Sometimes, you just gotta please your kids

adam and me

I have a confession to make.

Although I write thrillers about a tough-girl cop, I am afraid of guns.  They really, really scare me.  I can deal with the gore and damage they inflict, having seen a few examples of it in emergency rooms,  but when it comes to handling the instruments that cause those injuries, I get nervous just thinking about it.  So when I go to mystery writer conferences where the other writers are all eagerly heading out to play with guns at the local shooting range, I prefer to head for the bar instead. If I’m gonna play dangerously, I’d prefer the activity involves gin instead.   

But a few weeks ago, my older son Adam told me it was time to just bite the bullet, so to speak, and shoot a damn gun.  Any gun.  How can I, a mystery writer, have lived this long without ever having pulled a trigger?  Adam is probably the biggest firearms enthusiast east of the OK Corral.  This is a son who, when he was growing up, was forbidden to own a toy gun.  I was trying to raise a nonviolent, garden-growing pacifist.  Instead my kid grows up into Rambo. 

Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

Adam was so enthusiastic about getting his mom to shoot a gun that in the end I had to capitulate, just to please him.  You always want to do fun things with your kids, right?  Even though what they want you to do scares the hell out of you.

So Adam decks me out in ear protection and goggles.  “No shotgun for you, mom; you couldn’t handle the kickback, and I want this to be a GOOD experience.”  Right.  He loads up a .22 and lines up some aluminum soft-drink cans filled with water as targets. (“They explode really well!”)  And then he hands me the rifle.

I hit the target, hand the rifle back to him, and say, “Okay, thanks.  That was nice.  Let’s go walk the dog now.”

I don’t know if he was disappointed.  Maybe he thought I’d just go bonkers about the whole thing and want to head out to the nearest gun show and stock up on ammo.  But at least I can now say I pulled a trigger and I know how to load up a rifle.

I’d still rather play with gin. 

 And more photos from readers:

 From Kayla in Fort Jennings, Ohio:

ft jennings

 And now, from Annie in New Mexico:

Dalhart, TX:


Bent’s Fort, CO

Bent's Fort Colorado

Cimarron, NM:

cimarron, NM

Hooker, OK:

Hooker, OK

and Meade, KS:

Meade, KS

19 replies
  1. dustinhood
    dustinhood says:

    Guns scare the heck out of me, too. I haven’t seen what they can do, and I hope I never do, but I have heard. It is always nice to try something new just once, even if you don’t want to. Off subject, this Thursday, I am going to start writing for my local newspaper. At the age of 15, I am thrilled, and the job was offered to me. I think this will be a great experience for me, having to deal with deadlines and the publishing process. I thank you, Tess, you have inspired me with your writing and your feedback to e-mails. Thanks, Tess.

    Dustin Hood, 15

  2. maatlockk
    maatlockk says:

    the closest thing that i had ever held and fired is someone’s gas propelled pellet gun shaped as a hand-gun. it was my host-father’s gun. i remember him firing it into a sack of potatoes and when we had dinner the night after, i found the metal pellet in my roast taters.

    but it was scary. even a pellet gun can kill if fired properly…and to find a pellet in my taters, well that was fun. sorta.

  3. 5harmaine
    5harmaine says:

    We have pretty strict anti-gun laws in Australia, so I doubt I’d have the same opportunity. However a few days ago I tried competing in a high jump event at my school and fouled – because I kept crashing straight into the pole.

    Oh well. Just goes to show, trying out new things can be painful but at least they serve as a warning to your future self: I’m never doing that again! ^^

    As for the “law of unintended consequences” did you know you were going to be a writer when you enrolled in medical school? Just curious. CONGRATULATIONS on getting the second draft done~ I’m sending over a virtual hug (:

  4. toni mcgee causey
    toni mcgee causey says:

    Tess, we must’ve had the same son. My oldest is a gun enthusiast, and is now on his way to becoming a police officer. I did, however, learn to shoot after a terrible break in trauma, mostly to not feel so out of control. I became a pretty good shot, although handling guns around other people really bothers me. My son dragged me to the firing range for practice, and I do like the effort of besting my own record, but not if there are a lot of people around. I keep worrying that I’ll get distracted and be unsafe.

  5. Craig
    Craig says:

    First, let me emphasize that I am not anti-hunting. I’m anti-me-hunting. I recall three experiences as a kid. The earliest was the time that I let one of my grandads, my older brother and my dad take me hunting for pheasant. Do you know what that’s like? It’s 5 in the morning and you’re standing up to your butt in freezing water waiting to get a shot at a pheasant which is essentially mostly small bones and little meat. I remember standing in that water telling my self, “This is stupid.” The second time occurred when I was at Boy Scout Camp circa 1964. I preferred archery but I did try the rifle range once. I hit the target the second or third time and was so proud of myself until I was told that I had hit someone else’s target. That wasn’t any fun either. The third time was a last attempt by my father to get me “into the swing of things” and we went out in the country and shot at cans. I remember not liking the feel of holding a gun. And that was it for me. Guns always scared me and then I got into something even more terrifying–raising Australian Shepherds. [You can see the family by going to and typing in “Brother Ray”.] 🙂

  6. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    tess-guns and gin are both fine as long as they’re not done at the same time:)-i have found that doctors and dentists make good shots because they are able to concentrate and exercise very precise hand control-i agree with your son-shotguns are hard on the shoulder for anyone of a slight build-my little wife(4’91/2″) ,who you met at Portsmouth is pretty proficient with handguns including a 45 auto and she has fired a 44 magnum and put them all on the target-my niece saved herself from a home invader with a handgun and i hate to think what would’ve happened if she hadn’t been able to get a hold of it-the guy fled so she didn’t have to shoot him-good for your son-mom needed the experience being the great thriller writer she is!!

  7. tuttle
    tuttle says:

    On the OTHER hand, you could always use the knowledge for some future novel if you need to get ‘into the head’ of a villian who uses a gun OR a good character in a dangerous situation forced to USE a gun….

    Just a thought.

  8. struggler
    struggler says:

    16,692 people were murdered in 2005 in the USA – about 45 each day on average. I don’t know how many of these fatalities involved guns.

    In that same year, about 25,000 people were killed in alcohol related road accidents.

    As you know Tess I am earnestly anti-gun but it could be argued that a drunken driver is more likely to kill someone (that might include him/herself of course) than someone with a gun.

    So maybe a spell propping up the bar with a G&T in one hand could be more dangerous than simply possessing a lethal firearm…

  9. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    struggler-10,100 involved firearms-there were probably more suicides,but that is another matter altogether-some people have good reasons for it-accidents usually run a distant third and most involve hunting or children getting access to firearms

  10. NightTrain
    NightTrain says:

    Kudos to you for connecting with your kid who has wildy different interests from yours. And mad props to you for facing a fear (or a dislike – sometimes I get the two confused myself.)

    Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend. And have a great time in Istanbul.

  11. drosdelnoch
    drosdelnoch says:

    Ok then, coming from the UK Ive not had to deal with Firearms and to be honest they scare the hell out of me. I have however done numerous martial arts and have become handy with numerous martial arts weaponry.

    Going through the Kata’s associated with them I do find it quite relaxing however ask me to use them on a real person and I would have serious problems.

    Part of the bright side is that weapon wise these days most of the information is available on the net and as such keeps things nice and easy. Researching guns is interesting to make sure that I know that I have the information correct but ask me to fire one and I will probably head off in the other direction.

    Well done for actually managing to fire one when it can be hard to overcome moral principles. Shows what a committed mum you are.

    All the best

  12. bob k
    bob k says:


    You don’t know how many mothers I have known that tried to raise sons with no exposure to even toy guns – and the sons turned out to love guns and shooting! My nephew is one of those also.

    Having been raised in northern Maine myself, I was around guns from a young age – and learned to use them safely and carefully – and I do enjoy target shooting. I used to hunt, but truthfully, don’t really enjoy that much these days. I did start hunting again when my son turned 12 or 13 – because he really wanted to hunt. And I sure wasn’t going to let him go hunting and learn from people I didn’t know and trust.

    He needed to take a Hunter Safety Course – so I took it with him (I’d taken my original one in 1969!!).

    Yes, guns can be dangerous – but I worry more about him driving.

  13. Lorra Laven
    Lorra Laven says:


    This sounds like I wrote it: I have three sons and, like you, I wouldn’t allow them to own any toy weapons, forcing the poor things to craft them out of sticks and fingers. And yup, the oldest couldn’t wait to own his first gun. I get hysterical just thinking about it: he has a collection of guns, rifles and heaven only knows what else. (Since I lost the will to be the perfect mother after my first kid wore me down, the yonger two, who were not as restricted, have little interest in firearms.)

    Is it just a matter of boys will be boys or do our “little” darlings have to stick their tongue on a frozen metal pole to find out if it’ll actually stick? (Oldest did that too on a light pole in our backyard ice rink when he was twelve, ripping the surface off his tongue – Ouch! Didn’t learn a damn thing from that experience either.)

    Sobbed for weeks when the youngest left for college. Now WHAT could I have been thinking?

  14. NewMexicanAnn
    NewMexicanAnn says:

    Actually, the only thing that scares me about guns is if one was pointed at me and the thought that one of the patients I work with might actually bring one someday.

    Otherwise, I have really fond memories of guns/gun-like toys. When I was young, I used to love going to the shooting gallery near London Bridge (the section of it that’s in AZ) and was good at it. My grandma nicknamed me “Annie Get Your Gun” aka Annie Oakley. And before there were stricter laws about firing guns within the city limits, my brother had a BB gun. Dad, bro, and I built a trap that had a target in the front, but when the BB passed through, the trap caught it and was angled so that any accidental ricochet would be directed toward the ground. And once, I went into the Tijeras Mountains not far from Albuquerque where there was a shooting range. Dad, one of his co-workers who had a real collection of guns, and I went up there for an afternoon of shooting and so they could teach me how to operate a real gun, but more importantly, they taught me gun safety. (I’ve always loved the Old West and even though I’m a decent shot with everything, I was curiously best with an older style rifle and a real six-shooter.) My uncle was on a military sharpshooters’ demonstration team, too, so I guess shooting runs in the family.

    So even though I’m not afraid of guns, as of now, I wouldn’t even consider owning one. I personally loathe the thought of hunting and I hate the thought of hurting anyone.

    But I’m not afraid of guns. 🙂

  15. NewMexicanAnn
    NewMexicanAnn says:

    Oh, and knowing how to shoot a gun could actually get you a job. When the railroad came through Albuquerque in 1880, the section of town known as “New Albuquerque” was founded. The man who got the job as Sheriff of New Albuquerque, Milt Yarberry, was the only candidate who knew which end of the gun to hold. (Milt was later hanged in Albuquerque using a new hanging device [inspired by a Scientific American article] in a process known as “Jerking to Jesus.” It was used one time only because the crack of Milt’s neck could be heard for blocks around.)

  16. wendy roberts
    wendy roberts says:

    I’ve never fired a gun but I’d like to. Last time I was at one of those writing conferences where they let you play with fire arms I had to catch a plane immediately afterward so I didn’t shoot. I was afraid the GSR would set off alarm bells or something 🙂

  17. oldrpmdaddy
    oldrpmdaddy says:

    Like a lot of you, my folks tried to raise non-violent sons — no toy guns, no G.I. Joes, and so forth. I can’t say that their efforts kept us off the back yard battlefield. For one, all the neighbor kids had toy guns (my favorite was the Tommy gun with the cylindrical magazine; I forget whose it was). Also, we were quick to find out that a baseball bat made an excellent rifle, and a toy bowling pin could double as a grenade.

    Oddly enough, for our third grade Christmas program (back in the 70s, when public schools were allowed to have them), I was asked to play one of Santa’s elves. My job was to recite a rhyme about how I was the elf responsible for making toy guns, and how much all the boys and girls wanted one. Even at eight years old, it struck me as a little strange, but it upset my folks less than I thought it would. I can’t imagine something like this being in a school program today.

  18. wy82331
    wy82331 says:

    Hi Tess,
    Having been around guns all my life from a child up and until now they still can frighten me. I suppose it makes a huge difference where you grew up if or not your exposed to guns. They are a tool and are used for many things, the end result is final, normally. I keep one around. Haven’t shot it in a long time. Went camping with my son and took the pistol. It was jammed and wouldn’t have fired if needed. So I guess the point is , if you have one around you must know and take the time to maintain it in good operating order. No one wants to use it but we never know when someone will decide to kick our door down.
    Also a point I think is good for any author is to do your homework. Know of the things you write about no matter how small a part of the subject. Guns for instance. If you write of them , know of them. Just as you do , so very well, in your books. Can’t wait for your new one. And no, I don’t think all authors just crank them out. Some seem to as they always have a new one sitting on a counter at the store. But those seem to have a trend which , thankfully, isn’t found in your books.
    Take care, Larry

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