Shortly after the shooting in Aurora, different news agencies began reporting that gun sales in the Denver area were skyrocketing. According to the Denver Post, sales increased 43 percent in the three days following the shooting.
I wasn't surprised to learn this. We Americans tend to be a gun-believing people. We believe that guns make us safer. And when a senseless shooting leads to talk of gun control--yes, believe it or not, some people responded to this tragedy by suggesting that we reinstate the ban on military-style assault weapons--we flock to our local gun stores to load up our arsenals. It's the American way.
My reaction was different. I live forty minutes from the Aurora
theater. When I first heard about it, I felt a sense of shock, realizing that I could have been in that theater, that I could have so easily had my life taken from me. And yet my first reaction was to get rid of the shotgun I keep in my bedroom closet. The day after the shooting, I took to the internet and began looking for someone who could destroy my shotgun. I didn't want to sell it to a gun shop, like I had my revolver two months earlier. I wanted to make sure that nobody would ever again be able to use it.
Yes, in the not so distant past, I too was a gunnie. Motivated by another Colorado shooting--the 2007 YWAM and New Life shootings
--I went out and purchased a revolver and shotgun and signed up for some gun safety classes. My goal was to get a concealed-carry permit and make sure I would be ready to defend myself if I ever found myself in such a situation.
So after the YWAM shootings, which happened a couple miles from my apartment, I decided it was finally time to arm up. I took my classes. I bought my guns. I remember coming home with my revolver, a .38 Smith & Wesson. Taking the silvery object from its case, I curled my index finger around the trigger, and I swear I felt a surge in my dick. I pointed the gun at the front door, imagining someone breaking into my apartment, some PCP-pumped scumbag. I pulled the trigger, imagined the bullet ripping through the scumbag's chest. Another surge in my dick. f*ck yeah.
Then one day I went to a shooting range, and it immediately became clear that pretending to fire a gun is nothing like actually firing one. I know this might seem like a stupid observation, but bear with me. The gun blast was piercing, even with earmuffs. The thing kicked back each time I fired, asserting its awful power. I remember standing there, thinking to myself, "This is for real. I could actually kill somebody." Again, I realize how stupid this might sound.
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The range quickly started to fill up until there were a dozen or so men, each of them just firing away, blowing to pieces their cardboard Osama bin Laden cutouts. Begrudgingly, as though acting out of duty, I fired off a few more rounds, hating every second of it, just wanting to leave.
That one visit to the shooting range was enough to make me hate guns. I now realized that I wasn't the type to strap a revolver to my side whenever I left the house. I realized that I didn't want anything to do with guns. Besides, I reasoned, I was probably more likely to accidentally shoot myself or an innocent bystander than ever take out a bad guy.
And since I didn't want to carry my revolver with me in public, I no longer saw the point of owning it. For I now realized that I wasn't ever going to use it in my home. If someone broke down my front door, then I'd just try to escape through the back door. I now knew that I could never actually shoot someone breaking into my home. If they wanted my possessions, then they could have them. I wasn't going to kill anyone over my stupid stuff.
My desire to arm myself, I began to understand, had been motivated by fear and self-deception, not reason. Having a gun, gripping that cold metal in my hand, made me feel like I was in control, like my fate rested in my own hands. Of course, the truth is that our lives could be taken from us any moment, and there's really nothing we can do to change that. On our way to work each morning, we could very well die in a car accident. In fact, we're much more likely to die in a car accident than be killed by some deranged gunman.
And gun-owners, I should point out, are more likely to accidentally shoot themselves than to use their guns in self-defense. Even if someone practiced perfect gun safety, even if they had combat training, it's not clear that they'd have much luck in a darkened theater with smoke bombs going off, with a man in full body armor firing an assault rifle.
But there's something about guns, something about the feeling of power they impart that makes many people--that made me--forget these cruel realties and feel invincible.
So I eventually sold my revolver. Then came the Aurora
shooting and with it the reminder that I need to get rid of my shotgun, too. I haven't yet been able to find anyone willing to destroy it. If you know where I might go, please let me know.
 Sara Burnett, "Aurora theater shooting: Gun sales up since tragedy," The Denver Post, July 23, 2012.
 Arthur Kellerman, et al., "Injuries and deaths due to firearms in the home," The Journal of Trauma, August, 1998.
 Dave Weigel, "Could a Brave Citizen With a Concealed Weapon Have Prevented the Aurora Shootings?" Slate, July 20, 2012; "Could an Armed Person Have Stopped the Aurora Shooting? A Second Opinion," Slate, July 20, 2012.
Don Emmerich is a writer and peace activist.
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