Last week I fired a gun for the first time. The occasion was the bachelor party for an old friend of mine.
(And let me pause briefly here to say the wedding was wonderful, and the bride and groom have a very happy future ahead.)
Why were we shooting guns? Well, none of us drink much, no one was terribly keen on dragging the groom to a strip club, and the gun range allowed us to indulge our fantasies of blasting the brains out of zombie hordes.
We may have been thinking, "Will this hit a living dead cannibal in the brains?" but other people clearly see guns in different ways.
In the wake of two mass murder sprees in the U.S., Americans did exactly zero soul-searching about their gun laws. In fact, many of them immediately turned to the notion that what people need is not fewer guns, but more of them! Why, if only there had been more armed civilians, surely the shooters could have been stopped!
I think of this as the "magic wand" approach to gun advocacy.
In this view, guns are not tools (as they are for many hunters, farmers and police), they are devices that give people superpowers.
Pick up a high-powered pistol and suddenly the holder believes himself to be Dirty Harry Potter, capable of protecting the innocent, killing the bad guys and making the world safe for non-gun-owning muggles.
Personally, I wouldn't care if everyone in Canada or in the United States owned a gun - with the single, major caveat that I would want them to be used and stored safely.
The thing is, safe use and storage are completely incompatible with the "gun as personal protection" ethos.
There are two scenarios that seem to come up frequently as reasons for having a gun.
The first is the intruder breaking into a home in the middle of the night. (Whether the intruder is a hapless teenaged burglar or a serial killer seems to be of no importance to the narrative.) The stalwart, armed homeowner either drives away or kills the intruder.
Of course, if our gun owner is a responsible one, then his gun is A) locked in a gun safe, B) is not loaded, and C) has a trigger lock or is otherwise unable to fire.
After all, he wouldn't want the kids to get their hands on the gun, right? By the time you've gotten the gun, found the key for the trigger lock and loaded the ammunition, the hypothetical hockey-masked killer has already carted away your head for his trophy case.
The other scenario is based on the notion that young women should carry guns to ward off rapists: the "dark alley" scenario.
Would a few rapists get a deserved gunshot wound if all women were armed? Yes. But the majority of rapes do not happen in dark alleys or deserted parking garages, contrary to the Hollywood myth.
Most rape victims know their rapist. Guns cannot stop child molestation or date rape.
In addition, a gun can be taken away. Selfdefense training, better security and policing, and cellphones are harder to turn on victims.
My feeling is that gun control laws are not the most important element of keeping society safe. It's gun culture.
If you see guns as potentially dangerous tools, like chain saws and arc welders, you have a culture that uses them safely. If you have a culture of would-be vigilantes, no amount of guncontrol laws will convince people to use them safely.
I liked my trip to the firing range, but I don't need the hassle of being a responsible gun owner, and I really don't need to indulge my cowboy fantasies by being a bad gun owner.
Matthew Claxton is a reporter for the Langley Advance.