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Part two
The American Way

There is no glamor about guns in Pete Eigo’s home. His kids have grown up seeing their father clean his 9mm Beretta at their kitchen table in Oldsmar. "They aren’t fascinated with guns, because they see them every day," says Eigo, a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy who, nevertheless, locks his weapons inside a strongbox, away from 10-year-old Brittany, left, and twins Tyler and Cody, 8. "They see a gun as something that Dad uses at work, just like my pager or cell phone," Eigo says. "It’s a tool, and that’s it."

* * *

Jeff Renihan and son Connor, 6, go to Civil War re-enactments together. Renihan takes his 1861 Springfield rifle; Connor his wooden toy rifle. The history teacher at South Sumter High has fond memories of hunting with his father and grandfather. Now he takes Connor, who is not allowed to touch his father’s guns. Two years ago, the boy saw his father shoot a wild pig. No traumas. Renihan says Connor knows about death. "It’s when you get to be with Jesus all the time," the boy says.

* * *

Neal Morados, 16, wipes sweat from his face but does not flinch from the villainous General Diaz in a video game at Fun-N-Games Arcade in St. Petersburg’s Tyrone Square Mall. He especially likes the feel and the graphics of "Time Crisis II," in which the object of the game is to stop the general and his men from launching a nuclear satellite to blow up the world. "It tests my skills," he says. "It’s a different gun game. When you shoot the gun it has a hammer action. It feels like a real gun." The student at Canterbury School in St. Petersburg is one of the arcade’s top scorers. He plays for about two hours on Fridays. "Videogames are videogames," he says. "It’s not real life." Arcade manager Nancy Dozois says the machines can be programed to reduce the level of violence. She can control the language used and the amount of damage that results from an action, preferring to keep the games on low settings. Many children come into Fun-N-Games while their parents shop. Dozois and her staff keep the kids under close watch and throw them out if they use bad language. "I don’t care what they get from the games," Dozois says. "They get more from the discipline and the love that we give them."

* * *

There is a warm and loving chuckle in Al London’s voice as he tells how he taught his 10-year-old daughter, Jennah, to shoot. "Her older sister Abby is 19 and has been shooting for years. Jennah kept nagging. She thought it was her time to start knowing about guns." London is a psychologist who works with truants at the Juvenile Assessment Center in Hillsborough County. He is also a reserve officer with the Tampa police department. The shooting session, with a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol, took place at the Wyoming Antelope Club range in Pinellas County. According to London, it was a notable success. "She had a ball, and she hit the target well, too. But the best part was it gave the two of us a chance to spend time together." Guns are good for girls, London thinks. "Shooting makes them feel competent, accomplished, empowered." Carefully, he adds: "There is no aggression attached to this new competence."

Back to: The American Way Gallery One
Continue to: The American Way Gallery Three

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