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Tom Pantera

Tom Pantera
Fargo, North Dakota, U.S.
December 22
Managing editor
Extra Media, Inc.
Middle-aged, divorced, liberal; nearly 30 years as a newspaper reporter. Pretty much a walking stereotype. By the way, many will deny it but people in Fargo do talk just like in the movie.


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OCTOBER 21, 2010 2:03PM

Exercising my right to fear arms

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This is the time of year when I’m reminded I don’t participate in one of the most hairy-chested, guy-centric rituals of masculinity:  hunting.

Not that that bothers me all that much.  I’ll put my chest hair up against anybody’s (boy, there’s too much information for you and I probably should rephrase it), but I’m just not the outdoors type.  My idea of “roughing it” is a KOA campground with cheap toilet paper.  If I could sit on shore in a recliner and had my computer to pass the time, I might consider going fishing.

I got my blazing lack of interest in outdoor sports from my father.  He wasn’t the outdoors type either, so he didn’t hunt or fish.  I suppose had I been exposed to those things at an early age and had all kinds of warm ‘n’ fuzzy memories of being in the boat or blind with Dad, I’d probably have a real emotional attachment to it.  But I wasn’t, so I don’t.

I’m not entirely sure I understand the attraction of fishing, having done it maybe twice, briefly.  But from all I’ve ever heard about hunting, I actually can understand why people like it.  It actually does sound like a pretty good time, if only because you get to hang out with the guys at the end of the day, sit around a campfire and crack a few brews.  And assuming that you actually see a deer or a duck or a pheasant, it seems like it would be an interestingly challenging pastime.   I mean, I’d actually try it, under the right circumstances.

But there’s a big problem with “the right circumstances.”  Guns really skeeve me out.

I have fired a gun a grand total of four times in my life.  The first was when I was quite young, maybe 6, and we visited relatives on the upper peninsula of Michigan.  My Dad had an uncle who was a bit eccentric and one day Uncle Jim let me shoot at an old coffee can with a rifle.  My parents were less than pleased when they found out about it.

The second time was when I was working at the newspaper in Halstad.  I had to cover some function at the local gun club and when they found out I was a shooting novice, they asked me if I wanted to try it.  Because I knew nothing about how to do it, I followed their instructions and did pretty well.  In fact, some of them questioned whether I was telling the truth about not having shot before.

The third and fourth times were at the Fargo Citizen’s Police Academy.  We got to fire a 9-mm Glock pistol the standard police sidearm, and we got to fire a machine gun.  Because the shooting range was indoors, we could only fire two-round bursts from the machine gun, but it rocked.  The only mistake I made was that I forgot to say, in a heavy Cuban accent, “Say hello to my little friend.”  Oh, and my aim was true.  When we fired the pistol at a man-shaped target, I nailed him right in the middle of the forehead.  I used to keep the target hanging next to my desk at The Forum just to let people know I wasn’t to be messed with.

But normally, I don’t even like to touch a gun.  A cop friend of mine, who also was a gun hobbyist, once let me hold his .45 pistol.  Like any responsible gun owner, he took the clip out and made sure the chamber was empty before he handed it to me, but still I could barely take it from him.  It creeped me out just to hold the thing, loaded or not.  It was holding steel death in my hand.

During my brief stint as a security guard, my boss fantasized about having all of the guards armed.  It never got that far, but I’m not sure I would have stayed on had that become the rule.  First of all, we would have had to buy our own guns and ammunition, even for the license test, and I wasn’t about to spend money on something I didn’t really want to do.  But more importantly, I just wasn’t sure that when the moment came I’d be able to shoot at somebody.  And as somebody I knew who was a shooter herself told me, if you feel that way you have no business carrying a gun.

Obviously, I’m a big gun control backer, although I’m realistic about it.  For my money, there are only two reasons anybody needs to own a handgun, in particular:  target shooting or killing people.  In my version of a perfect world, only target shooters and cops would be able to possess a pistol.  I know there are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle arguments for handgun ownership, but the fact is that a pistol really only has one purpose: to kill a person. You can talk self-protection all you want, but the bottom line is that means the potential for somebody to take a fatal bullet.

Nor is there any reason for people to have access to machine guns or the kinds of armament people like the Columbine killers had.  That our laws even allow such a thing is a testament to the obliviousness, greed and fear of those who make our laws.

And don’t give me the Second Amendment, either.  It’s about militias.  It was written at a time when this country was largely uncivilized frontier and you needed a gun to protect yourself against both wild animals and foreign troops.  I don’t see either in my neighborhood.

But I don’t make public policy, so even though I personally don’t like guns, how I feel about them isn’t going to affect any gun owners.  And to tell the truth, I don’t know that my personal fear is a good basis for public policy.

But then, whole political movements are now operating based on peoples’ personal fears.


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hunting, gun control, guns

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Although I don't have any chest hair, and I have never fired a weapon, you and I are remarkably of the same mind when it comes to guns. (Apparently, our Republican candidate for Governor wants to eliminate all requirements for handgun permits. I won't be voting for him.)
Tom--I'm surprised that the NRA 2nd Amendment worshippers haven't already discovered this post and inundated you with aspersions on your patriotism, masculinity, religiosity and any other attack they can muster. But I find myself in total accord with your reasoning (although in the years I lived in the Midwest I was a avid fisherman and, after moving to Bismarck, thoroughly enjoyed the comraderie of fall upland bird hunts). The only weapon I ever owned was a pump shotgun which was never stored in proximity to any ammunition. And I agree with you on the meaning of the 2nd amendment and on the purpose of ownership of the vast, vast majority of firearms. Their purpose is to kill and maim people.