I grew up in New Jersey, and was taught to hate handguns. Really. Shotguns and rifles were okay if you hunted (not that I ever had the desire to hunt), but handguns? Evil. Death machines. The only reason to have one is to use it to kill someone. People get killed all the time by handguns, mostly people who found one, played with it, and shot themselves or someone else by accident. At least, that’s the lore I grew up on. But I’ve known since I moved to Virginia that it’s a very gun-friendly state, and y’know, I’m a woman alone, and my neighborhood has gone downhill considerably in the last two years. I’ve been thinking a lot about learning to shoot and buying a gun.
Which is why I spent Sunday afternoon at the Blue Ridge Arsenal in northern Virginia learning to load, shoot, and unload four different kinds of handguns. Plus a rifle.
So, you can take the girl out of New Jersey — and you can actually take New Jersey out of the girl, too!
Or can you?
While we were waiting, I could hear some very loud reports from inside the shooting range. I didn’t realize it was going to be that loud, and I have to say, I was starting to get scared. I was wondering if maybe this was one of the stupidest things I’d ever decided to do. By the time it was our turn, I was pretty positive I was going to hate it. Inside the range it was even worse—we had earplugs and ear protection, but it was loud and startling and I was getting really nervous. But I figured I was there, I’d paid, I may as well at least try to shoot. Stretch started me on the rifle at three yards.
Turns out — you can!
You know, it took exactly one shot to make my nerves disappear. I loaded the rifle, locked the bolt, cocked the hammer, aimed, and fired. And I hit the target. Where it counts. …
Granted, it was only three yards, but [Instructor] Stretch told me he started me out close to build up my confidence before moving on to tougher targets. It totally worked. I spent the next few minutes loading, shooting, clearing out the shell casing, loading, shooting, clearing out the shell casing… it was kinda cool to see the little pieces of metal go flying out of the rifle. (I saved the shell casing from my first shot. Think I’ll drill a hole in it and add it to my keychain.) And we moved the target back to seven yards.
The rifle was the most fun to shoot. I’m thinking my first purchase is going to be a relatively inexpensive .22 rifle, especially since everyone tells me that you can buy a brick of 500 .22 rounds for about $10 at Wal-Mart. That’s a lot of hours of target shooting. Have I mentioned how much I really, really liked shooting that rifle?
But there is always time for reflection, even while having, er, a blast:
While I was at the range …, I was absolutely struck by the thought that every single person in the lanes next to me had the capacity to kill every other person there. And so did I[.]
Well, that’s true. But every single person also has the capacity to kill while driving, using household cleaning chemicals or power tools, or by slipping somebody too many over-the-counter pills or some antifreeze.
Society depends on the fact that most people don’t want to kill anybody. And guns in the right hands make it possible to stop some of those who do.