Some days I wonder how I actually got here.
Here being, owning (and knowing how to operate safely!) several firearms. A couple of rifles, a few pistols.
I was asked, a year or so ago, in the midst of a heated discussion about a proposed local shooting range, why I got into shooting. I don’t appear to be the type, I suppose; as if an interest in self-defense and firearms in general belonged only to a type of person.
Where I live, many people are shooters. But I’m not native to the area, most of my life I have been a creature of towns, not country. I’m a woman, and for the oddest reason many people still seem to think that women don’t/won’t/can’t use & enjoy firearms. I’m a classical musician. I’m not hugely outdoorsy and don’t yet have any interest in hunting. I considered myself liberal for many years (and actually still do; but the liberals have left me, so to speak). I grew up without any interest in shooting, among people who thought an interest in shooting was unseemly at best, and possibly downright suspicious. Ten years ago I would have figured that any proposed “reasonable gun control” was most likely reasonable and necessary, and why are those hunter/shooter people getting so upset?
So how did it really happen that I own firearms, I shoot them, I’m active in establishing a shooting club and developing a range? It seems so out of character for me.
The first point is: even when I was a touch scared of firearms (as opposed to having a healthy respect for them), I understood that at the very least I ought to know how to make a gun safe. I’ve believed that since I was a child. Obviously, if it’s not loaded, and I can prove that to myself, then I know it can’t harm me any more than any other portable hard device can; if it’s empty, the gun cannot be used to shoot someone. So somehow as a child I got the idea that I ought to know how to unload any gun I came across. It was always on my list of basic life skills.
But I was just enough scared of guns, and my circle of friends generally consisted of people who disparaged firearms, that I let that particular life skill slide to the bottom of the list. And there it stayed for decades.
Then I married a wonderful man, who still owned his childhood pellet rifle as well as a rifle of his father’s. And one time, when we were planning a trip to the mountains, I remembered that I had always meant to know how to unload guns. I suddenly realized that here I was living with guns and still completely ignorant of their operation. I think I was still somewhat scared of them, but I also realized that my fear would do me more harm than the guns themselves. So I asked my husband to let me shoot something, and he figured the pellet rifle would provide my best first experience.
I know that’s not really a firearm. But I pulled a trigger and it shot out a pellet! I had a blast killing Coke cans that afternoon (and those Coke cans deserved it, let me assure you!) Knowing how well I did was so simple and direct: the Coke can sat there, or it moved. I turned out to be reasonably good at hitting things I intended to hit. My husband showed me how to load and unload the pellet rifle. And that was that.
By which I mean, that was one enjoyable afternoon. I never asked for another such afternoon, nor did I follow-up and learn how to unload the real rifle sitting in the closet — the firearm.
[I’ll just mention here that I didn’t fully understand that they’re called firearms because they fire: there’s an explosion involved, and smoke and gases coming out the barrel. I even shot for a while before I figured that out. Maybe it’s obvious to everyone else in the universe, but when I explain about firearms and shooting to women friends who haven’t shot before, I always mention that. It’s where recoil comes from, among other things. It’s what makes bullets powerful when they reach their destination. It’s why we need to have our supporting hand in the right place, especially on pistols. It’s why the barrel gets hot. It’s a relevant piece of information, and for someone who isn’t particularly mechanical (like me), it may be new information. I guess any lifelong shooter who reads this paragraph will be cackling about the dumb old lady. I’m old enough, and smart enough, not to care too much!]
At some point after we moved here to the country, my husband and I were discussing what to do to protect our property and ourselves from the local banditos. Don’t read too much into that. It’s by no means lawless here. But there are a few folks around who figure people who have things (any things, apparently) must be rich and therefore taking some of their things is okay. That element prefers burglary; they don’t want to break in when the homeowner is present. But what happens if they goof? We live well away from any law enforcement. We would clearly be on our own. (And yes, I do understand that in a city we’d be on our own too; I’m just describing our thinking process. And by well away from any law enforcement, I mean that we’d be quite lucky to have someone here within an hour. There can be no expectation of minutes!)
Just as it always seemed obvious to me that everyone (me especially) should know how to make a firearm safe, it also seemed obvious to me that it is foolish to assume that someone breaking into our home only wants our stuff and would not hurt us.
Furthermore, we would look like easy targets. We’re so sweet! My first thought was how to make ourselves appear more dangerous when we’re in town, so that an idea was created that we are not the people that people want to come bothering. My husband & I discussed getting an NRA bumper sticker — not actually joining the NRA, mind you! Just having the bumper sticker on our car. We thought about what to do to make it appear that we are armed.
And then I realized: the way to appear armed is to be armed; the way to appear dangerous is to be dangerous. I asked my husband to buy me a rifle for my birthday, and then to teach me to use it. I picked out a lever-action .22 LR. At the time I chose it, I barely understood those terms lever-action and .22 LR.
That was three years ago. It has been a slow and steady escalation of knowledge, skill and firearms ever since. Among other changes, now when I read a thriller I actually understand the gun battles, and I’m starting to understand when a described gun battle is preposterous. I can watch television and spot the shabby trigger discipline. I understand calibers! (Which still amazes me, because early on it seemed so weird that there were all these calibers that start with dots, and then all of a sudden there are calibers that don’t, and then there are gauges for shotguns, except for the one that starts with a dot. To someone who knew nothing about firearms, it could not possibly have been more confusing.)
Now I love the Second Amendment and fully understand why citizens may feel very wary about all this “reasonable gun control” blather certain folks like to throw around.
Now, in fact, I see myself as a citizen. Before guns, I never really thought about citizenship, beyond voting at every opportunity.
Along the way, the hardest lesson has been that I can trust myself. I delayed getting into handguns because I was not sure I could be trusted with them. Some of that leftist conditioning was still in me, I suppose. What if I had a handgun and felt the urge to start shooting people?! I had to grow up a little bit, and get over the idea that the gun could control me. I have always been a peaceable person. I’m still a peaceable person. Owning guns has not changed that at all. Now, when I hear people hysterically worrying about guns, I figure those people don’t trust themselves.
By themselves, guns don’t do anything. They sit there. (This is exactly what I had to teach some of my piano students, back in the day; the piano just sits there. So if the notes are wrong, you did it. Do something else, and the notes will be right.) The gun, like a piano for a pianist or a car for a driver, is a tool. It just sits there. So if you are afraid of the gun, you are afraid of yourself. Even a gun pointed at me by another person (which I will do everything in my ability to make sure never happens; and if it does, they are in for a surprise) — even that gun is not the real danger. The real danger is the person pointing it.
When I first got guns, I was still rather afraid of myself. One of the best things I have learned from owning and learning to use firearms is that I can be trusted. I can hold in my hands the power to kill and handle that power safely. I have self-control. I have enough strength of character not to change my peaceable nature just because I have guns. I have learned specific skills, of course, including how to make safe the firearms I encounter. I have become more level-headed. I’ve learned that I can still learn new physical skills.
And I’ve learned that it’s really fun to kill a Coke can!