Steinbeck on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

John Steinbeck, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was commissioned by the US Army Air Force to write a book called Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team. It was a wartime report and a nonfiction account of his experiences with Air Force bomber crews during WWII. I picked up a copy of the book while out in California for the Gun Rights Policy Conference.

I came across this interesting paragraph which indicates the fight for the Second Amendment is nothing new:

And we may be thankful that frightened civil authorities and specific Ladies Clubs have not managed to eradicate from the country the tradition of the possession and use of firearms, that profound and almost instinctive tradition of Americans. For one does not really learn to shoot a rifle of a machine gun in a few weeks. Army gunnery instructors have thus described a perfect machine gunner: When he was six years old, his father gave him a .22 rifle and taught him to respect it as a dangerous weapon, and taught him to shoot it at a target. At nine, the boy ranged the hills and the woods, hunting squirrels, until the pointing of a rifle was as natural to him as the pointing of his finger. At twelve, the boy was given his first shotgun and taken duck hunting, quail hunting, and grouse hunting; and where, with the rifle, he had learned accuracy in pointing, he now learned the principle of leading a moving target, learned instinctively that you do not fire at the moving target, but ahead of it, and learned particularly that his gun is a deadly weapon, always to be respected and cared for. When such a boy enters the Air Force, he has the whole background of aerial gunnery in him before he starts, and he has only to learn the mechanism of a new weapon, for the principles of shooting down enemy airplanes are exactly those of shooting duck. Such a boy, with such a background, makes the ideal aerial gunner, and there are hundreds of thousands of them in America. Luckily for us, our tradition of bearing arms has not gone from the country, and the tradition is so deep and so dear to us that it is one of the most treasured parts of the Bill of Rights – the right of all Americans to bear arms, with the implication that they will know how to use them.

I just love that first line about “frightened civil authorities and specific Ladies Clubs”. I wonder if Steinbeck had a premonition about the Brady Campaign and their so-called Million Mom March.


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