Why I Don’t Own a Gun by
(12 Stories)

Prompted By Guns Then and Now

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We never had a gun in our home while I was growing up. My first experience with guns came when a classmate (middle school age?) invited me to come along on a bird hunt in the desert outside of Phoenix. Since I was not trained, I was not allowed to use, or even carry, one of the shotguns used to hunt for quails. What I was assigned to do was cary the dead birds around until we returned to our vehicles. This was bad enough, but even worse was some of them weren’t dead when they were added to my load, so they had their death throes in my arms. I was fully traumatized.

My next experience with guns was in NROTC and the Navy. Like everyone, I was trained in and had to “qualify” to use a 45 caliber service pistol. I was a really bad aim! During our 2nd Class midshipmen summer “cruise,” we spent three weeks with the Marine Corps in Little Creek, VA, during which we fired all sorts of weapons, including the famous M-16 rifle. The best part of the M-16 experience was the Marine instructor telling us that, “The M-16 was designed by a genius to be used by dummies.”

A couple of years later, while on my destroyer off the coast of Vietnam, we fired over 13,000 rounds of ammunition out of our 5″/38 caliber guns into North and South Vietnam. We only got about 5,000 rounds fired back at us, only two of which hit the ship (with no injuries). The report of 5″/38 caliber guns, in addition to being very loud when you’re close to them, is very sharp.

During most 4th of July fireworks shows, the mortars that are fired off during the finales are the exact same sound as those destroyer guns going off. We watched the fireworks this year from our boat at her mooring, and the fireworks were almost directly over us. I have to admit that the mortar explosions caused a visceral emotional response in me that I didn’t expect.

During my (half) circumnavigation on a sailboat in 2001, we were often asked if we carried guns to defend ourselves against the pirates in the Malacca Straits and the Gulf of Aden. We did not, for three reasons. The first was we figured that the pirates were a lot better at and more likely to use their guns than we were. The second was many countries require you to declare any weapons onboard when you check in to the country. Many of those countries confiscate those weapons, to be returned to you when you check out. Some of the countries we visited were groups of island stretching to hundreds of miles. Since we were sailing downwind around the world, that meant we checked in to the most windward island, and usually checked out in the most leeward island. To recover your weapons would have meant sailing all those miles back upwind, which we were in no way willing to do! Third, if you tried to hide your weapons and were caught, you were slammed into jail in invariably sketchy countries. This made it very easy to decide against carrying weapons on our boat. (I’ll save our pirate stories for another subject!)

So, overall, I don’t have a very good history with guns. Never have, and never will, own one.

Profile photo of Joe Worth Joe Worth

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Marian says:

    Very interesting story, Joe, especially for women who couldn’t be in military situations during the Vietnam war. I really like your perspective. Very sensible!

  2. Suzy says:

    Joe, thanks for giving us a different perspective on guns. I loved learning about your naval experiences, and also your three reasons for not carrying guns when you were sailing around the world. Definitely hoping to get your pirate stories on another prompt!

  3. Wow Joe, with all your experience with weapons you surely know of what you speak.
    And as I write this the TV news is bringing me yet more stories of gun violence in this country. When will we ever learn?

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    It is interesting to read this from the perspective of someone who has actually had some experience with guns. Glad you came to the informed conclusion that you will never own one.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    You have an interesting history with guns, more than many, but state your distaste quite clearly and reasonably. Hanging onto those poor quails while in their death throes sounds just awful. Thanks for sharing your wide-ranging history, Joe.

  6. Joe Worth says:

    Thanks to all for the nice, positive comments!

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, with much more hidden behind the descriptions I am sure–childhood, war, your adventures sailing. I look forward to more writing from you. I also have a hard time with fireworks, though not because I actually suffered mortar attacks, and can only imagine they would provoke an even more visceral reaction if I had.

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