San Quentin State Prison
Do you feel empowered or cowardly when you carry a gun?
This question is one I have given a great amount of thought to over the years, because I did feel empowered when I carried a gun. So often when I was younger, I felt helpless. I felt like no one in the world really cared about me, and I couldn’t get them to care no matter what I did. I started to rebel and do drugs to mask the pain I felt about life. Then one day I picked up a gun.
I wish I could go back in time and stop myself from picking up the gun. I was in the ninth grade the first time I really touched one. My friend had me hold a revolver, and it was like he gave me a magic wand. For the first time in my life I felt powerful. I felt as if I could get everyone’s attention if I wanted. I felt like I was the one in charge. It would be another three years before I would pick up another gun, but I was already convinced I needed my own gun.
As I descended further and further into drug abuse, guns were everywhere around me. I bought one and from that point forward, I always carried one. It made me feel like a man. It gave me a false sense of security, because I started to get shot at on a regular basis.
I was too young or messed up to put two and two together, but when I started to carry a gun, my life got a lot more violent. People began to shoot at me and draw down on me like in the old west. The violence reinforced my belief I needed the gun. I couldn’t see that the gun was making people act so violently towards me. It was a vicious cycle and I was caught in the middle of it.
Now I realize this empowerment was a false empowerment. I equate it to magical thinking. The gun represented something that I had inside me the whole time. The gun is piece of metal with no magical qualities, yet I believed it made me powerful. Now I can see the power I felt must come from within me, not outside of me. I had to learn how to unleash that feeling within me without the aide of a gun.
Today, I counsel “at risk” youth about these dangers. I see their eyes light up when I ask them if they have ever held a gun. I know right then, they are suffering from these same issues I just described. At that point, I try to convince them that there are issues in their lives that are making them feel this way, and they need to address these issues. I emphasize that a gun cannot give them power – the power must come from within. I hope this helps them because I know what carrying a gun can lead to. In the end I took another human’s life, an act I find to be quite cowardly upon reflection. I don’t want someone else to do the same because they didn’t feel empowered without the gun.
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All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. This program with Quora is part of The Last Mile San Quentin. Twitter: @TLM