Pastor Phil was not raised with guns. He was raised in Chicago, where guns were associated with crime and gangsters. He did not own a gun until he was in his 60's, after taking the call to become pastor of a struggling church in the North woods of Wisconsin.
The Church has prospered and grown, although it remains small. A parishioner gifted land to the Church. The Pastor and his wife have a small acreage, the Church has a nice new building. Pastor Phil and his wife Kathy, grow a garden for salads and fresh vegetables.
A grateful Christian gave Pastor Phil the rifle. The Pastor was ignorant of guns, and while rich in faith, had little income. A local retired police officer offered free training. That was about a decade ago.
The Garden Gun has seen much in its long-lasting existence. Remington marks their rifle barrels with a month and year code. It was made in 1948, within a couple of years of the pastor's birth. It was made before the Korean War, before Sputnik and the Space Race. It was over 20 years old when an American first set foot on the moon.
When it was made, there were no background checks and no requirements for serial numbers on .22 rifles and shotguns. The requirement for serial numbers was instituted as part of the infamous Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968. It is one of the millions of guns in the United States that have no serial number and is legally and completely untraceable. From 1990 to 2018, it was officially elevated to being an “assault weapon” in the state of New Jersey. One man was sent to prison for owning a similar rifle he had won at a police charity event. The rifle has been outlawed in Australia and would have to be altered to be legal in New Zealand.
After a thorough cleaning, the little rifle showed itself to be reliable and accurate. The magazine holds 15 Long Rifle cartridges or 22 Shorts. A Remington made with blued steel and walnut stock, the old 550-1 rifles are often available at bargain-basement prices.
Pastor Phil took to his old, but new possession, with diligence and pride. He has energetically defended his garden with the little rifle. The woods are home to rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. 13 striped ground squirrels, locally called “gophers”, multiply in the nearby field. They all find his garden irresistible.
As with fabled Western gunfighters, the Pastor has tracked the number of varmints he has stopped from eating the succulent fare in his garden. The latest, this summer, was number 87.
The boy who grew up without guns in Chicago has become an enthusiastic supporter of the Second Amendment as he guided his flock in the turbulent teens of the new Millennia.
It is hard to wear out a well made .22 rifle. The bores are generally protected by the lubricant used on the bullets. They need little cleaning. Put a few thousand rounds through the semi-automatics, like the Remington 550-1, and you should scrub the chamber and action to clean out the powder fouling. Keep the outside oiled against rust, and the rifles chug along for many decades.
As the Church has prospered, the Pastor and his wife have moved up beyond the income level of Church mice. The Pastor purchased a centerfire rifle. The deer herd in Northern Wisconsin is high this year, so he may supplement their diet with venison. .22 rifles are a favorite poacher's tool, but the Pastor is a law abiding gentleman.
Pastor Phil and his wife, Kathy, obtained their Wisconsin Concealed Carry licenses.
The Concealed Carry class was offered at the church, by my brother. 21 people attended.
If, as seems unlikely, Wisconsin would follow New Jersey, and declare the little rifle an “assault weapon”, and demand it be registered or turned in, I suspect the Pastor would engage in passive civil resistance and fail to comply.
That is what has happened in New York, California, Maryland, and Connecticut. I suspect the local Wisconsin sheriff's department would not cooperate. Wisconsin residents treasure their rifles. In 1998, Wisconsin voters completed the arduous process of adding a Right to Keep and Bear Arms amendment to the state constitution. From law.ucla.edu:
Wisconsin: The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose. Art. I, § 25 (enacted 1998).
When leftist Wisconsin Supreme Court justices refused to admit the amendment had any force of law, they were gradually replaced. There is a solid originalist and textualist majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, due in part, to a surprise election result in 2019. It was said that rural Wisconsin Christians were the voters that made the difference. Churches were often centers of resistance in the Revolutionary War. I pray elections will suffice to restore liberty in the new millennia.
Pastor Phil was happy to have the address of the Calvary Baptist Church included in this story. It is 13713 W. Thannum Fire Ln, Hayward, Wisconsin, 54843. If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by. Services are from 10 to 11 a.m. on Sundays.
Owning a rifle and using it to protect your food supply does much to affect a person's attitude about what is “reasonable” regulation.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.