Hall Stucker: My Eight Years With A Gun

Stucker recounts the fears that come with owning a gun @ Boston Review. “You’re sure this is what you want to do?” my cousin Danny asked as he turned off the car engine. We had just pulled into the parking lot of Davis and Sons, a large pawnshop in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

“Yeah,” I nodded, “I’m sure.”

We locked up the car and walked into the shop. Though Davis and Sons carried the standard pawnshop fare of used cameras, musical instruments, watches, and jewelry, the largest part of the store by far was the section devoted to firearms. Aisles of racks and display cases held hundreds of new and used rifles, shotguns, revolvers, and semi-automatic pistols, in all sizes and calibers, with “prices to fit any budget,” as a large sign in the window proclaimed. Danny and I walked up to a display counter and began looking over the merchandise.

"Help you boys?” a salesman asked.

“I’m looking to buy a gun,” I told him. “I don’t have a lot of money. You got anything used for around $75?”

“This is for target or protection?” he asked.


It was January of 1982, and I was in Louisville for a short stay, visiting family and friends for the holidays. My home for the previous five years had been the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, a run-down, though affordable, neighborhood. I’d moved there in 1977 to study art at the Pratt Institute and was now trying to make a living as a freelance magazine photographer.

Crime was a serious and frightening problem in Fort Greene. In the short time I’d lived there, a female friend of mine had been raped in the lobby of her apartment building, and a half-dozen other friends and acquaintances had been mugged or assaulted. In a subway station, one of my Pratt professors was beaten so badly that he needed hospitalization. I was robbed at gunpoint once, and beaten up by a gang of strangers on another occasion. My apartment was burglarized early one Saturday morning, the intruder taking my wallet from my bedside table as I lay asleep.

My parents knew none of this. The only members of my family I’d confided in were Danny and his father, my uncle Jim, a former Louisville cop and a Marine Corps marksman. They were also the only ones who knew of my decision to buy the pistol.

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