The Gun Question

Chekhov’s famous advice to writers is clear: ‘If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.’

He was talking about the dangers of extraneous details that distract or delay the progress of a story. It’s good advice and sometimes it comes to mind when, in an effort to plant viable red herrings in a mystery, I find myself writing a full out detour in the story.

But since the most recent in a long string of mass shootings, I’ve been wondering about guns outside fiction. If you hang a real pistol on a real wall, is it likely to be used for real? It’s certainly more likely to be used than if it wasn’t on the wall at all.

I have enough friends outside the United States to have seen the expression of disbelief pass across their faces when the subject of gun ownership is discussed. I live in a city with strict gun ownership laws, but that does not mean it’s a gun violence free zone because guns are easily obtained legally in other cities and states, and illegally too.

All the hard facts—the stats on accidental shootings in homes, suicides, domestic violence escalating to homicide, and worst of all children playing with guns—would seem to lead to a reasonable person to the conclusion that guns are dangerous. I have friends that enjoy target practice with guns and I know there are many hunters in rural parts of the country. They hunt for food as well as sport. It’s not something I find appealing, but not everyone loves to dance Tango so that’s just evidence of how people differ. I’ve often wondered if hunters consider switching to crossbows. Would that give the deer better odds?

The second amendment did not anticipate AR-15 military assault weapons or mass shootings at schools, concerts, or nightclubs. Maybe if we, as a society, were less committed to hanging a pistol on the wall, we’d be less likely to hear about mass shootings and the other real dangers of real guns.

Another mass shooting…


  1. I grew up in a house full of my dad’s guns, but I was never taught how to fire a gun. Partially because I was a girl, but partly because as the youngest child I wasn’t shown how to do lots of things my two older sisters were shown how to do. I’ve unfriended a lot of former students on FB because they post pictures of themselves posing with semi-automatic weapons or worse yet, animals they shot while hunting. Americans sure do love their guns with an inconceivable fierceness, even in the face of how dangerous they are. No civilian needs access to an AR-15.

    • Candy Korman

      I’m from the other part of the country, the part where guns are more often associated with CRIME and with FICTION. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the desire to own an assault weapon. And yet, people do love their guns. Why? I wish I understood this.

      Still I go back to Chekhov’s advice for writers and wonder if there is NO gun hanging on the wall (hiding under the bed, sitting on top of the dresser, placed in the closet) how many individual incidents of real gun violence would NOT take place. An angry man can shout, even throw a punch at his neighbor and they can both recover from the fight. Add a gun and the math changes. This is even more so for domestic violence, suicides, and accidents.

      People love their tools. They love cars, smartphones, kitchen appliances, pottery wheels, knitting needles, painting brushes… all the things that enable them to do the things they love to do. Sure, you can probably figure out a way to kill with an espresso maker or a laptop, but neither was designed to create violent ends. Guns do exactly what they were designed to do…

  2. I agree completely, Candy and the one thing that makes the latest slaughter of innocents even slightly bearable is the fighting spirit of the young survivors. These young adults, for that is what they are now, have been touched by a personal wrong, and I believe they will keep on fighting until something changes.
    What the politicians in Congress fail to understand is that no one does social media like these young people. They may not be old enough to vote but their parents and extended friends and family can. And they have friends and extended family too.
    I think the ripples from this pebble are going to stir up the pond for a very long time.

    • Candy Korman

      I am heartened by the kids!
      I can’t imagine a high school with “active shooter drills” and when it became a reality they were transformed into activists. Yes, I hope the ripples in that pond extend and extend and extend…