Hundreds of miles from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas, 1969. A couple and their three children are camping out in the winter sun.
Dad enjoys the quiet--he grew up on a dirt farm in California's central valley and misses the low population density. Mom enjoys being with her entire nuclear family and away from laundry, food shopping, and paying bills. Though surely she must have had to do a lot of that before we left. The boys enjoy what they enjoy, wherever they are: arguing about which plane was the best in World War II, and proving who is strongest-smartest-bravest with every breath they take.
As you may have guessed by now, I am the sister in between these two brilliant, excitable boys. I like looking for animals in the desert--jack rabbits or hawks mostly, but once we saw some coyote cubs. We were going to run toward them and pet them, but Mom's short "Stop" froze us in our tracks. Sure enough, Mom Coyote came and fetched her pups away. Would she have abandoned them if we touched them? Or was our mom protecting her cubs from an attack? Probably both.
What we all did together on this trip was target practice.
Back then, I was raised to think of a gun as just another tool, not especially meant for killing my fellow man. The likelihood of bear attacks in the suburbs never occurred to me as a child. I just went on my merry way, enjoying learning to shoot and being "cool" (trust me, very little leaves a math-friendly, book-hungry introvert cool, I was willing to take what I could get!).
Later on, I came to think of guns and internal combustion engines and a movie projector's intermittent sprocket as lovely examples of the marriage of form and function.
Now, the world has changed a bit. A gun is almost never divorced from its larger social context. And I write crime fiction.
What's an author to do? I don't like using guns as weapons in my stories, because I don't like to perpetuate the myth that a gun is ever a good solution. I don't want to think about politics at all: just story and character--though of course at some point premise and theme must be considered. And the truth is, America is chockful of guns.
My main characters never pack--a gun makes some things too easy for a hero, and some things like getting on a plane or through security at City Hall too complicated. When characters do shoot, the aftermath is as vivid as the suspense that comes before the bullet leaves the barrel, to change lives irrevocably. Outsmarting people with guns is always more satisfying than shooting people.
I'm not patient enough for poison or clever enough for those exotic deaths, though if I write long enough it may come to pass that I, too, am using poison-frog juice on characters whose time has come.
The weapons are minor points to me, not featured players. In my fiction you'll find a very few guns, but also pepper spray, hands, blunt objects, emotional manipulation, and the occasional defenestration.
Relying on guns is too often taking the easy way out, in fiction and in real life.