Herschell Hitchcock

It’s Not

The idyllic charm of small-town America, with its unlocked doors, polite manners, and comforting familiarity, has long been a hallmark of the rural South. But peel back the layers, and you’ll find a community grappling with the insidious challenges of violence, drugs, and despair. Hamilton, Mississippi, may not bear the full brunt of urban woes like Atlanta or Chicago, but make no mistake – its hearts are wounded, and its futures are at risk.

Returning to Hamilton in the spring of 2019, I envisioned building a sanctuary for craftsmanship in the form of a gunsmithing shop. With dreams of precision rifles and safe shooting ranges, I set out to revive a tradition of marksmanship deeply rooted in the fabric of rural life. Yet, my aspirations collided head-on with a stark reality: the landscape had changed.

Gone were the days of casual conversations about hunting and sport shooting. Instead, the air buzzed with discussions of binary triggers, suppressors, and high-capacity magazines. The shift was palpable, marking a departure from the simple pleasures of marksmanship to a hyper-vigilant obsession with firepower and dystopian scenarios.

What troubled me most was not just the shift in conversation but the underlying tone of fear and aggression. It seemed that every exchange was tinged with an implicit anticipation of conflict, whether with a hypothetical intruder or a perceived threat from the government. The very essence of gun ownership – a tool for protection and recreation – had morphed into a symbol of paranoia and confrontation.

As I reflect on this transformation, I’m struck by the power of words. The rhetoric of fear and bravado, echoed in gun shops and social circles alike, serves only to perpetuate a cycle of distrust and hostility. The casual boasting of using lethal force or fantasies of armed resistance may seem harmless on the surface, but they carry profound consequences.

We must recognize that violence, once unleashed, leaves scars that never fully heal. It’s not just about the physical harm inflicted but the psychological toll on both victim and perpetrator. And yet, in our eagerness to assert our rights and assert our toughness, we often overlook these sobering truths.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do believe in the power of dialogue and empathy. We must challenge the toxic narratives that glorify violence and instead foster a culture of responsibility and respect. It starts with each of us, choosing our words carefully and rejecting the false allure of fear-mongering.

In the end, Hamilton may not be Mayberry anymore, but that doesn’t mean we have to surrender to despair. By reclaiming the values of community, compassion, and common sense, we can build a future where guns are tools of recreation, not instruments of fear. It’s a journey that won’t be easy, but it’s one worth taking for the sake of our shared humanity.

Herschell Hitchcock BSSE, BSIE, RIH

In the mid-80s, I relocated to Mississippi with the intention of pursuing college football. However, fate had other plans in store for me as I crossed paths with a Mississippi Girl who captured my heart. Despite embarking on a fulfilling five-year career in the USAF, my ties to Mississippi remained strong, particularly nurtured by my passions for sport shooting and hunting.

Though initially rooted in Mississippi soil, our journey took a detour after a decade in pursuit of career prospects elsewhere. Yet, as retirement beckoned, we found ourselves drawn back to the familiarity of Mississippi’s landscape and community.

In 2020, I seized the opportunity to turn my passion into a profession by obtaining my Federal Firearms License, setting up a gunsmith shop equipped to cater to fellow enthusiasts. However, unwilling to condone the escalating chaos surrounding firearms, I made the difficult decision to close shop, determined not to contribute to the prevailing madness.