My anti-gun views became modified when I bought a home in the Poconos a dozen years after I had moved on from being a public defender. A building 110 years old like this Pennsylvania house always needs work and remodeling, and this brought local plumbers, stone masons, electricians, roofers, painters, and floor refinishers into the house. They were hardworking and did good jobs. I respected them. I almost always talked with them. I liked them, and invariably they were devoted hunters. I learned not to expect any work on the house to get done on the opening day of the various hunting seasons. Many of them depended on hunting to supply a goodly proportion of the protein for their families, and in an area where wages have mostly been stagnant, a good hunting season made a difference in the family finances. These were responsible citizens who enjoyed and, to an extent, depended on their guns, and it was hard for me to think how a government that would not seem tyrannical could take their rifles and shotguns away.
Furthermore, the Pennsylvania house is located in a spot with too many deer. As a kid, it was a thrill to see a deer on a country drive because the deer population had not expanded as it has now in many parts of the country. The habitat good for deer has widened, and their predators have all but disappeared. I now see deer regularly. That seems nice, but too many deer are destructive. Of course, they regularly destroy gardens, but their huge numbers also eliminate the undergrowth in wooded areas, changing, not for the better, the life cycle of forests. The increased number of deer has helped with to spread Lyme disease, a problem of increasing proportions in many part of the country. And with larger deer herds, diseases among the deer have increased. For all these reason, I have come to conclude that it is right to increase the, as euphemism has it, harvest of the deer. That can be done in a number of ways, but a sensible way involves hunters and guns.
I began to think, “Leave rifles alone, but find ways to regulate and limit handguns.” It was handguns that had done all that horrific damage I had seen in my criminal defense days, and little hunting is done with a handgun. I tried this theory out on a young man in Pennsylvania who was moving furniture for us. He was a hunter (of course), and he politely assented that perhaps there could be more controls on handguns than rifles, but I could tell that his agreement was merely a form of politeness. He owned at least one handgun, and there was no way he was going to part with it, and certainly he felt that there should be no restrictions on him if he wanted to buy another. He knew the problems of handguns in the cities, but that was someone else’s problem. Long before Trump, I could see how his response indicated the divide in this country along city, suburban, and rural lines. He believed that he had right not only to a rifle and a shotgun, but also to a handgun. Cities were almost as foreign to him as another country, and he should not have to give up his rights to improve cities. And I thought, “Who is to say he’s wrong? How many people in the cities would be willing to give up what they see as a right to make rural lives better?”