Scout in Troop 291 when I fired my first rifle. Enough with the knot-tying and CPR drills—as a middle schooler, nothing compared to the excitement of a class in marksmanship. We were at Camp Constantin, on the summer shores of Possum Kingdom Lake, and I remember the surprising heft of the rifle. I was also struck by the overwhelming sense of responsibility when I held it in my hands—adults shot guns, not kids. It was my earliest sense of feeling grown-up.

Two decades or so later I took my daughter, Madeline, shooting for the first time at her grandparents’ ranch in Grayson County. A short time after that, the nation mourned the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Madeline was a fourth grader, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the terror in those classrooms. I struggled with how to explain it to her, and ultimately I decided that she was too young to know. It is the last great secret I’ve ever kept from her. I recall passing other grim-faced parents while walking to school the following Monday and wondering how they had handled the news. Had I made a mistake? Would Madeline be caught off-guard—or worse, would she be terrified? When she returned home that afternoon, I was relieved to discover that the subject had never come up. Innocence prevailed a little bit longer.

For me, those two memories exist independently of each other: the sheer rush of firing off my first round as a boy and the worry, as a parent, about keeping my family safe from gun violence. I suspect that anyone who is serious about guns feels the same way. They are too central to our identity to be argued about by the loudest of voices, who stake out irreconcilable positions. They are too consequential to be defended or disparaged with tired talking points.

It was with that in mind that we published this special issue, in the hopes of fostering a thoughtful discussion about guns in Texas. Every issue is the result of the hard work and talent of a dedicated team, but I’d like to thank in particular senior editor Dave Mann for guiding this project to the finish line. From the beginning, Dave wanted the mix of stories to be fair, interesting, and provocative but, more than anything, illuminating. His expert judgment delivered just that, and I hope you’ll let me know if you agree.