I know it's our right as Americans to own guns, and when I listen hard enough, I can hear the faint, ghostly echoes of our forefathers loudly proclaiming, "Don't take our muskets! (Or our slaves.)"

It's our inalienable, God-given right, blah blah blah. It's probably better, however, if some people aren't allowed to own them. Freedom be damned.

Case in point: my father.

When I was 11, we owned a dog named Leroy. Leroy was a good dog. He was surly, an alpha dog in the truest sense of the phrase. He had been gravely injured as a puppy then literally screwed back together by a doctor who worked on race horses.

Always a beast, he bit a hole in the plate as he scarfed down his last meal and dominated our other four dogs up until the day before he died. My dad, having no emotional connection to human beings (hence owning five dogs), was crushed. I was somewhat nonplussed, because Leroy was 21-years-old.

"Come here, boy," my dad said, grabbing my arm and speaking in the west Texas accent he affected when he turned 40. "We are going to have us a 21-gun salute."

This seemed like a bad idea. We lived well within city limits. But how do you say no to a grown man who is crying and speaking in a Texas accent when he grew up in Nebraska and Kansas?

"Is this a good idea?" I asked nonetheless.


"Don't worry about it, boy," he replied. "I'll make us a silencer. Go outside."

I walked out to the yard, kept my hands in my pockets and kicked a rock. My father emerged a few minutes later holding a white trash bag and a Ruger MK II semiautomatic pistol with an extra magazine.

"Here," he began. "Wrap the barrel in this trash bag. It will muffle the shot. Fire it into the ground, just to be safe."

I chambered a round, wrapped up the barrel in the trash bag and squeezed the trigger. It's funny how loud even a small-caliber weapon sounds in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood.

"Somebody goddamn lied to me," my dad screamed as he wrenched the gun away and stomped off into the house.

So Leroy got only a one-gun salute. My dad buried him beneath a rutabaga plant after wrapping him in plastic so he could take him with us if we ever moved.

My father came to a lonely end in his immaculately remodeled steam shower which boasted black marble and a 6-foot bench. The official cause: lead poisoning. The manner, given my dad's taste in firearms, was likely a .38 caliber. He was upset because he lost his car keys. Two weeks earlier, my stepmom had taken his guns. He said, "I have a right to own a gun," and secretly bought another.

Having likely not met my dad, you have to ask yourself this question: Was this a man who really should have been allowed anywhere near a gun?

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