COLUMN: Having grown up in a pro-gun environment, I support gun control


Anyone who walks into my childhood home in Jackson, Michigan, will realize one thing pretty quickly: Kukulkas like to hunt.

No matter where you sit in the living room, it’s impossible to not see at least one of the 10 taxidermy animals that decorate the walls — which includes three black bears, multiple white-tailed deer and the head of a wild boar.

Though I haven’t set foot in any of my former tree stands and impromptu hunting forts since coming to college, my childhood was filled with more hunting misadventures than most people have in their lifetime.

I missed nearly the entire first week of my freshman year of high school so I could go bear hunting in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I have a bear rug hanging from the wall in my former bedroom to prove it.

I dropped in and out of several sports in my youth, but I never faltered in my attendance of the Jackson County Sportman’s Club’s junior rifle training program. The shelf above my bed holds just as many painted-gold plastic trophies for my feats of target shooting as it does for football and basketball.

The enthusiasm for firearms that defined much of my formative years extended beyond the family dinner table. 

The tried-and-true bonding technique between many of my friends and I was to stage mock gunfights and reenactments of action scenes from movies. The highlight of many birthday parties was when we could all break into our stockpiles of fake guns and use the backyard as an imaginary battlefield. 

I’ve witnessed firsthand the benefits responsible gun use can bring to the livelihood and morale of a working-class American family. I grew up with no fear of guns — I saw them as something everyone around me had and knew how to use.

I’ve also had the privilege of living a life relatively unscathed by gun violence. I haven’t lost anyone close to me to firearms, which is unfortunately something fewer and fewer people in today’s society are able to say.

As prevalent as recreational gun use was during my youth, the passage of time changed some of my opinions — I came to see what the reality of unregulated gun ownership looks like.

I have enough firsthand experience with how effective and deadly hunting rifles and handguns are to know how ludicrous the thought of an average citizen owning an AR-15 is.

When National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch cites the “19-year-old deer hunter” as the ultimate victim of proposals that would raise the minimum age to purchase rifles to 21, I can respectfully disagree with Loesch as a former representative of that demographic.

For many American hunters, especially those of a young age, hunting is a family tradition. For me, and every young hunter I know, the guns we used were owned by our parents. The act of hunting itself only occurred after many years of carefully being taught how to hunt responsibly and safely.

If they’re mature enough to go hunting in the first place, the 19-year-old hunters of the world can be patient enough to wait another two years to purchase their own firearms.

It can’t be stated and repeated enough: “gun control” doesn’t constitute “gun ban.” The overwhelming majority of American gun owners would be largely unaffected by some minor changes in regulation. 

The lives of the friends and family members of future victims of gun violence, however, could be spared from an unthinkable tragedy.

Guns as tools for hunting and self-protection for the everyday American aren’t going anywhere — they’re not under attack.

If the sense of security and self-worth that owning an assault rifle brings you is threatened by laws and regulations put in place to protect the lives of your fellow Americans? 

Maybe you need to take a moment and reconsider what it means to be a sportsman.