Editor’s Note: Gary Gerard was traveling this week. This column originally appeared June 27, 2015

I want to tell you a story about a boy and a gun.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I own guns.

I grew up around them. When I was younger, I used to hunt a little bit. I am more of a sport shooter today. From time to time I take part in three-gun competitions, where participants are timed and scored while engaging targets with shotguns, rifles and pistols.

By today’s standards, I guess this makes me some sort of socially aberrant psychotic misfit.

But it wasn’t always that way. Here’s my boy and gun story:

It was 1970 or 1971. I was 12 or 13 years old and I decided to head over to my friend’s house one fine summer day. I lived south of Plymouth on Myers Lake and my friend lived on the next road to the west.

My dad was home at the time because he worked nights.

I asked Dad if I could take his .22 caliber pistol along with me because my friend and I wanted to shoot some cans in his back yard. (His back yard was a soybean field.)

He said I could, but that there were no shells. He gave me 30 cents so I could stop at the Holloway’s Trading Post – a neighborhood hunting, trapping and fishing store – and pick up a box.

I grabbed the gun and headed toward my friend’s house on foot. It was a little more than a half mile away. The Trading Post was the equivalent of a few blocks away at the west end of the lake. It was on the way to my friend’s house.

I walked into the Trading Post with the gun in my hand, bought the shells and headed toward my friend’s house.

As I was walking along, a conservation officer passed by me. He stopped his car, backed up, rolled down his window and asked, “What you got there?”

“My dad’s .22,” I said proudly as I displayed the gun.

“Can I take a look at it?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

He got out of his car and I handed him the pistol, an 8-shot Harrington & Richardson revolver with an 8-inch barrel. (My older brother is the proud owner of said gun still today.)

He looked over the gun and said, “This is an H&R. I’ve been thinking about getting one of these.”

He spun the cylinder, looked down the bore, snapped the cylinder shut, took aim across the ditch and dry-fired it a couple times.

Then he handed it back to me and said thanks. He got into his car, told me to be careful, told me to have fun and drove off.

I went to my friend’s house where he and I shot up a bunch of empty soup cans.

I was recalling this episode after the recent church shooting in South Carolina.

Inevitably, in the wake of such a senseless tragedy, there are lots of people calling for more gun control. And I see lots of things online about “unprecedented violence” and “rampant lawlessness” in today’s America.

The level of anti-gun rhetoric has become quite elevated in recent times, hasn’t it?

Can anyone image what would happen today if a young boy was spotted walking down a country road in a populated area carrying a handgun and a box of bullets?

There would have been more 911 calls than the dispatch center could handle. There probably would have been SWAT teams dispatched.

The fact that a kid was walking alone that far from home probably would have warranted a call to child protective services, gun or no gun.

I recall guys in the parking lot at my high school comparing their shotguns and muzzle loaders during deer season. They kept the guns in their trucks and most of them didn’t even lock the truck. And nobody cared.

Can you imagine?

At some point, guns got fully demonized in this country. I am not sure when this metamorphosis occurred, but it is in full swing now, to be sure. Media are eager to make guns look as bad as possible.

And media are doing a pretty good job of that. The vast majority of Americans believe that gun violence is a growing problem, when the converse is true.

The truth of the matter is, I was far more likely to be murdered in 1970 when I was plugging cans in my friend’s backyard than I am today.

In 1970, there were 16,000 murders amid a population of 203,235,298. In 2013, there were 14,196 murders amid a population of 316,128,839.

Crime statisticians like to use the rate of crimes per 100,000 people as a yardstick. In 1970, there were 7.9 murders per 100,000 people in America. In 2013 there were 4.5 murders per 100,000 people.

That means you were 43 percent more likely to be murdered in 1970 than you were in 2013.

That 4.5 per 100,000 murder rate? It is historically low – the lowest recorded since 1957.

In fact, since 2000, the incidence of all violent crime has dropped from 506.5 per 100,000 to 367.9; rape, from 32.0 to 25.2; robbery, from 145.0 to 109.1; assault, from 324.0 to 229.1.

Interestingly, this marked decrease in violent crime is happening amid population growth, a tepid economy and an historic increase in the sale of guns and ammunition.

The equation goes like this: More people + less opportunity + more guns = less crime.

Do you get that impression about America today from what you hear on TV and see on the Internet? Whatever law enforcement is doing appears to be working quite well. Shouldn’t the media be trumpeting the fact that violent crime rates are down?

Nah, you get the impression that violence is out of control and that something must be done about it. Gotta push the anti-gun agenda.

Don’t misunderstand me. Ending gun violence is a noble cause. One murder per 100,000 is one too many to be sure. Certainly, there are common-sense proposals that could help get that murder rate even lower, like keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals.

But I really wish when we seek solutions to problems we would seek them based on facts instead of emotion and hyperbola.