Posted inEditor's Pick

Our Well-Regulated Militia

Alexander Chee | Longreads | April 18, 2016 | 3,713 words

Is the conversation around guns in this country really about the right to bear arms? Author Alexander Chee interrogates the proliferation of firearms and growing gun culture in the U.S., the complicated, polarized politics around gun control—and the notion that with more guns, we are somehow safer.

Posted inFeatured, Nonfiction, Story

Our Well-Regulated Militia

Is the conversation around guns in this country really about the right to bear arms?
Illustration by: Kjell Reigstad

Alexander Chee | Longreads | April 2016 | 15 minutes (3,713 words)

My partner Dustin and I recently bought a cabin in a 1930s-era hunting association a few hours from New York City. Out in the yard is a game hook for hanging a deer after shooting it. We are thinking of turning it into a swing.

Last summer, my retired prison guard neighbor there tried to convince me to do two things: marry Dustin—“I’ve seen too many gay guys like you get screwed by the family when something happens to one of you”—and get a hunting license to help him shoot some of the bears. We thanked him but did not marry, and as for the hunting license, we prefer watching the bears eat apples from the trees in the meadow—you could even say we prefer the bears to some of our neighbors.

The bears don’t bother us.

Most of the members of the association don’t seem to hunt much. Dustin and I go up regularly, every other weekend, and only a few times a year do we really hear anyone off in the woods shooting at anything. One day another neighbor appeared in camouflage and a bush helmet, carrying a bow and arrow, inviting us over to drinks.

Real hunting, as I know from my own family life, is hard. You have to be in decent shape, you need to be dressed for the weather, sprayed for bugs, you need sunblock, you need food packed for the day, you have to have a good dog you’ve trained year round, and you have to be able to field-dress what you kill or at least drag it to where you parked your car. Also: you need to know how not to get lost in the woods. I have a lot of respect for many of these hunters even if I don’t agree with what they’re doing or want to participate in it.

But I also know my cousin Jon back in Maine has a sideline as a butcher for deer and moose, was young when he learned how to carve them up from his game warden father, and he gets a little money and a little or sometimes a lot of meat from it, plus bones for his dog. This sideline exists because most of the hunters coming through his small town don’t know how to do what he does, or they can’t be bothered to do it.

His venison with garlic marinade is exceptional. Every time I have it, I’m grateful to his clients.

I wonder if the day will come when I’ll have to buy a gun. I’m just afraid that when the day comes, it won’t be because I’m hunting bears.

Continue reading “Our Well-Regulated Militia”