On Guns: A Reflection by Fr. Terry

I was raised in a “gentleman’s hunting” family. I likely killed more clay pigeons than I did animals, but I did kill animals and trapped them in the marshes that are now subdivisions in Mississippi and did the manly hunting camp thing for wood ducks etc. Whenever I shot an animal sometimes my response was a typical male 15 year old blood lust thing and sometimes sadness quickly covered up. Later in life, as a Veteran and while still in the Military, I was invited to hunt rabbits on a farm in New Jersey over dogs. I had not hunted over dogs and looked forward to showing my Yankee friends what a southern boy could do with a gun. So we hunted and with that rush of delight I was the only one that got a shot off and killed a rabbit. As I approached the rabbit it wasn’t dead. It squealed and kicked in pain. That was the last time I shot anything other than an occasional clay pigeon. Now I’d rather watch birds than shoot them (except maybe with a camera). I still own guns and still admire them. I still enjoy cleaning them and maybe someday I will shoot another clay pigeon. But other than that I have no use for guns outside of their historic value.

My daughter was an excellent marksman having won First Place in target competition at All Saint’s School in Vicksburg;. smart, good looking, switching from outlandish vibrancy to deep introspection. As parents and daughter the relationship often was a rocky one. She was always the risk taker. She was the rule breaker – for it was like a drug. Therapist after therapist worked with her; this was twenty years ago. Eventually, she ran away from home at age 17, it was the rush of the risk. Later, after trials and tribulations at home, she found a boyfriend and moved to a more rural area with her new found love of her life. Tonya, my daughter, was the definition of co-dependent and that came raging out within their relationship. Donny, her live-in boyfriend, was simply a good ol’boy and nice guy. He defined the Florida Parishes country folk. Three days before All Saints day Tonya called my wife and spoke sadly about “problems” that she and Donny were having. Vicki, my wife, soothed her and said that if she needed a break she could certainly come home that night and that she would be welcomed. The story later told was that she went back to “talk it out” with Donny; they sat on the bed and as he said, “I just don’t know if this is going to work” she replied, “I guess not” and quietly reached into the bedside stand drawer and pulled out the loaded pistol (kept for protection). I last saw her being wheeled in on life support to St. Tammany General Hospital. She was on life support in order to harvest her organs. Much later the diagnosis, which had gone untreated and certainly not explained to us, was bi-polar disorder. She could have been treated.

Mental illness, blood sport, bravado, time, place, circumstance, poverty, and altered states: all share at least this in common – guns kill quickly and irredeemably and are weapons of spontaneity that require no effort but to simply pull a trigger. I would estimate that about 97% of the names of the now noted “Murder Board” listing over 2,000 names are from gunshot.