved.

The causes and prevention of mass shooting are complex and defy easy solutions. This is really hard. Let’s not allow politicians to champion simplistic and impractical answers and act like they’re actually doing something.