Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2022
Gun Control: My Personal Experience
Now that everyone is talking about guns and gun control, I figured ‘What the hell, I’ll throw out my thoughts and see what happens.’
I’ve lost my gun rights once, got them back, then lost them again. I lost them the first time in 1969 when I was convicted of possession of marijuana, a felony at that time carrying a possible thirty year sentence. I got ‘lucky’ and only got three years, suspended. I later petitioned the Governor of Virginia and had all of my rights restored.
Segue to 2007, when I was convicted of the charges that put me where I am now, when I lost my gun rights all over again. My first question in 1969 and again now is this, how can a state take away a constitutionally guaranteed right? I did not believe the State of Virginia had that right then, and I continue to believe that today. States simply have no right to infringe on any federal constitutional right. Why the US Supreme Court has never categorically stated that is a mystery to me.
That being said, I have owned only three guns in my life, a single-shot bolt-action .22 Remington rifle, a single-shot breach loaded .410 shotgun (I don’t remember the maker), and a semiautomatic 9 mm Beretta pistol. The rifle was a gift from my father at around age 16. We used to go squirrel hunting together, but mostly we did target shooting. He was a deadeye shot with no scope, and could knock a squirrel I could barely see out of a tree, something he said he learned in the army.
My grandfather gave me the shotgun, that he used to use for dove hunting, until he decided a Methodist minister shouldn’t hunt. All I ever shot with it were tossed tin cans, which I hit most of the time. I only fired the pistol, another gift from my father, a few times at targets. I did pretty well with it, but short barreled pistols tend to not be very accurate.
The first guns I’m aware of that could be fired relatively quickly without reloading were the ‘pepperbox’ pistols, that had multiple barrels on a manually rotated turret. I am not a firearm historian, so bear with me if my history is pretty general. The Bob Shell who writes the gun books you see on Amazon, etc., is someone else. I believe the first real fully automatic rifle was the Gatling Gun, which had multiple rotating barrels automatically reloaded from a magazine. Gatlings were used in the American ‘Civil War,’ but were very big and heavy and mounted on a carriage that could not be repositioned quickly. Modern Gatling Guns are like the one you see Jesse Ventura using in the movie ‘Predator’. Having multiple barrels keeps them from overheating and damaging themselves. Do I believe anyone with the money should be able to buy a modern Gatling? No, I do not.
I’m more conflicted about modern ‘assault rifles,’ which are descended from the automatic military rifles for which Adolf Hitler coined the term ‘Sturmgewehr’ — ‘storm weapon.’ The first other iteration was the Russian AK-47, named for Antonin Kalashnikov, its designer. Americans countered with the AR-15, used by American troops in Vietnam.
I believe there are rational reasons for keeping some military weapons out of the hands of those who might misuse them.
But, wait a minute. Isn’t the purpose of the Second Amendment to arm the populace and prevent an overreaching government from holding power over us? Yes, it is, and I’m conflicted.
Look at Ukraine, where poorly armed civilians have gone up against Russian soldiers equipped with modern weapons of war to defend their freedom. What if Russia, or some other autocracy tried to overrun and subdue the USA, or our own government ran amok? If the citizenry had only guns like I had, they’d stand no chance.
So what is the solution to gun violence, or is there one? Gun massacres have occurred in countries with strict gun control. Make guns illegal, and only the criminals will have them. I offer no solution to the problem, just hope to stimulate some thought about a difficult, polarizing problem to which neither side seems to have any answers.
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/virginia-enters-the-dark-ages/