(MN) Stereotypes dog handgun owners


April 29, 2003, 01:00 AM
Stereotypes dog handgun owners
Paul Levy, Star Tribune

Published April 27, 2003 GUNS27

The concealed-carry bill has passed the House, and the Senate is expected to vote on it on Monday. So whom will it affect? Who are the gun owners? Who wants to carry a handgun?

Franz Metzger says they can't be pigeonholed.

Metzger was in the seminary for three years before becoming a dentist. He's married with two grown children, lives in Edina, played football at the University of Minnesota and sings with the Apollo Male Chorus.

And he owns a handgun.

"When the rhetoric about handguns gets emotional, you hear the stereotypes," said Metzger, 63. "But there is no typical handgun owner."

They are doctors, teachers, state legislators, your neighbors. Here are seven:

Peter Bergstrom, 57, Minneapolis. Computer support, Target Corp.

The noise at Peter Bergstrom's south Minneapolis home can be deafening. It's not from gun shots; it's from parrots. Twelve of them.

Bergstrom, who grew up near Buffalo, N.Y., had never hunted or fired a gun until he was 18, when a friend introduced him to pistols at a gun club. He did some target shooting, took lessons and collected a few World War II Lugers.

But when a car was stolen behind his Minneapolis home, he decided he might one day need a gun for protection.

One autumn evening, a group of teens who had been drinking began throwing bottles at the dogs in his yard. Bergstrom's wife, Barbara, called 911, but it would be another 30 minutes before police would arrive.

When one of the kids threatened Bergstrom with an aluminum baseball bat, he and a neighbor decided to take matters into their own hands.

He slipped his handgun into his jacket pocket, and then he and his neighbor, a former Los Angeles policeman, confronted the bat-wielding teen. But instead of drawing the gun, Bergstrom took out a can of Mace. The teen ran away.

``I didn't show the gun,'' said Bergstrom, a National Rifle Association pistol instructor. ``I hope I never have to do that.''

Tracy Jordi, 33, St. Paul waitress

Jordi was an outdoors girl when she was growing up near Lake Elmo. She climbed trees, river-rafted and camped. Her father, a bartender, and brother hunted, but young Tracy never accompanied them.

She fired her dad's shotgun a few times when she was 12, leaving her with a sore shoulder and dampening any interest she had in guns.

``I'm 5-foot-1,'' she said. ``My arms aren't long enough to fit comfortably around a shotgun.''

Years later, in Minot, N.D., some skeet-shooting friends introduced Jordi to pistols. ``It was fun,'' she recalled. ``It felt comfortable.''

Jordi and her husband own two handguns and three rifles. She does not have a permit to carry a handgun.

``It's comforting to know that we have them, but the guns are locked up,'' she said. ``By no means are we your reckless gun-hanging-on-the-wall people.''

Siegfried Weissner, 50, Excelsior, auto service manager, Feldmann Imports, Bloomington

``Let's be honest,'' Weissner said. ``We live in a pretty safe neighborhood and we have a German shepherd. The handgun isn't for protection ... except maybe when I take it up north.''

Weissner spent his formative years in Germany, where there was no public hunting and only forest rangers, law enforcement personnel or folks in the military had guns.

His family moved to Minnesota, where, at age 10, he learned squirrel and grouse hunting. To day he hunts ducks and deer.

He shot a deer with a pistol last year, but prefers to use handguns the same way he has for 30 years -- strictly for target practice.

``If I run up north, then I do bring one with me, for protection,'' he said, though so far he's never had reason to draw his pistol.

``It's just nice knowing it's there,'' he said.

Lynn Klicker Uthe, 45, Corcoran. Attorney in Minnetonka

Growing up in Montana, ``you start hunting the day you're born,'' said Lynn Klicker Uthe. She had her own BB guns when she entered grade school, had fired a shotgun at 9 and enrolled in gun safety classes soon after.

But if her father, who was in the oil business, owned handguns, he kept them well hidden. In fact, it wasn't until eight years ago that handguns became a part of Klicker Uthe's life.

A criminal defense attorney who also practices family and employment law, she was threatened by a former employee and ``some friends of hers who were known to shoot people.''

``I got a handgun for my safety,'' Klicker Uthe said. She has since been trained to use a pistol and has had a permit since 1996. She has never had to use her handgun.

If the concealed-carry bill passes, she said she would sometimes carry her gun with her.

``People may be used to walking around with a shotgun in the woods, but it's different, think ing, `Now I'm going to be carrying a gun that could be used with a person,''' she said. ``Instead of deliberately going out to hunt, now you hope you never have to use your gun.''

Anna Ravenscroft, 40, office manager, Minneapolis

Years ago, Anna Ravenscroft's roommate at the University of Minnesota was abducted in front of Ravenscroft's house in broad daylight, driven across town and raped. Ravenscroft already owned a handgun. She immediately applied for a permit to carry it -- and was denied on grounds that she lacked a sufficient personal safety hazard.

``My family hunts,'' Ravenscroft said. ``I joined the military out of high school because I wanted to learn how to shoot properly. ... I've owned guns since I got out of the military.''

She never had a reason for owning a handgun until after the army. There was the sheer enjoyment of target shooting -- almost like the soothing feeling she gets from riding her bicycle, gardening or lifting weights.

But her roommate's assault brought urgency to owning a handgun and applying for a permit.

These days, she says she's preparing to move to Europe for work. Her daughter, 12, takes shooting lessons, and Ravenscroft follows news of the concealed-carry bill.

``I don't have a permit, so I don't carry my handgun,'' she said. ``Don't ask me to explain it.''

Joe DeSua, 54, Apple Valley. Materials manager, Valmont Lexington

When Joe DeSua went grouse hunting in New Hampshire years ago, he brought his shotgun and a .357 Magnum. ``It was bear country,'' he said. ``You think firing bird shot at a bear is going to save you?''

He still carries one of his four handguns with him when he hunts birds. Carrying a permit is another story. The Apple Valley police rejected his permit application, he said.

Since then, DeSua, whose employer manufactures aluminum light poles, has tried to shed light on the subject of permits to anyone in the Legislature who will listen.

``When I was rejected, I thought, `Wait a minute here. I'm 50 years old. I've been a citizen here my entire life. No arrests. No history of mental illness. Why is it my government doesn't trust me?'

``Do you have to be mugged to get a permit? Bleed in a hospital?''

For DeSua, who is married and has two grown children, having a handgun at home is as much a safety measure as ``a fire extinguisher or an alarm system.''

``I've never had to protect myself,'' he said. ``I hope I never will.''

On Monday, Joe DeSua received a restrictive permit. It allows him to carry a firearm when he is instructing classes or depositing fees from those classes. He said that if he had a standard permit, he would carry a gun only sometimes.

Sue Bierly, 53, Stewartville. Office worker, IBM, Rochester

Sue Bierly grew up in St. Charles, 20 miles from Rochester, with a gun in the house. But ``we knew not to touch it.''

When she was 21, her husband, David, showed her how to shoot a rifle. In 1994, she took pistol-shooting lessons with an NRA group. She had the urge to continue, to keep improving, ``like you do when you want to get better in golf,'' she said.

She'd hit the bulls-eye.

She joined a league of sharp-shooters, competing in the Rochester area and the Twin Cities.

Then she became an instructor. She wanted her students to learn to protect themselves. ``I know a woman who was attacked a few years ago,'' she said. ``She wasn't armed. She was in a wheelchair and was fortunate to have a cane to beat him with.''

Bierly won't say how many guns she owns or whether she has a permit.

``Criminals don't know who carries a weapon,'' she said. ``That's how I want it.''


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