Hunting season started recently here in the great southwest of France, but my friend Bernard said he his team hasn’t picked up their guns yet. That’s right, in France, they hunt the big game, notably sanglier or wild boar, in teams; it’s the law. The gun culture in this country really is about hunting, and the rules are carefully calibrated as to what one can hunt when. In Alaska, where I spent half a year in 1990 working as a feature writer for the Anchorage Daily News (and finding my late cat Mesha and my Siamese Sonia), the relationship to guns is not just about hunting. It’s about gun ownership as an expression of liberty.
People move to Alaska to be free. Free to act like they want, free to smoke cannabis, free to be alone — and free to own guns. And use them. Against each other. I learned this in just one three-day period where the gun incidents — humans killing humans — kept getting closer to me.
First there was the five-year-old who got into his parents gun cache and shot hiimself to death. Then there was the motorist who blew away another when his car got too close. Finally, one *beau matin* at 4h00, I was awakened by a feignt female voice coming from the apartment below mine: “Help me. Help me. I killed him.” My neighbor in the apartment building on the edge of the woods where I’d just installed myself had killed her husband. Apparently, it came out later, he’d been drunk and had beaten her.
In three days in Alaska, I’d experienced at closer proximity more gun death than in 30 years living in violence-prone cities like San Francisco and New York.
As a refuge for those who are born to be wild and want to be free, Alaska is a great place. (Unless you’re a polar bear. Also when I was there, the small town of English Bay was terrorized by a great white beast who had strayed in from the Arctic Circle and was stalking the village’s 150 inhabitants, knocking them off one by one. You ventured out at your own risk; he even mauled to death a pregnant woman. When they finally killed the bear, they discovered that he had all of 2 percent body fat; he was killing humans because he was hungry. Alaska’s governor/the woman who would be vice president apparently also thinks there’s no reason the polar bear should be protected as an endangered species.)
As a source of political leaders adequately civilized to govern the Lower 48 (or ‘Outside,’ as Alaskans like to refer to the other states), it’s full of nuts.