When Shooting A Gun Is Fun…Until It’s Not

9 days ago
Robbie Weaver

Here we are again. Fervor over the issue of handguns in America long-ago reached a fever pitch. And yet, firearm assaults continue at a staggering rate. As a former teacher, the latest shooting tragedy at a high school in Florida, like the Newtown horror in 2012, has particularly shaken me.

As the many sad periods before, zero/ sum debates made by both sides over the Second Amendment will once again predictably ensue. This strikes me too.

I live in New York City and frequently hear strong anti-gun sentiment from people who have never been around, much less, fired a firearm themselves. I personally support much stronger gun control. There’s no conceivable reason for a person to possess an AR-1 5.

And yet, when I hear the back and forth debates over gun ownership and I think about handguns myself, it brings me back to a childhood in Texas. And I have to admit–it’s not so simple.

***

Growing up, shooting a firearm seemed as though a natural rite of passage. In suburban Houston–where I expended most of my childhood–all the sons, and none of the girls, had BB guns. I get mine for Christmas before I turned seven. Our Bb gun were information sources of play.

In our lily-white neighborhood, unlike urban areas of the city besieged by firearm violence and police barbarism, we had the casual privilege of feeling emboldened, and never fearful, of guns.

We shot empty cans off the top of old boxes, listening for the ping of striking metal. I aimed at pecans in my grandpa’s front yard tree in New Orleans. My friend and I had Bb gun battles in the house when my mothers were gone. The makes stung, but the guns weren’t strong enough to break scalp. We boys on the block even had guns wars in the nearby woods. We would define a few logical rules–like no shooting at the head–and if you got hit, you were out.

The year I was 15, I went hunting for the first time with my dad. That’s how the sons I knew spent weekends during the course of its Fall hunting season. I was at what was called “the camp” somewhere in West Texas, and I killed a deer on the first day there. It was exhilarating.

The humen at the camp called a first animal kill first blood . In what looked like a hangar, the deer I had shot was hung on a hooking. Someone wiped the deer’s still-warm blood on my face and took a image. The photo of me, appearing hilariously bewildered, was later tacked to a board full of photos just like it. I went hunting a few times after that. After high school, I never ran again.

***

It wasn’t until several years after I stopped hunting that I first supposed severely about handguns. In my early 20 s, I went with my papa to a handgun scope for the first time. It was Texas in the late 90 s. I had tagged along one Sunday out of equal amounts curiosity and boredom.

The gun range that afternoon was mobbed with men when we arrived. Some had children with them, all of them boys. They shot rifles at bulls-eye targets tacked to bales of hay in the distance. Some of the shooters sat, balanced against a wooden backdrop, and some seemed through binoculars between shots to judge aim.

The gunfire was continued and seemed to come from every direction.

Even with ear protection on–which looked like oversized headphones, in camouflage green–the noise was intense.

Along with the rifle, my dad had brought a new pistol. The hunting rifle no longer interested me, but I had never shot a handgun myself. I was intrigued, so I decided to try it. Next to the rifle scope was a separate handgun range. No one was there when a teenage guidebook in a reflective orange vest resulted me over. It was smaller, the specific objectives seemed closer, and you couldn’t sit down to shoot–only stand.

The main difference between it and the rifle scope was the targets. They were paper silhouettes of a person’s upper body and head–bull’s-eye on the chest. Before I even started shooting, I realized this felt different than hunting.

Holding a heavy, three-foot rifle was a stark contrast to a weapon that fit in my pocket.

Facing the target, I shot the handgun with one hand, arm extended. I fired one bullet after another. Excitement almost immediately overtook me. It was so easy, and it was so fast. I shudder to say it now, but I actually imagined myself in an action movie as I shot.

Despite the exchange we also see in America with horrific regularity–between law enforcement and unarmed citizens–we white folks have little reason to scene ourselves on the receiving end.

The bullets were spent in seconds. When I stopped shooting it made me–what I was actually doing. It was one of those moments when you abruptly feel shockingly naive.

What a handgun lacks in heft it makes up for in power. But the power isn’t in the kickback; there was surprisingly little. The power I felt holding this piece of metal in one hand was a sudden awareness that it was specifically induced for shooting people , and that I was shooting not at something, but person . I may have missed the bulls-eye every time, but it wasn’t for lack of trying to shoot squarely in the chest.

***

I shot the one round of bullets that afternoon, and I haven’t fired a gun since. Still, when I hear gun enthusiasts–from Texas and elsewhere–boldly extol their fundamental right to bear arms without restriction, I get it.

If we expect to have a realistic dialogue about guns in America, we would do well to consider not only the ease of acquiring one , nor to immerse the sole blame for misfortunes upon those with a history of mental illness, but also to recognise the mindset that sometimes accompanies a gun’s very existence.

When guns are as deep entrenched in the culture as where I grew up, guns are guns — whether it’s a BB gun, a hunting rifle, or a handgun. I was an adult before I made a definite distinction between them. I’m far away from alone in that experience.

And yet, something that happened when I was in elementary school “ve given me” a glimpse that not everyone shared the same attitude we did towards guns.

A boy had just moved to the neighborhood from England and came to my house one afternoon. As “were in” pulling a board game out of a bedroom closet, he saw a collect of handguns in the back. He was shocked. He immediately said his parents shouldn’t know there were guns in our home or he could never come over again. I recollect chuckling uncomfortably. But it wasn’t out of ridicule; I was truly confused.

It would be many years, several dead animals, and my turning playing with a pistol before I understood.

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