'Just A Part Of Life, Both Good And Bad': The Role Of Guns In Vermont

Aug 5, 2017

This week as part of our Gunshots series, we asked Vermonters about the role of guns in their lives. Greg Schoppe a web developer living in Burlington shared these thoughts.

I was born in Lunenburg, Vermont, About 10 miles from the nearest Supermarket. Growing up, guns weren’t seen as a problem or a debate, they were just a part of life, both good and bad. I shot my first gun (my father’s bolt action .22) when I was around six or seven years old, and by the time I was nine, like most of my friends, I had my hunting license.

In elementary school, it wasn’t uncommon for kids to be dropped off in the morning straight from the woods, with a rack full of rifles in the truck, and (if they were lucky) a deer in the back. They’d sit through their lessons, and rush through their homework (which was light, during deer season), just to head right back out to the woods before dark.

I remember one year, a friend of mine had his father bring in his new .30-06 for show and tell. This was long before Columbine, and it barely raised an eyebrow. In fact, it only sticks in my mind because a few years later, his father committed suicide with the same gun. But then again, that wasn’t unheard of in a one-mill town where the mill had closed.

At age 11, My family moved to St. Johnsbury, and my guns moved to my Grandparents’ house. It was really the first time I’d ever even heard of the idea that people could be anti-gun. Back in Lunenburg, that would have been like being anti-ax or anti-chainsaw. They were dangerous tools, but without them, how would you log your patch of land, or split your wood, or kill a chicken for dinner?

Over the years, I’ve run into the darker side of guns more than a few times. I’ve lost a good friend to suicide, and I’ve lived in areas where murders weren’t as uncommon as they are in most of Vermont. I have reservations about the availability of firearms and the treatment of mental health and poverty in the U.S., but I also remember living in Lunenburg, and I remember how integral to life guns were. There wasn’t any bravado or malice in it, just a close working relationship with a dangerous tool.

Greg Schoppe is a web developer from Burlington.

Gunshots Project Homepage | Vermont Voices: How Do Guns Fit Into Your Life? | The Data: Vermont Gun Deaths, 2011-2016