I remember the National Rifle Association safety class taught in the spring of 1955, when I was in the seventh grade at Rollinsford Grade School in Salmon Falls, New Hampshire. The teacher brought a single-shot, .22-caliber rifle to school – with no ammunition that I remember – and the emphasis was on gun safety. Never aim a gun at something you don’t want to shoot, that kind of thing.

It was a 45-minute class and halfway through the class he told a story about meeting an American Indian whose grandfather met the teacher’s grandfather in a state of war. Their grandfathers both had muzzle-loading rifles, and each man had fired his gun until it was so hot that he had to cool it off in a stream. They were far enough away from each other that they were unaware of the other’s presence until they immersed the barrels of their guns in the stream.

Startled, they both started drying their guns simultaneously, finished drying and started loading furiously in their duel. Each poured powder, rammed wadding in unison and placed their lead balls in the muzzles of their guns in the same moment.

The difference was: The Indian’s grandfather rammed his lead ball down the barrel of his gun with the gun’s rod, and the teacher’s grandfather slammed the butt of his gun onto the ground to force the ball down the barrel of his gun. That was the difference, and the teacher’s grandfather shot the Indian’s grandfather.

The teacher was a jolly, older man, and his story was that he and the Indian laughed at their fortunes, glad to be alive as they were.

As a corporate citizen, today’s NRA lacks humanity. Today’s NRA is an embarrassment.

Alec Ferguson

Kennebunkport