Opinion » Letters

I'm living one day at a time

San Luis Obispo




My name is Steve, and I’m a gun-aholic.

I started using firearms when I was a teenager. I began with the small stuff: a borrowed .22 single shot rifle, an occasional shotgun round. But soon, I advanced to purchasing my own weapons, including a semi-automatic rifle, 12 gauge shotguns, and a pistol or two. Shooting became an adrenaline-filled passion, and I was thoroughly hooked.

Until that day in 1975 when my gun world fell apart. As the adult leader for a group of Explorer Scouts, I led a shooting activity in an area far off the beaten path, north of Los Angeles. We all had guns and were shooting: targets, skeet, rocks, trees, bushes. While sitting inside our van, unloading a .22 pistol, my weapon suddenly discharged. (This gun model was later recalled for spontaneous discharges while being unloaded). The bullet went out the open van door and struck one of my 16-year-old scouts in the abdomen. His collapse to the ground still haunts me to this day.

To make a long story short, my victim barely survived. He was in the operating room for 12 hours, and in the ICU for days. But he lived. And is doing fine today.

Shortly thereafter, I sold all my guns and haven’t returned to my former life.

Not that I haven’t been tempted. The lure of a powerful firearm is immense, and I have nearly succumbed to its charms.

What kept me away?

Well, aside from the nightmares after nearly killing a teenage boy, I learned a thing or two about guns.

I learned that a gun in my home is at least 15 times more likely to kill me, or a member of my family, or an innocent bystander, than to be used to protect myself from an intruder.

I learned that there are 11,000 gun murders in the United States every year.

I learned that there are an additional 19,000 gun suicides.

But those statistics pale in comparison to the 4-year-old boy I tried to resuscitate after he got into his dad’s .357 Magnum pistol. The high-powered bullet nearly blew off his tiny upper leg, and he bled to death in my hands. You see, I became an emergency physician, and have subsequently treated hundreds and hundreds of gunshot victims. I have been soaked in their blood and heard the screams of their families as I pronounced them dead. For 25 years, I witnessed a needless carnage because of our country’s addiction to firearms.

Yes, I am a gun-aholic, living one day at a time.

Do I want to take away your guns? No, as I believe in the Second Amendment. But will I ever own a gun again? I hope not, for I never, ever want to wash the blood off my hands again.

Add a comment