Rifles and responsibilities: Gun ownership in Ann Arbor

Rifles+and+responsibilities%3A+Gun+ownership+in+Ann+Arbor

Atticus Dewey

We live in a country where guns permeate our news feeds daily. Story after story floods our phones regarding the newest mass shooting. In the first nine months of 2019, the number of mass shootings neared the number of days in a complete calendar year. While some may take these stories and paint gun owners as violent people who only have the urge to murder, the numbers are not representative of this association. According to the Pew Research Center, 30 percent of United States citizens own a firearm, meaning the number of mass shootings in the United States has occurred from less than 0.00000325 percent of gun owners. In fact, of the 40,000 gun-related deaths of 2018, less than one percent of those deaths were a result of mass shootings, with 35 and 57.5 percent of gun deaths resulting from homicides and suicides respectively, as recorded by the CDC.

In Ann Arbor Mich. — a city whose gun owners make up six percent of the total population according to the Michigan Police Department — is a city that consistently showcases its desire for more gun control, through actions its citizens and government make. Its citizens go to the streets to protest the lack of legislation being put in place to keep guns away from dangerous people as its government examines national legislation and determines what appropriate gun laws should be. The most prevalent example of the Ann Arbor government’s stance on changing gun control being the 2018 Michigan Gun Owners Inc. vs. Ann Arbor Public Schools legal case, where Michigan Gun Owners Inc. brought up action against the school district for its prohibition of firearms in schools and school-sponsored events.

“In my opinion, when people exercise their right to open carry, it’s their responsibility to understand the situation they will be putting themselves in,” said John Evangelista, a gun owner resident of Ann Arbor. “It doesn’t help those who believe in the lawful ability to keep and bear arms when people take to these different forums as their place to make a statement. Understanding that most people in Ann Arbor aren’t aware that Michigan is an open-carry state, I would just be more sensitive to the people I’m going to be around.”

Evangelista grew up in Ann Arbor and remembers when the city had a majority of gun owners living within it. He remembers when his neighborhood was full of those who hunted or had family that hunted. He remembers when the stigma against owning a firearm, wasn’t present outside the university. Then things changed after Columbine, and the people of Ann Arbor began to disregard their guns and advocate for gun control to be enacted across the nation to prevent the events from ever happening again.

“I grew up around hunting and guns, but I also grew up learning how to use them responsibly,” said Steve Coron, an art teacher at Community High School. “I’ve had discussions with people all around Ann Arbor who are anti-hunting and anti-gun-ownership and think it’s wrong to kill anything. While I respect their opinions, I do it and I do it responsibly, so I’m not going to stop doing something I enjoy and that relaxes me just because someone asked me to stop.”

From looking over the frosted tips of trees to crouching underneath the brush of the forest, hunting is a therapeutic experience for Coron. It’s a time for him to concentrate on nothing but his surroundings, and the beauty that nature has to offer. While his hunting essentials include his rifles, camping gear, and various other camping pieces, it also includes his camera, to capture the serine environments he finds him in during those hunting trips, and to remind himself that his trips are to admire the environment around him.

“When you’re hunting, you see things that you don’t normally get to see at any other time,” Coron said. “One morning, I was up in the tree line overlooking the forest, and I came face to face with this baby owl, and by night I was watching the sunset over the forest. It’s peaceful, you’re just up there with your thoughts and the world.”

“Going hunting out in the woods is one of my favorite times of the season, and is something that I enjoy sharing with my family,” Evangelista said. “It’s interwoven with my childhood experience, so being outside in the cold of winter brings back those memories from my youth. It’s also something I’ve been able to use as a bonding experience with my son: waking up at five in the morning, sitting out in the woods and talking as we wait for our and because we actually use the animals we hunt rather than just indiscriminately shooting, I feel as if I’m teaching lessons through our trips.”

Throughout the years, Ann Arbor’s environment has fostered a culture that current gun owners feel uncomfortable admitting their ownership of firearms. While they’ll have discussions when asked why the own firearms, most gun owners are not flaunting their ownership in fear of entering arguments that neither side will walk away from happily.

“I think people misconstrue their initial ideas of what it means to be a gun owner,” Evangelista said. “Saying you own a firearm for home defense carries a much different connotation to it than saying you own a firearm for hunting. Gun owners — especially in Ann Arbor — invest a lot of time into ensuring they are adequately trained in their firearms because we realize that safety has to be the utmost importance when handling them.”

“I’ve stopped hunting with people because of their ignorance with their firearms, and my refusal to stand by and watch them handle their firearms in an unsafe manner,” Coron said. “I was hunting with one of my friends and as we were passing over a stream on the way back to my truck, I noticed his safety was off. When we got to my truck, I looked closer at his rifle and realized that I had been walking with a loaded gun pointed straight at my back. While we’re still friends today, I have never and will never hunt with him again.”

While our news feeds feature coverage on those who irresponsibly operate their firearms, it is easy to forget that the majority of gun owners throughout the nation have never harmed another person. While legislation is debated on a national level of how to prevent dangerous people from accessing guns, 98 million gun owners will continue to exercise their second amendment right responsibly.

“I grew up in the Upper Peninsula, and so there were a lot of guns around me at that age,” Coron said. “People accidentally shooting people didn’t happen because people took it seriously. You have the privilege to hunt with a firearm so you better respect it. When a kid gets their hands on a gun it’s because of a stupid mistake of the adults made: it wasn’t emptied and locked up properly.”

“I believe it’s naive to believe that there’s going to be one law or multiple laws that can be passed that will eliminate gun violence and the murder and death that comes with it,” Evangelista said. “The people that want to use firearms to inflict harm upon other people aren’t going to stop regardless of the legality of owning a firearm. Even now, you can’t just walk into a store and purchase a firearm, there’s a long process to legally obtaining one, and yet people are already finding alternative ways of purchasing firearms, and I think that’s what people forget the most.”We live in a country where guns permeate our news feeds daily. Story after story floods our phones regarding the newest mass shooting. In the first nine months of 2019, the number of mass shootings neared the number of days in a complete calendar year. While some may take these stories and paint gun owners as violent people who only have the urge to murder, the numbers are not representative of this association. According to the Pew Research Center, 30 percent of United States citizens own a firearm, meaning the number of mass shootings in the United States has occurred from less than 0.00000325 percent of gun owners. In fact, of the 40,000 gun-related deaths of 2018, less than one percent of those deaths were a result of mass shootings, with 35 and 57.5 percent of gun deaths resulting from homicides and suicides respectively, as recorded by the CDC.

In Ann Arbor Mich. — a city whose gun owners make up six percent of the total population according to the Michigan Police Department — is a city that consistently showcases its desire for more gun control, through actions its citizens and government make. Its citizens go to the streets to protest the lack of legislation being put in place to keep guns away from dangerous people as its government examines national legislation and determines what appropriate gun laws should be. The most prevalent example of the Ann Arbor government’s stance on changing gun control being the 2018 Michigan Gun Owners Inc. vs. Ann Arbor Public Schools legal case, where Michigan Gun Owners Inc. brought up action against the school district for its prohibition of firearms in schools and school-sponsored events.

“In my opinion, when people exercise their right to open carry, it’s their responsibility to understand the situation they will be putting themselves in,” said John Evangelista, a gun owner resident of Ann Arbor. “It doesn’t help those who believe in the lawful ability to keep and bear arms when people take to these different forums as their place to make a statement. Understanding that most people in Ann Arbor aren’t aware that Michigan is an open-carry state, I would just be more sensitive to the people I’m going to be around.”

Evangelista grew up in Ann Arbor and remembers when the city had a majority of gun owners living within it. He remembers when his neighborhood was full of those who hunted or had family that hunted. He remembers when the stigma against owning a firearm, wasn’t present outside the university. Then things changed after Columbine, and the people of Ann Arbor began to disregard their guns and advocate for gun control to be enacted across the nation to prevent the events from ever happening again.

“I grew up around hunting and guns, but I also grew up learning how to use them responsibly,” said Steve Coron, an art teacher at Community High School. “I’ve had discussions with people all around Ann Arbor who are anti-hunting and anti-gun-ownership and think it’s wrong to kill anything. While I respect their opinions, I do it and I do it responsibly, so I’m not going to stop doing something I enjoy and that relaxes me just because someone asked me to stop.”

From looking over the frosted tips of trees to crouching underneath the brush of the forest, hunting is a therapeutic experience for Coron. It’s a time for him to concentrate on nothing but his surroundings, and the beauty that nature has to offer. While his hunting essentials include his rifles, camping gear, and various other camping pieces, it also includes his camera, to capture the serine environments he finds him in during those hunting trips, and to remind himself that his trips are to admire the environment around him.

“When you’re hunting, you see things that you don’t normally get to see at any other time,” Coron said. “One morning, I was up in the tree line overlooking the forest, and I came face to face with this baby owl, and by night I was watching the sunset over the forest. It’s peaceful, you’re just up there with your thoughts and the world.”

“Going hunting out in the woods is one of my favorite times of the season, and is something that I enjoy sharing with my family,” Evangelista said. “It’s interwoven with my childhood experience, so being outside in the cold of winter brings back those memories from my youth. It’s also something I’ve been able to use as a bonding experience with my son: waking up at five in the morning, sitting out in the woods and talking as we wait for our and because we actually use the animals we hunt rather than just indiscriminately shooting, I feel as if I’m teaching lessons through our trips.”

Throughout the years, Ann Arbor’s environment has fostered a culture that current gun owners feel uncomfortable admitting their ownership of firearms. While they’ll have discussions when asked why the own firearms, most gun owners are not flaunting their ownership in fear of entering arguments that neither side will walk away from happily.

“I think people misconstrue their initial ideas of what it means to be a gun owner,” Evangelista said. “Saying you own a firearm for home defense carries a much different connotation to it than saying you own a firearm for hunting. Gun owners — especially in Ann Arbor — invest a lot of time into ensuring they are adequately trained in their firearms because we realize that safety has to be the utmost importance when handling them.”

“I’ve stopped hunting with people because of their ignorance with their firearms, and my refusal to stand by and watch them handle their firearms in an unsafe manner,” Coron said. “I was hunting with one of my friends and as we were passing over a stream on the way back to my truck, I noticed his safety was off. When we got to my truck, I looked closer at his rifle and realized that I had been walking with a loaded gun pointed straight at my back. While we’re still friends today, I have never and will never hunt with him again.”

While our news feeds feature coverage on those who irresponsibly operate their firearms, it is easy to forget that the majority of gun owners throughout the nation have never harmed another person. While legislation is debated on a national level of how to prevent dangerous people from accessing guns, 98 million gun owners will continue to exercise their second amendment right responsibly.

“I grew up in the Upper Peninsula, and so there were a lot of guns around me at that age,” Coron said. “People accidentally shooting people didn’t happen because people took it seriously. You have the privilege to hunt with a firearm so you better respect it. When a kid gets their hands on a gun it’s because of a stupid mistake of the adults made: it wasn’t emptied and locked up properly.”

“I believe it’s naive to believe that there’s going to be one law or multiple laws that can be passed that will eliminate gun violence and the murder and death that comes with it,” Evangelista said. “The people that want to use firearms to inflict harm upon other people aren’t going to stop regardless of the legality of owning a firearm. Even now, you can’t just walk into a store and purchase a firearm, there’s a long process to legally obtaining one, and yet people are already finding alternative ways of purchasing firearms, and I think that’s what people forget the most.”