Wes Gilkey – Interview Transcript – 3.12.13
(The following is a transcription of the interview in its entirety. The interview was organized, conducted and recorded by Zach Nelson while speaking to Wes Gilkey on 3.12.2013)
Name: Wes Gilkey
Hometown: Athens, Ohio
Occupation: Farmhand and Veterinary assistant who studies Molecular and Cellular Biology at Ohio University
Question 1 – What is your personal connection with firearms?
Wes Gilkey: “I got involved through hunting when I was very young. My dad used to take me hunting with him, and I never actually used any firearms. I would go with him, and one of my earliest memories of me and Dad going out was when we were squirrel hunting. We would take the dogs out, and he would have the rifle and everything. I never actually used – I did some plinking and stuff some small rim fire rifles and stuff like that when I was real young. I’d say [the] only time I really got into it and started actually hunting on my own was probably when I was 13 years old. I would go out and [shoot] mostly groundhogs around the barn. I would take my shotgun out and go down there with Dad. I guess that’s what I really started to get into it.”
Q - What age did you own your first firearm?
Wes Gilkey: “I was given my first firearm for my 16th birthday. I got a rimfire 22mm Long rifle, Winchester Wildcat Bolt-Action rifle. That was my first rifle that I had. Technically my grandparents actually got us all shotguns when we were born, New England Firearms, little single shot, 20 gauges. Basically, we didn’t use those until we were a lot older obviously. Technically I became a firearms owner then.”
Question 2 – Why do you choose to have firearms?
Wes Gilkey: “The main reason that I choose to have firearms is for hunting. Hunting is my favorite thing to do. Out of all the activities I have always been involved in – ice hockey, 4H, all those – hunting has always been the thing that I have always wanted to do. So really what I try and do with firearms is hunt. I use them obviously for target shooting. I am with some clubs and stuff like that, and we do shooting. Really the main reason I really have them and enjoy [them] and try and work with them so much, and have my own little firearms I really can modify, and play with and things like that, is for hunting.”
Q – Hunting is where you got your start.
Wes Gilkey: “Yeah, that was what I solely did. Since then I have gotten into firearms, like, I buy and sell to try and make a little extra income. I have a pistol, and we will go out to the range and we’ll shoot the rifles that I have. Some things I have, for instance I have a Mosin Nagant, in Ohio you can’t hunt with that legally. So the only thing I would use that for would be like varmints, like groundhogs and things; and I just use my 22mm for that. So I do have firearms I just use for shooting with friends. But really why I am into firearms and why I continue to [be] into firearms is because I like the sport of it. I like hunting and providing for my family by doing so.”
Question 3 - What makes you most proud as a firearms owner?
Wes Gilkey: “I do like the history of it. It’s funny how you use the word ‘pride,’ because that’s really how I would describe it. When you are all sitting around the table and whatever you have got on the table is … whatever is on the table I have gone out and harvested during the season, and here it is on the table and the family is enjoying it. I guess that’s when I sit back and I really feel proud about being a firearms owner. Having that opportunity and having the knowledge and skill and the talent to be able to go out [and] do that. It’s something I really enjoy, so I guess that’s what I have the most pride in.”
Question 4 – What is the hardest part about being a firearms owner for you personally? Are there any negative stigmas or connotations you wish were different?
Wes Gilkey: “I would say yes, that there are definitely negative stigmas out there. I am not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you that there aren’t bad people out there that can have firearms, that can acquire firearms. Because firearms are not inherently bad, just like anything else is not inherently bad. There are some people who are bad. That’s one of the things that do put a negative stigma. When accidents happen, that outs a negative stigma. When people are unethical in the way they harvest animals if they’re hunters, that puts on negative stigma. I guess me personally, the thing that I am most concerned about as a firearms owner, is portraying a positive image. The number one goal is always safety. My main goal is the safety and portraying a positive image for firearms and for other hunters and people who aren’t hunters but just firearms users. In many ways they are the same, so I make it a personal priority to make sure that I’m always being safe, that I am always aware of my surroundings, whether I be hunting or target shooting that I know what’s beyond my target. There are always going to be evil people in this world, and there are always going to be evil people who are going to acquire firearms. It is also a priority of mine that the public know that there are people like me out here who are just average Joe’s, who use firearms for recreation, we use them for food, we use them with our friends and no one ever gets hurt. We are good people and we would never do anything that would be with evil intent. I guess that’s what makes it the hardest part of being a firearms owner is that there are always other people out there who don’t care. Who maybe don’t put as much thought [in], and don’t make it a priority to shine that positive image. I guess it’s like with anything else: you have the good and you have the bad. Something with firearms that can be dangerous, I guess, is that the bad just shines a little bit more. So I guess that would probably be the hardest part. The hardest part for me is the public image and just trying to make sure you’re being good and trying to make sure that when bad happens, people realize that it wasn’t the firearm that was bad it was the people who were bad. You have to realize that there are good people like me that are out there doing our best to make sure we are being safe and responsible.
Question 5 – What do you do as an individual to make sure you are being a responsible gun owner?
Wes Gilkey: “That’s a really important question and one I actually consider often. Because it is so important that I as a firearms owner provide that positive image for other firearms owners, because I also want them to have that enjoyment and that pride with firearms. Really, it comes down to behavior and common sense when you’re around firearms. You don’t have to be a super genius to be able to shine a positive image and behave with common sense to be able to properly own a firearm. I would never go out and treat them like they are anything less then something that’s dangerous, because it is dangerous. Anyone who tells you that that they’re not dangerous is wrong, quite frankly. They are dangerous, the point is that you have to have the common sense and you have to have the knowledge and you have to be literate enough to make sure that you can keep that from being dangerous to someone. Literally 100% of all firearms accidents could be solved if people were just more literate, if people watched their behavior, used their common sense. Firearm incidents, I would think, would be pretty low compared to other injuries from other sports. Me being a hunter, a lot of the times I also feel as though hunting plays a large role in that. I think bad hunting practices often play a part in the negative image of firearms.
I guess it’s important also for people who use firearms to remember what they are using them for and how to properly use them for those tasks. Because when you are out at the range, there are safety guidelines that you follow; when you are hunting, there are safety guidelines that you follow, and they can be different depending on what situation you’re in. It’s important you don’t take a deer that’s bloody and put it on top of your car and go driving down the highway with it. It’s not ethical. You don’t take two or three shots to down a deer, you take one and you make sure that’s a good shot. You don’t take that shot unless you know that you can make it, unless you know that it’s a good shot, unless you know that you can be ethical. It’s those little things that you always have to have in the back of your mind: When I do this what are the consequences? Because when you own a firearm there is always that chance that you do something, that you don’t use that intelligence, that you don’t use your common sense with and it can have horrible consequences. You have to make it a personal vendetta that you are a person who is literate, who is knowledgeable, who has the common sense. ”
Question 6 - What do you wish was different about being a firearms owner? Looking towards the future what would you change?
Wes Gilkey: “ To tell you the truth I think the thing I would like to see change about firearms is that I would like to see more people involved with them. And I am not just saying that because I like guns. And I am not saying that because I like things that have to do with firearms, but to tell you the truth. You just mentioned a lot of things. You mentioned public perception, you mentioned the way that people treat firearms, things like that – you know I come from a culture where I use firearms, my dad used firearms, my grandpa used firearms, my great-great grandfather used firearms, all the way back. And someone in the city, their great grandfather might have used a firearm, their grandpa might have used a firearm, their dad might not have and they may have never even handled one or seen one in real life. [An] issue that affects me also affects them because they are American citizens. And laws that have to do with firearms affects them too, and affect the rights that they have. I think a lot of problems could be solved and people would become more knowledgeable and be able to make better decisions when it comes to firearms if everyone had that chance to be with them and understand them and realize what they are capable of and not capable of. And what people like me use them for. People say ‘Oh you don’t need those to have food on the table.’ But we do use them to have food on the table, and have the right to use them to put food on the table. But the problem is someone in the city cannot relate to that, or someone who has never had a firearm can’t relate to that. I’ve grown up with firearms all my life, it seems like a no-brainer. But to someone else coming from a different culture, it’s not. So I guess education and that ability to be around firearms is something that I would change.
I guess another thing I would like to change is the fact that there are bad people who get ahold of firearms. And as much as I would love to change that – I hate it when bad people get ahold of firearms, I hate it when people die because of firearms, – to tell you the truth, I don’t think that you’re ever going to be able to change that, because there are always going to be firearms here and there are always going to be people who have that ill intent. Really it comes back to I think everyone should be more educated. I think everyone should be more involved. I think everyone should have a greater understanding so that we are all on the same page when it comes to firearms. It’s kind of a unity thing I guess, among Americans, because in some areas like that we are just not as unified as I would like us to be.”