I like guns. I like to shoot them, I like to buy them, I like to clean them, I like to learn all about them, I just like them. And I’m just as surprised about that as you are. If you had told me even six months ago that I would feel strongly enough about firearms to write a blog about them, I would have called you a spectacular idiot. Well, maybe I wouldn’t have called you names to your face, but I wouldn’t have believed you.
To say I was a reluctant shooter is generous. I grew up in a very rural area where all of the boys (and some of the girls) went deer hunting like it was a religion. They talked incessantly about rifles and pistols and crossbows and deer spotting and tree stands and a million other things that I thought were boring and redneck. The minute I could, I was happy to move to a city where people talked about books and music and films, happy to leave all of that testosterone-fueled gun talk behind me. After a few years in an urban setting however, I realized that guns are still a big part of the cultural dialogue, just in a very different role. In the city, only bad people and cops have guns. The cops protect us from the bad people and we all just try to stay out of the way while that’s happening.
That mindset worked for a little while, until one night on our way home from a friend’s house, my husband and I were robbed at gunpoint. Having a gun pointed at you or someone you love is a difficult experience to describe, but I think you can probably imagine how it might disrupt the continuity of one’s life. See, you think this is the point in the story where I decide to embrace guns, arm myself and bring about some kind of righteous vigilante justice. Sadly, no, that did not happen. In fact, the whole thing made me dislike guns even more. I convinced myself that it was good that we didn’t have a gun, because that would have just made the situation worse and likely have gotten us both shot. My husband talked about buying every kind of weapon from a battle axe to a ninja throwing stars, but ultimately, we just moved to a different part of the city. As difficult as it was to find closure on the mugging, I was unwilling to give up my ideas about what guns and gun ownership meant, despite my husband’s growing interest in firearms.
The thing is, my husband is really smart. He doesn’t usually do dumb, redneck things. So, I was eventually persuaded to accompany him to the range. I hated it. Gun ranges are noisy, intimidating places that are full of dudes who really like to TELL YOU THINGS. I didn’t understand the etiquette or the jargon and I was way outside of my comfort zone. I kept going back though, and eventually I moved from hating it, to being very frustrated that I couldn’t make the bullets go where I wanted them to go. I like to do things right the first time and then every time, and I especially don’t like making a hash of something in front of other people. But there is something really unique about firing a gun. The focus and attention that it requires and the the rush of adrenaline that it produces are an addictive mix. The more I focused on the experience of shooting and mastering safe gun-handling procedures, the more I started to like it. Funny thing is, once you open yourself up to the possibility that you, the liberal, well-educated, thoughtful, kind, sensible shoe-wearing, Whole Foods-shopper, you, could maybe, possibly, enjoy shooting a gun, the world really transforms around you. Like for realz.
I’ve always thought I was the kind of person who challenged my own preconceived notions, but with guns, it was difficult to even identify what the preconceived notions were. It’s so deeply embedded in our culture that guns are BAD and they kill people, that we take it for granted, like the sky is blue and the ocean is wet. The message is reinforced over and over again in the news and in movies and on TV, that guns are the source of violence. But an object cannot inherently be bad. An object just is. I thought for a long time that guns were for foolish, cocky boys or dangerous, angry criminals. I thought they made bad situations worse. I thought I had no choice but to just hope I wouldn’t be a victim. But when I allowed myself to be interested in guns and not worried about what my friends or family would think, I found that the confidence and empowerment I felt and the DIY, take-charge-of-your-own-shit mindset that comes with shooting fit really well into the trajectory of my life.
Oddly, the thing I fought the hardest to dislike fell right into my life in a very organic, seamless way. I’m alert and careful and cautious and non-violent. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but more than that, I don’t want anyone to hurt me or the people I love. I’m eager to step up and take more responsibility for my own safety, and I’m an enthusiastic supporter of others doing the same, especially women. Open yourself up to the possibilities. Put aside what others say you should think about guns, and find out what you really do think about them. I think you’ll be surprised at what you find.