Last fall I had a serious eye surgery. A skilled surgical team at UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh had to fish out a stray lens implant and sew in a new lens from the inside. In the process they made seven incisions in my eyeball and changed out all the vitreous, the gel inside the eye, replacing it with synthetic material. It was a delicate surgery and I went home the next day, but I was not “out of the woods.”
I suppose it’s ironic to say I was not “out of the woods,” because during several months of healing I was not permitted to go into the woods. If something so small as a twig slapped my eye, the work of the surgical team could be all for naught.
I was also not permitted to fire a gun because any recoil might jar things loose in my repaired eye. Nor was I permitted to shoot a bow, neither a vertical bow nor a crossbow. Even that recoil was risky. So, I did no scouting during the entire fall. No trail camera work, no archery practice, nothing. I never even sighted in my deer rifle.
The day would come when I could resume the things I loved, but I needed to be patient. I knew that despite being a responsible gun owner, shooting a gun could be very costly to me. I had to accept the fact that for three months my hands were no place for guns. And it made me think again about all the kinds of hands that are the wrong hands for guns.
Are your hands ever the wrong hands for guns?
Careless hands—hands attached to a person who isn’t thinking—are the wrong hands for guns. Brief moments of carelessness destroy lives. The thinking gunner is never careless. He always knows where the muzzle of every gun around him is pointing, and it should never be pointed at a person, even inadvertently.
The hands of a person influenced by alcohol are the wrong hands for guns. No one disputes that alcohol impairs judgment. It also handicaps one’s ability to assess his impairment. I’m bothered when I see beer in a camp, but not because I oppose alcohol. It bothers me in the same way beer cans on the floor of a car bothers me. Just as alcohol should have nothing to do with driving, it should have nothing to do with shooting. Alcohol can weaponize a person. It can make a person careless, or angry.
The hands of an angry person are the wrong hands for guns. A chip on your shoulder is best left home when hunting or target shooting. Anger can cloud judgment, so a fight with the wife or the boss is never a good prelude to hunting.
The hands of bullies and show-offs are the wrong hands for guns. Some people are victims of their own machismo—they think they’re as invulnerable as Muhammad Ali. One of the legendary stories about “The Greatest” is that he once refused to buckle his seatbelt on a commercial flight. He told the flight attendant, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” She calmly and wisely replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.” Humility mixes with firearms much better than pride does.
The hands of a poacher are the wrong hands for guns. Lawbreakers can be motivated to attack those who might reveal their lawlessness, so there is a good reason for poachers to lose their gun rights.
The hands of a person who lacks respect for people are the wrong hands for guns. The inability to consider the rights of others, the absence of common courtesy, and the notion that anyone who is in the woods is in my way all reveal attitudes that invite trouble.
The hands of a person who doesn’t respect guns are the wrong hands for guns. People must be taught respect for guns. In a day when entertainment includes hundreds of examples of casual gun handling and countless murders, we are desensitized to the seriousness of firearms. That’s a good reason for gun safety to be mandated in our schools. But now I’m dreaming.
It’s not guns that scare me. It’s the wrong hands for guns that scare me. The hands of a person with poor judgment or a hair-trigger temper bothers me. In the proper hands, a firearm is a tool that can bring challenge and enjoyment. In the wrong hands, it can bring suffering and tragedy. If you use guns, ask yourself, “What kind of hands are mine?”
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com, and read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.