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Tell Us A Story: Guns In South Dakota

SDPB / Joshua Haiar

If you don’t have a personal history with guns, they can seem abstract. Dangerous. Unnecessary. Often the national debate about gun safety or gun violence reflects that lack of connection.

But in South Dakota almost everyone has a relationship or formative memory with guns. We hunt. We shoot. We collect. We serve.

For the next few weeks, South Dakota Public Broadcasting is exploring the role of guns in South Dakota. We’re hoping you’ll talk with your friends and family members about your relationship with guns over the years. What are your first memories of holding, firing, or seeing a gun? Stories connect us. Stories help us understand ourselves and one another.

To help get you started, “In the Moment” host Lori Walsh shares one of her earliest memories about guns.


My mother kept a revolver hidden in her dresser drawer. My brother and I used to play with it when she wasn’t watching. She was mortified, of course, when as adults we confessed our transgressions.

In those early years, we often acted out popular songs as a form of play, so when Cher sang “My Baby Shot Me Down,” we found it most satisfying to feel the cold weight of a real gun in our small hands as we took turns pointing it at one another and pretending to pull the trigger, watching with delight as the other collapsed to the ground. We clutched our hearts in dramatic repose.

I grew up with the desire to become a United States Marine, like my father before me. I’ve fired M-16s and grenade launchers, sniper rifles and machine guns. One of my formative memories is the smell of the early morning windward breeze as I sat cross-legged in the grass listening to the call of the firing line and the muffled crack of rounds to my left and to my right. I understood my weapon. I understood my job. I excelled at hitting my target.

My daughter’s father (my former husband) was so comfortable with the pistol he used as a law enforcement officer he sometimes left it in a coat pocket, on a side table, in the glove box of our car. We were so comfortable with guns we had to practice locking them away once we had a child. But eventually we started to argue about whether to keep a gun in the bedroom and about whether I should carry a concealed weapon of my own.

I refused.

By then I had laid down my sword and shield and begun processing my time in the Marines (and that of my father before me). I wanted to think deeply about how those years impact my life today. I had become, I suppose, a bit more sheep than sheepdog, letting others take on the responsibility of keeping the wolves at bay.

I am still an excellent marksman, but I don’t test my skills often. I am on a different path today, trying to figure out where all these paths converge.

SDPB's In the Moment is discussing Guns in South Dakota. We want you to be part of it. Tell us your first memory of shooting, holding, or seeing a gun, and how that experience colors your views on guns today. You might hear it on the air later. 

Call (605) 951-0740.