Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Mauser

Horrific news from Virginia today. The massacre at Virginia Tech has that feel of 911 for some reason, even though it is two orders of magnitude smaller. Perhaps it is the innocence lost... yet again. Another assault by unfathomable forces--one by extreme ideology, the other by extreme instability. Perhaps they are, deep down, the same thing. Schlepp's heart goes out to all those touched by these senseless acts of violence.

I am reminded that on the wall behind me is a wooden gun rack holding the 8mm Mauser that Grandpa brought back from France. As the family lore goes, he picked it up off the battlefield of Verdun. Its a carbine, originally designed for cavalry use, but the machine guns of World War One ended that.

Instead, the Mauser on my wall became an artillery officer's sidearm. The idea is that if you are in a rear echelon artillery battery and you have an opportunity to shoot a sidearm at the enemy, they'd better be at rifle range or else your artillery is as good as captured.

Grandpa was career military, a brevet company commander, and had a Sharpshooter medal. He was a Kansas farm boy who grew up with guns, probably hunting for food, not sport. He came back from the Great War and put all the guns away. Never taught his sons to shoot or hunt. He took the carbine apart and sanded the stock down, planning to refinish the gun, but never completed the task.

Years later I had a gunsmith friend in Santa Fe finish what Grandpa had started. With newly stained wood and browned barrel, it only needed a replacement shoulder strap. It hasn't been fired since at least 1918, although the gunsmith tells me it should be fine. Perhaps in 2018 I'll fire the Mauser, to celebrate a century of peace, at least for one small rifle.

But as yesterday's events bear out, Grandpa was right--guns are for killing. I'll follow his example and not fall into the trap of bringing a gun into my CSF classroom. The best we can hope for is to make it harder for madmen to lay hands on them.

I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before anyone even at the cost of your life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

No comments: