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The 2018 cohort of the Youth Reporting Institute and their work.

Shooting My Grandpa’s Gun: An Incoming College Student Explores Her Views On Gun Control

Kenzi Patrick with her grandfather James Patrick, who is teaching her how to safely reload a 9mm pistol on July 7, 2018.
Kamaya Truitt
Kenzi Patrick with her grandfather James Patrick, who is teaching her how to safely reload a 9mm pistol on July 7, 2018.

When I was a little girl, I lived with my grandfather for a while and I remember hearing him talk about his gun. I never really saw his gun growing up, but hearing him talk about it made me feel safe in a way, like no matter what happened, I would be protected because of his gun.But now, in 2018, with school shootings, police brutality and a number of other issues, I’ve started to think more of how I feel about guns.

I decided to document my journey through these thoughts and feelings about guns this summer. The obvious place to start was by talking with my grandpa, James Patrick. I wanted to know the story behind his guns, why he feels he really needs them, and what he uses them for.

Earlier this summer, my grandpa gave me a brief tour of his house and showed me exactly where he stores his two guns.

“I usually keep them out of reach of the grandkids,” he said.

This explains why I have never seen the gun in person before. The day we met, my grandpa pulled out a small gun and then a very large gun that he said he uses especially for hunting.

My grandpa lives in a small country town called Efland, next to Hillsborough. He lives with my grandmother and owns 10 acres of land. The smallest gun is a 9mm handgun and the big gun is a pump shotgun that he uses only to hunt little animals outside. He got the 9mm because he handled weapons a lot in the military and he wanted something smaller than his shotgun.

After showing me his guns, he took me outside and demonstrated how to shoot. He even let me hold one of his guns. I’m not going to lie, at first I was nervous, but I warmed up to it. Afterward, he asked me if I wanted to shoot his gun, but I just couldn't bring myself to shoot it. I was too scared.

That was my first time ever holding a gun. I couldn’t imagine holding anything bigger and neither could my grandpa. He believes there are certain guns that neither of us should ever have.

“I don’t need to have an AR 15. I don’t need to have a Tommy Gun, you know, I don’t need to have weapons that can create mass destruction quickly,” he said.

Being around my grandpa while we shot his gun and having him show me how to use it correctly really helped me feel comfortable around guns.

Members of the pro-gun community standing and reciting the pledge of allegiance during the Second Amendment Rally in Hillsborough, N.C., on July 21, 2018.
Credit Emmanuel Tobe / WUNC
Members of the pro-gun community standing and reciting the pledge of allegiance during the Second Amendment Rally in Hillsborough, N.C., on July 21, 2018.

Second Amendment Rally: Who’s holding the gun

A few weeks later, I went to a second amendment rally in downtown Hillsborough. There were over 200 people outside the old courthouse. A lot of the people I talked to loved guns of all kinds -- handguns, shotguns, automatic weapons, even pretend guns that kids made out of pop tarts.

Just being at that rally scared me. I’m a young, black girl at a pro gun rally with mostly white people. I felt safer holding my grandfather's loaded 9mm than I did surrounded by people supporting guns at a rally where guns weren’t even allowed.

It made me wonder if any of my friends felt the same way, so I asked around. My friend Shaniece Thorpe told me about her grandmother who keeps a shotgun at her house for hunting animals. Thorpe said that as a black woman, she’s more concerned with who is holding the gun.

“I feel like, white males take advantage of having guns. Lets just be real with it, I mean I really do. I feel like it gives them the sense of power that, I can take your life in an instant and it wouldn't even matter, because I feel safe with this gun,” Thorpe said. “You know, it’s like a sense of power and stability that they have over you. They know that they could literally end your life by the pull of a trigger.”

Thorpe has strong views on who should have guns but still believes that they can be used as protection. But, you know, it’s not just white men that can get reckless with a gun, my friend Kintwon Pettiford was at a party this summer where things got out of hand.

“In the midst of the party there was a fight between two girls, which led to some people shooting, which you know, almost thought I was about to die or something," Pettiford said. "That's a very horrible and sickening feeling, you know? You're at a party, in a big crowd and you hear gunshots, and like, you don't know what to do at first. It’s very, very horrible.”

Pettiford says no one was hurt, thank god. I’m so glad I wasn’t there when it happened. But I could've been. Guns have always been all around me and maybe they always will.

After covering this story I thought I would have a simple answer to how I feel about guns, but it was not that cut and dry. Growing up in Orange County, everyone around me has a gun that they use for hunting or for protection. Everyone who I spoke with was on the fence about their stance on gun control, and now so am I.

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