Father, who taught children that guns are tools, worries about safety

Monday, November 10, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:09 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Roy Williams fired his first shot from a handgun when he was 8 years old.

“I was raised around guns,” the Centralia resident says.

Williams’ father taught him how to shoot, and Williams passed on that knowledge to his own children. Now, they too are gun owners.

A 51-year-old Vietnam veteran, Williams bought his first gun in 1972. He now owns eight handguns in addition to a rifle and a shotgun, which he uses for hunting.

He worked in construction until back problems and a heart attack forced him into early retirement. Although partially disabled by his back injuries, he says he doesn’t keep guns for reasons of self-defense.

“I bought them basically just for sport,” he says, “just to take out and play with.”

His wife, Laura, had never fired a gun before she met Roy 11 years ago. Now she and Roy enjoy going out target shooting together. Roy hates to admit it, but Laura has become a better shooter than he.

Each of Williams’ eight guns is a slightly different shape and caliber. He selects one to use, just as a golfer might choose from an assortment of golf clubs. Like any sporting enthusiast, acquiring the equipment is part of the fun.

“You see one you think you like, you buy it and you try it and if you don’t like it, you resell it,” Williams says.

While Williams says he shoots purely for pleasure, he was careful to teach his children that guns are tools, not toys. He says that he had guns around the house when they were growing up but that they knew better than to play with them. These days he keeps his guns in a locked case inside a locked room.

For each new gun Williams buys, he has to apply for a new permit, but he doubts he would apply for a concealed gun permit. He doesn’t feel a need to conceal his gun and says he would have liked to have seen the bill put to a statewide vote so that other Missourians could have their say on the issue.

“I think the concealment is going to make it difficult for law enforcement,” Williams says, “and there’s people out there who shouldn’t have them.”

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