My father owned guns, mostly shotguns for bird hunting. I suspect that the sport mainly gave him an excuse to ramble around in the Michigan woods with his hunting dogs, but he did indeed sometimes bring home grouse and woodcock, sometimes quail, and invite friends for a fancy dinner.
I was taught to shoot a .22 rifle at tin cans, but I wasn’t very good. I was more proud of using the gizmo that hurled clay pigeons into the air for him to do target practice.
The closest I ever came to gun mystique was when I played Belle Starr (The Bandit Queen). Back in 1989, when we had our theatre in Lancaster PA, Belle Starr was part of an enormous solo piece I did: eighteen women from an amazing book of character-poetry by Pamela White Hadas. Onstage, Belle spoke aloud her letters to her estranged daughter Pearl while taking care of the mundane task of disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling her very large pistol.
I learned to do that so well I could work by touch and still keep my face toward the audience. I still remember the smell of cold steel and oily rags, but the strongest memory is the pain of bittersweet words never spoken to the girl/woman who was once a part of her.
Belle’s pistol was a necessary tool, not a fetish. My father’s gun cabinet was not an object of worship; he taught me respect, not reverence. He used ammunition appropriate for his purpose. I think he would have mystified by today’s weaponry: an AR-15 would have left nothing at all of a grouse, quail, or woodcock, but the NRA has asserted that the AR-15 is the most popular rifle sold today. Last year, the business site Bloomberg stated that there are more civilian-owned guns than civilians in the US.
Those weapons are not evenly distributed, since many gun-owners have very large collections, but it’s still a lot of heavily-armed people. If I were writing dystopian fiction, I would be tempted to speculate about a grotesque what-if: what if a majority of those folk all got pissed off at the same people at the same time? What if they realized they are empowered to rid their beloved nation of a vile toxin? What if they’d been taught how to recognize those Others and what to do about it? What if?