seem a fetish

Loaded-With-Prozac

There is a store in the North Georgia Mountains called “Drug and Gun.” I’ve been meaning to revisit the shop to ask the cashier if customers buy their anti-psychotic drugs before or after they buy a gun. But when I walk in and see the word “prescriptions” behind the gun counter, I ask the clerk jokingly, “Do I need a prescription to buy a gun?” A man behind me says, “actually that would be a good idea. “ And I agree: if Americans need a prescription for Prozac, why not for pistols?

But there is one problem: changing the mind of people entrenched in a culture of guns.

As a “Yankee” who grew up in the suburbs of Boston, I never had much exposure to guns. My friends and I spent most of our free time rummaging through book and music shops in Harvard Square. In fact, I don’t think there ever was a gun shop in Harvard Square.

The possibility for me to buy a gun has changed radically since I’ve lived in Georgia. I see dozens of billboards and signs lining the highway on the way up to the North Georgia Mountains from Atlanta advertising GUNS. Often the signs are very simple: GUNS in capital letters followed “on your right” or “next exit.” I keep meaning to stop in to find out what kind of people hang out at gun stores. One day, I finally stop in one off the side of the highway. I immediately feel uncomfortable.

There are a dizzying number of pistols, rifles and ammunition in glass cases or on the wall. The clerk takes out a gun from the case and talks in detail about its capabilities. It seems like a fetish to me. He is certainly an expert.

As I leave the shop, the image of a photography shop flashes in my head. Shopkeepers are knowledgeable about various cameras and their lenses and capabilities and the goods are arranged in similar fashion. But instead of shooting people and animals to kill them, cameras shoot pictures.

It’s not just the availability of guns that’s different here in Georgia. It’s also the attitude toward guns. When I bought a cabin, the inspector said I should buy a gun for protection. I feel uneasy about my new neighbors.

That uneasiness became a concern when a neighbor started flying the confederate flag on his porch. One day I was sitting on my porch and I heard a gunshot from his cabin. I shout out “Is everyone ok?” His wife yelled back, “yes, I’m fine.” “Don, what happened, she asks.” He says, “don’t worry, one of the guns in the shed misfired.” It turns out that neighbor has 17 guns.

Guns just don’t stay in the shed in Georgia. One day I’m at a McDonald’s to meet my hiking group for an event. As I’m waiting in line, I see an ordinary man in blue jeans with a pistol in a holster on his waist. He’s not wearing a law enforcement uniform and is not an undercover cop. He’s an ordinary citizen. Apparently, Georgia changed its open carry laws so it’s legal to openly carry a firearm.

When I return to the drug store with the gun department the second time, I find tourists and T-Shirts alongside the drugs and guns (the store is near a choo-choo train ride to the intersection of Georgia and Tennessee). When I ask one of the tourists, what will people think if I walk around with a T-Shirt with a gun and drugs on it, he says “Oh everyone is supportive of that around here.“

But I don’t think this topic should be taken so lightly. If people need a prescription to take a strong anti-depressant like Prozac they should get one for guns. We might be a pistol and Prozac nation, but we should look to other less violent countries for ideas on how to restrict who can own a human-killing machine. Further, if people need to take an eye test to get a license to drive a car, they should take a psychiatric test before getting a gun. This is all easy to say, but changing the attitudes of a pistol and Prozac nation is a bit harder.

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Editor's Note: When I first read this piece, I was reminded of a terrific and funny story on the Dew a few years ago by Peter Turnbull entitled, “Coming soon to a bedside table near you” that I thought you might want to read. The illustrations, yes, I created them, are pretty funny, too. Images: Apologies to to Michael Ramirez who created this image for Investment Business Daily before it was reworked a bit for this story. Since we are a non-commercial, no ads or revenue site, we hope this will be consider fair use or promotional use since we link back to the Investors.com site and to his Amazon page.  
Kristie Macrakis

Kristie Macrakis

Kristie Macrakis is the author or editor of five books. Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies just came out in paperback. For more information see kristiemacrakis.com.

13 Comments
  1. Trevor Stone Irvin

    Yep, guns, the NRA cure for the little man.
    Regards,
    T

  2. Hi Kristie,
    I’m glad someone in that store was sympathetic to your view. I am too, but I long ago accepted the reality of people embracing with equal simplicity and lack of thought both guns and their peculiar take on Jesus as a get out hell free card with no other obligation. I did briefly wonder why you came to Georgia from Boston. My excuse is that I grew up in the deep south and Atlanta is the further north I’ve ever lived. Had I not met & married one of the rare locals, I’d have left years ago. She has deep roots here including her employment at the big beverage company of local origin.

    I often ride my motorcycle in the mountains as it is pleasant and I’ve passed that pharmacy many times. Every time, I shake my head in sadness, but such is life, especially here in the south where Trevor has once again nailed it.

  3. Will Cantrell

    Kristie, I’ve been living in these parts since the late Fifties and I often like to contrast life/society then and now. GENERALLY, methinks, life and most things are better now than they were then—except that the U.S. is awash with guns. Certainly this was not the case a half-century ago. That trend ain’t good at all. It doesn’t do anything to improve my well being although those folks over at the NRA would beg to differ. They’re wrong of course, but they’d righteously scream to the high heavens that they KNOW guns and gun rights are sacred and that the gun culture has the society on the right path. Of course 600 years ago most everyone screamed to the high heavens that they KNEW the Earth was flat too.

    Anyway, we are well on our way to becoming a frontier society. How sad. Of course, that development plus the feature picture on your article gives rise to the idea that maybe if we can’t ban guns we could damn sure ban the ammo. Good piece of writing. Will

  4. Kristie Macrakis

    Loved the comments. Thanks. “NRA” is indeed the “cure for the little man.” Well-said.

  5. So is the crime rate higher in Blue Ridge with all its guns than in Boston?

  6. Hey Kristie, you’re right, there are obvious demographic differences between Blue Ridge and Boston. How about a larger sample, Fannin County as a whole, which has a much larger population than Blue Ridge alone? (24K vs. 2K). While much smaller than Boston, it is a significantly larger sample population (with a high rate of gun ownership, apparently). From what I have found online, the crime rate in Fannin County is much lower than that of the US as a whole for the major crime categories (murder, rape, robbery, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle, assault, property, and personal). Sources: http://www.realtor.com/local/Fannin-County_GA/lifestyle and http://recordspedia.com/Georgia/Crisp-County/Crime-Statistics.

    Now, the average age in Fannin County is higher than in the US as a whole (49 vs. 37), which has an effect. A good study would control for the age of the population and other variables to make a more exact comparison. As for it being a small town area, that alone doesn’t necessarily mean the crime rate will be low. For example, Crisp County in South Georgia has a vastly higher crime rate, among the highest in the state, though it’s mostly small town and rural.

    Would the crime rate be significantly lower if no one in Fannin County owned guns? Maybe but it’s impossible to know for sure. Also, with such a low crime rate to begin with, a significant reduction is doubtful. (Of course, if criminals in the next county knew everyone in Fannin County was unarmed, it would attract them, but that’s another story.)

    Bottom line: I don’t see evidence that the rate of gun ownership by itself makes Fannin County a less safe place to live. In fact, gun ownership might deter some crime. It’s safer than most places because the vast majority of people are decent, law-abiding folks who won’t attack others even though they own guns and could do so.

    It sounds like “Captain Obvious” to say this, but I think the most important factor is the percentage of people who are willing to commit criminal activity. That percentage is the result of a whole host of social, economic, and political factors. Guns do allow criminals to commit crimes they probably couldn’t commit or commit as easily without them. However, if you live in a largely law-abiding population, such as Fannin County (or Switzerland), guns are likely to have little negative effect on public safety. In other places with a higher percentage of criminals, I think they have a much larger negative effect. Would restrictions on gun ownership help? Criminals can get guns regardless of laws restricting their ownership (laws that only law-abiding people follow). Would more gun ownership by law-abiding citizens deter crime? Possibly. It’s a complicated issue, so there are a lot of details I can’t cover in this short answer. Just know that the gun shops have to run background checks on the buyers and that you live in a very safe place. Just don’t let people know you don’t own a gun. ;-)

    One final thought: maybe we could go to a gun range sometime and shoot a few guns. We could go with my friends in Jasper. It might be good to become more familiar with them. Plus, you’d really feel like a local!

  7. Bottom Line:
    What you’re admitting when you point out the demographic differences between Blue Ridge and Boston, as relates to the crime rate, is that the wide availability of guns to law-abiding people is not the problem and doesn’t make it more dangerous for you to live in Blue Ridge. So why all the Angst about there being gun stores in the area? It is apparently not a problem.

    Don’t let feeling uncomfortable and the limitations of your upbringing in Harvard Yard make you scared of guns. It’s understandable, of course. People are often wary of things that they are not familiar with. How to solve that problem? Get familiar with guns – take a training class, shoot them at a range – then see if they’re so scary. Who knows? You might end up with a different attitude.

    BTW, the condescending attitudes of some of the other commenters are annoying, but typical. Sorry, ad hominem attacks won’t get you far. And stereotyping won’t, either.

    1. Hi Charles, The comments I received until yours weren’t condescending at all. They were very supportive, until yours. I didn’t realize you are a gun lover. Do you own a gun? The point of my article is not to do a scholarly comparison of Blue Ridge and Boston. That’s silly. The point was to write about an American gun culture. I wouldn’t mind going to the shooting range and playing with guns. Like most Americans, however, I find these mass shootings abhorrent. Let’s hope one of us isn’t next.

      1. Hi Kristie, I wasn’t trying to be condescending at all, and I’m sorry my comments came across that way. I was being a little tongue in cheek there, but I didn’t mean it in a bad way.
        I don’t know that I would call myself a “gun lover”, but I think people have the right to defend their life, liberty, and property. I was just saying it might help to have some more direct experience with guns when making a judgment about them and the gun culture, that’s all.
        As for Boston and Blue Ridge, I just wanted to point out the multiple factors that affect crime rates. And as for being the victim of a mass shooting, it’s very unlikely.
        I hope you are doing well. Take care.

    2. BTW, I thought you were a tree hugger! Also, as you know I’ve lived all over the world including four years in Germany, so my living experience is hardly constricted.

  8. This article was forwarded to me. After I read it my only thought was that this “guy” should probably move back to Boston. I appreciate and respect everyone’s right to carry/conceal legally or not to own a gun at all. What I did take exception to is a few of the details. When I read through the article the first time I had this vision of some ole redneck flying the confederate flag and popping off guns like an idiot disrupting the neighborhood and scaring his wife. And then I realized who authored it. I was surprised and here’s why. We are the neighbors. And we’re not “new”, we purchased our property in 2008. We have been flying our Confederate flag since then, and full time for the last 15 months. My husband, to the best of my recollection, has never had a misfire in his shed, because you see, he doesn’t shoot in the shed. He was a demolitions expert in the Army, he knows exactly how to handle a firearm safely. Please understand that had this article been published at least a few years ago, I may not have been so shocked. Since it appears to have been penned a mere 3 – 4 months ago it’s quite disheartening.

    1. Hi Pam,
      I just saw that you posted a note here (Author’s don’t get notified of comments). I should add that you and Don are lovely people and neighbors and I’m glad I got to know you better over the summer. In case you don’t know, though, all my visitors comment on the confederate flag. It has connotations you might not be aware of. Now I tell my visitors–don’t worry, the neighbors are really nice. However, given all these mass shootings, you might understand that people who don’t like guns, would feel uncomfortable when people around them own lots of them!

      1. I appreciate that. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree regarding people’s view on the Confederate flag having anything to do with the mass shootings. Those atrocities were committed by mentally ill individuals and have taken place in areas other than those associated with the south.

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