BATH — There are legitimate gun interests in America. But I maintain that the monumental gun ownership in America includes a vast power that not only enhances murder and terror, but is undermining our national character as well. Consider my personal story.

I loved playing with toy guns as a child, but my stepfather, Brownlee, had a thing against guns, and when he saw me pointing one at a friend in our war game, he took them away from me, reducing me to using wooden sticks.

Brownlee had limited people skills, but he was a man of principles, so while I didn’t understand this ban as a child, I reluctantly understood him as I grew up.

He had left Harvard to join the first World War effort in Europe, but only to treat the wounded. One night he volunteered to rescue a squadron trapped in no man’s land. While his ambulance was hit and his partner killed, he managed to save the squadron; the French awarded him their Croix de Guerre.

Of course, none of this affected my fascination with guns. At age 12, I saw a small comic book ad for starter pistols. Oh, how much I wanted to own something feeling and sounding like the real thing! So I carefully saved and sent away for it.

I remember the day it came in the mail. I couldn’t believe I owned it! I went outside to decide what to aim at when I saw a girl my age roller skating toward the intersection next to my house. Impulsively, I yelled, “Stop or I’ll shoot!” When she didn’t, I instinctively pointed the gun in her direction and fired it.

She jumped behind the corner mailbox. I don’t know if she could even see me, but we both remained frozen for a few moments, wondering what to do next. She finally broke the silence by skating frantically away from the intersection, while screaming.

Lucky for me, she apparently didn’t report me, as I know Brownlee would have brought the house down on me. On my own, I got rid of the gun.

Looking back, I realize I was experiencing a deep inferiority complex at that time, intimidated by bullies, feeling like a coward. Brownlee’s strict discipline helped prepare me for life, but the only encouragement I remember was Mom telling me once that Brownlee had said there was nothing wrong with my mind. I had a hard time imagining him saying it.

Now, analyzing my adolescent self, I think my sense of inferiority spawned my interest in guns: I wanted to feel the power missing in myself. But once I fired the gun and scared the girl on skates, my actions repulsed my deeper character and I knew it was my responsibility – and mine alone – to gain the self-respect I desperately needed.

After 66 years of helping others lead the lives they want to lead, I’ve learned that each one of us faces a critical moment – much like the caterpillar breaking out of the cocoon to become a butterfly – when we must depend upon ourselves to meet some challenge to us personally.

In my case, we moved when I was 15; I saw this as my opportunity to change, since no one in our new neighborhood knew I was a coward. I went out for football determined to make my first tackle a real, hard one.

In our first tackling drill, my resolve began to waver when I realized I had to tackle Lattanzi, the toughest kid on the team. I thought of faking an injury or trying to trade places with a teammate, but suddenly I was in front and Coach blew the whistle! Surprisingly, I put my head down and just ran into him.

Next, I was lying on the ground looking through little blips in my eyes to see the coach yelling, “What the hell are you doing? This is tackle football! You don’t just run into people!” I looked over – Lattanzi was on the ground, too.

That moment gave me proof I could stand up for myself; it began my development of self-confidence.

Thanks to my parenting and self-awareness, I was able to reject that outside power of the gun and ultimately rely upon my character.

Statistics clearly reveal that America by far has the most individuals who chose the power of the gun over their character.

Isn’t it logical that truly responsible gun owners with character would work together with concerned citizens to effectively deny those who seek guns for power?