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Mitchell: Government will never keep guns out of the wrong hands

Updated: January 19, 2013 6:19AM

Shortly before my father passed away at 85, he told my brother to go to the attic and get his “shotgun.”

To describe this relic as a shotgun is giving it too much credit. My father’s grandfather gave it to him when my dad came to Chicago from Slidell, La.

My father relinquished the gun to my brother, saying: “ You know what this means, don’t you.”

My brother and I drove back from Milwaukee in silence, each contemplating the reality of my father’s impending death.

The gun, broken down and wrapped in an old blanket, was hidden in the trunk of my car.

Because my brother was flying home to Nebraska, I ended up keeping the rusty gun in my attic for a couple of years before my brother claimed it.

Now my mother, she wasn’t about to be on the streets defenseless. She carried a small caliber handgun in her purse whenever she went out at night.

She would tell us not to worry because if someone walked up on her, they would get a taste of it.

Me. I’ve been terrified of guns.

I’ve been one of those people who thought the people who support concealed carry laws must be mad.

That has changed.

In fact, I can’t think of anything I’d like more for Christmas than a gun that would fit into my handbag.

Because guns are capable of maiming and killing human beings, the thought of actually holding one in my hand used to sicken me.

I also didn’t want a gun in my home because I didn’t want to put my children in harm’s way.

But these days, I worry more about protecting my grandchildren from a gun-toting criminal than I do about the possibility of them stumbling upon a weapon locked away in the house.

Frankly, the massacre of 20 innocent schoolchildren in Connecticut confirmed it for me.

Although an armed guard at the schoolhouse door isn’t something anyone wants, that’s the reality of what the U.S. has become. No place is a sanctuary when it comes to these armed assaults.

Yet, the Newtown tragedy will once again lead to passionate cries for tougher gun laws. In Illinois, the tragedy will drive the debate over restrictions attached to the state’s mandated concealed carry law.

Yet, tighter gun controls haven’t stopped people with evil intent from killing innocent people. Frankly, the folks everyone would agree shouldn’t have had access to weapons, managed to get guns anyway.

Curtis Williams, 40, a licensed and trained safety expert, recently agreed to help me find a gun that would be suitable for my protection.

His relationship with guns started out as a childhood curiosity.

“My dad had a firearm. He wouldn’t allow us to touch it or know anything about it. He hid it from us, but it was a curiosity for me,” Williams told me.

“I found it, played around with it and I dropped it. That scared me out of my wits. I didn’t know if it would discharge or what,” he said.

“Once I got older. I guess I didn’t relate [guns] to murders and crime. I looked at [a gun] as a useful tool for protection, and with it being our right to bear arms,” Williams said.

After I get a Firearm Owner’s Identification card, Williams suggested I take a gun expert with me when I buy a weapon. He also stressed the importance of proper gun training.

“There should be safety courses that start with the basis of hand control, understanding the posture when it comes to discharging a firearm and the breathing techniques,” he said.

“In my mind, my gun isn’t about murder. It is about self- protection. You should respect that weapon because you know the potential dangers behind it,” Williams explained.

“So many people have the misconception that guns kill people, but it is the lack of knowledge that kills people.”

My father never had to use his antique shotgun against an intruder, and my mother never shot anyone, either.

But I’ve come to accept what my parents knew all too well: Government will never be able to keep guns out of all the wrong hands.

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