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The Big Question: What is your relationship with guns?

photo of a long gun
Todd Bookman/NHPR
For this month's Big Question, we asked you: "What is your relationship with guns?"

For NHPR's monthly series The Big Question, we ask you, our listeners, a question about life in New Hampshire.

This month we asked you: "What's your relationship with guns?" 

We wanted to know if your experiences with guns have affected your views on gun policy, and if your thoughts or feelings have ever changed in response to your personal experiences or events in the news.

We heard stories about hunting and how guns played a part in some people's childhoods or bonding with family. We heard from people who were issued firearms in the armed forces. And we heard from many of you who expressed your concerns about access to guns.

And in recent weeks, gun violence has touched New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.

Here’s what some of you said:

Mary Livingston - Langdon, NH: I actually grew up in the South, and guns were fairly prevalent back in the mid-50s and the early 1960s. People went hunting. My brother and my father went hunting. When I moved north, I inherited those guns, and I sold them and disposed of them before I moved. Personally, I just don't see the point. To me, the primary purpose of a gun is to kill something, and I don't have any interest in killing anything.

Alan Lane - Chester, NH: My relationship to guns is I was a combat veteran in Vietnam. I'm a responsible gun owner. I do believe in these red flag laws. If everybody enforces them, that tragedy in Maine could have been prevented, and it just wasn't. And I do believe Americans should be armed. The problem with guns is not the guns, it's the people that get a hold of them.

Jon - Hancock, NH: I'm a liberal, but I'm also a hunter. And sometimes those two circles don't intersect, but they do for me. I think that guns for hunting, guns, perhaps for self-defense in your home, should be allowed and supported. But assault weapons don't exist for hunting. They don't exist for any purpose except slaughter.

Cindy Ehlenfeldt - Charlestown, NH: I do respect folks that hunt, but I don't understand why people just can't go to the gun range to practice their shooting and why it has to become a part of their property, and they don't have respect for their neighbors. If it's an impactful disruption in their day… And that's where I find that nobody really recognizes that here.

John - Manchester, NH: I'm a center left Democrat who bought his first firearm after armed right wingers took over a wildlife refuge in Oregon. I fear that they might come after me someday, and that the police, who lean conservative, may not provide the best protection. The way the news cherry picks coverage to further the anti-gun agenda infuriates me... Gun laws are already arbitrary and draconian. Sadly, politicians will pander to anti-gun hysteria, and I fear Americans will lose the right to defend themselves.

Eileen Ingraham - Amherst, NH: We have a serious issue in the country with the sheer number of guns we have. I get concerned when I see people having guns on their hip going to the dump or the grocery store or what have you. I just don't understand that part. And I tend to be a little bit cynical. And I say, ‘are they trying to do a Clint Eastwood impersonation? Or what's the problem?’ I absolutely know that there are many people that are very responsible gun owners, but when you get into the big, big firearms like the AK-47s or what have you, there's no need for somebody to have a gun like that.

Dale - Atkinson, NH: My relationship with guns has evolved. My most strident opinion on guns is that assault rifles should be banned nationwide, and we should do everything we can to encourage owners of assault rifles to turn theirs in somehow. I see no need for this type of weapon, and I'm disturbed by the carnage that they cause. And for those who say that the assault rifle doesn't cause the carnage, only the person pulling the trigger does that, then why not allow everyone to have every conceivable weapon? Fully automatic machine guns, flamethrowers, tanks… Where do we draw the line?

Bill Hay - Keene, NH: The people who wrote the Second Amendment were thinking of flintlocks. They were thinking of muzzleloaders, single shot, 30 to 40 seconds at best between firing one round and another one. The concept of an AR-15 would have been science fiction. Certainly there's a mental health aspect to it because, you know, a person who's driven to go and shoot people has gone over the line. But the solution, it's not being helped by an easy availability of guns. Some sage somewhere back there said: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’

Art - Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee region, NH: I am a retired physician and I was a psychiatrist. I've seen what guns can do, and I know that a lot of people act impulsively and are sorry, but you can't take a bullet back, and that can lead to damage and sadness for people on all sides of the gunshot. I understand that people can use them properly, but I think that everything needs to be done that can be done to make sure that the people who use them are responsible in their use.

Additional abridged written responses are below:

Brenda Furry: The right to bear guns probably saved my life, at a time when I believed owning a gun would endanger my family. At 2 a.m., I dropped my sister off at the entrance to the emergency room. As I pulled the car with my infant and my 2-year-old around the corner, a man watched us. I parked in an empty parking lot under the only light post. After putting my oldest son into the stroller, I moved to the passenger side of the car to place my infant son into the same stroller. Catching movement in my peripheral vision, I looked up to see the same man who had been standing on the sidewalk by the ED entrance. He was walking toward us. There were no other cars, and no breaks in the lot’s fence line, no reason for this man to be walking in my direction. Raising up to the peak of my 5-foot 2-inch stature, I commanded, “Stop!” The man kept approaching… I believe to this day, the only reason my threat bore weight was the fact that I may have had a gun… Had guns been illegal, he may have gambled on being able to overpower me. Granted, I will never know his true intentions, but there was no logical explanation for his approach, other than to take something from me. My right to bear arms protected me and my children that night.

Raising children in a suburban area, I believed that having guns in the house would put my children at risk. I knew the statistics and didn’t feel the self-defense tools offered enough benefit to outweigh the risks. The events of the night in the Emergency Department parking lot did not change this belief.

My relationship with guns has transitioned as my environment and experience changed. I still believe guns are a threat, especially in a home with children. I believe, however, that the right to bear arms needs to be protected. I believe gun safety education is important. As with any relationship, it is complicated.

Jackie: As a Registered Nurse with more than 40 years experience, gun safety is of great importance to me having worked with young adults who sustained head injur[ies] due to gun violence, children and women who have experienced an ongoing life of fear due to living with an abuser who may have gun access. Also, concern for our veterans who return home having experienced traumatic violence and may commit suicide related to that trauma…

Solutions:

  1. Encourage our legislature to develop bills that support gun safety!
  2.  A priority is that our legislators pass the Red Flag law, which was approved by the House and Senate years ago but vetoed by the governor. Out of control youth and adults who put themselves and the citizens at risk with access to assault weapons should not have immediate access to guns. 
  3. Gun safety storage should be mandatory to prevent harm and theft.
  4. A mandatory waiting period with the background check should be reinforced.

Thank you to everyone who submitted an answer to this month’s Big Question. You can find next month’s question, and instructions on how to submit an answer, here.

Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.
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