Marlene Hauser

gun control: to brandish or conceal?

Gun Control: To Brandish or Conceal?

Hi Everyone,

Gun control.
Having recently returned from the USA after an absence of almost ten years, there is one image that remains etched in my mind: a handgun. In the USA for my 50th high school reunion, I was delighted to find my classmates all happy, content and as agreeable as they had been at eighteen. At one of the first events, held outside on what turned out to be a slightly cold and blustery evening, from across the covered courtyard, I thought I spied one of my peers with what appeared to be a pistol lodged in the waistband of his jeans.
Surely my imagination, I thought, as I went on to greet familiar faces and lined up for the ensalada, tacos and guacamole. Leaving the festivities a bit early as the cold and wind took me by surprise, I walked to the nearest corner and called an Uber, something I can’t do in Oxford, where Uber is not yet licensed. I mentioned to the young driver, apropos of nothing really except perhaps for confirmation that it had been merely invention on my part, that I had just seen one of my classmates with a gun.
To my surprise, the driver said, “Good idea. Open area. Night.” Before I had a chance to say that I thought I might have dreamt it with the darkness, shadows, etc., he went on to add, “If you don’t have a license to carry a concealed weapon then you have to brandish it. Or you might just want to brandish it for obvious reasons.” Brandish? I thought that meant to wave or flourish (something, especially a weapon) as a threat or in anger or excitement, which does happen to be the exact Oxford English Dictionary definition.
I guessed brandish in this case meant merely to exhibit, to show you were carrying a weapon. The driver went on to say that he and his fiancée both had licenses to carry concealed weapons. He didn’t have his firearm on him at the moment because they only had one between them (Note: they’d be getting a second as a wedding present) and he felt she was the one who should have it for now. Not that she couldn’t defend herself, he added. He wouldn’t want to get into a fight with her.
Maybe I wasn’t fantasizing. It could be my friend was packing a pistol. Possibly a good idea given the massacres that I had read or heard about. I later noticed a church sign reminding congregants that no handguns, concealed or not, were allowed inside. I thought I saw the same in the window of an administration centre at a park.
Later at a private dinner I asked my classmate if I had indeed seen him with a gun, and he answered yes. He (and his wife) had a license to carry a concealed weapon but that in open areas he felt it was better to brandish. I recalled the rest of the conversation with the Uber driver. “Think about it like this,” he’d said. “There was a shooting the other day in a food court. Texas, I think. Someone opened up with a semi-automatic and before they had a chance to kill anyone someone with a concealed weapon shot him. So you don’t have a tragedy, with victims; you have a hero.”
I’d been in a food court the day before, and I had momentarily considered in that big airy mall what I might do if a shooting occurred. I’ve grown up with guns, having had a military officer for a father, an ace marksman who kept his guns locked up and taught his children massive respect for the handling and management of firearms. I was once stalked by an unstable stranger who had followed me from Japan, where I’d been studying, back to the States. The police told me, “Take care, don’t ever be alone. Learn how to shoot a gun.” In an instant, my father taught me how to fire a Beretta.
I recall the heft and weight of that piece. As terrified by the semi-automatic pistol as by the stalker, I was relieved when the Japanese authorities let me know that the stalker had been apprehended and returned to Japan. I gave back the Beretta, and yet like the image of the handgun in my mate’s holster (turned out not to be his waistband), the notice on the church door or in the park, the moral weight of that gun in my hand proved heavy, cold, leaden, indelible. Dead.
To this day, I am grateful that I never had to use it, and for this November, whether you own one or not, I wish you the same.