Back to blogging with my talented friends! Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays. (Usually we are on time. Usually. Ok, mostly. Sometimes? Don’t judge me.)
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week, Froggie chose the topic, and she said: I would have never imagined . . . Here’s my take:
A few weeks ago – and for the first time in my entire life – I fired a gun. A .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun, to be exact. I fired that gun 50 times, shooting at a paper target posted on a board at a shooting range nestled among the gentle hills of Middle Tennessee.
Before that day, I’d never touched a loaded gun, let alone fired one. I grew up with a gun in the house; after all, my Dad was a Chicago Police sergeant and, as such, he owned a service revolver. But I never actually touched the gun. I rarely saw it; Dad did a phenomenal job of keeping “work” separate from “home.” But I knew the revolver was there. I knew where it was kept, and I knew that location was securely locked. I also knew to go nowhere near the gun, to respect it, to see it for what it was: part of my Dad’s job – and a deadly weapon, too.
That latter fact was firmly and sadly reinforced for me during my childhood when a neighborhood boy (someone just a few years older than I) accidentally shot and killed another neighborhood boy while showing off his dad’s gun. I knew both boys only slightly, but it didn’t matter. My fear of guns was set. What had been indifference and a healthy respect morphed into full-on terror.
And that fear remained strong throughout my life. Living mainly in Chicago and Northern Illinois, guns were not much of a “thing” in my life. The bulk of my friends (unless police officers) didn’t own any firearms, and they didn’t go hunting or to the shooting range. Until quite recently, one could not legally conceal and carry a gun within the city limits of Chicago (and then the Supreme Court stepped in and pointed out the violation of the 2nd Amendment and the unconstitutional statute went away). The change of the law meant little to me. I didn’t know anyone who rushed out to purchase a weapon (if any did, they didn’t talk to me about it). Other than noticing the “no guns allowed” emblems that began appearing absolutely everywhere, I didn’t give guns too much thought. I had no reason to do so.
I didn’t think much about guns when we moved to the South, either, at least not at first. My fear of guns didn’t change, even as I met people who grew up hunting and shooting and owning multiple weapons. I didn’t want a gun, didn’t want to be around one. Although I sensed I was more completely surrounded by firearms than I had been in Illinois, I put it out of my mind – except when I shopped at Walmart and walked past the Sporting Goods section, where rifles hung prominently. I just kept on walking.
It was during another walk in Tennessee when I began to think about guns.
My friend Kym and I were taking one of our morning power strolls through our subdivision, when Kym casually mentioned that her moms’ group from church was going to take a handgun safety class, and would I like to join them?
I’ll be honest: my first thought was, “What did she just say?” My second thought involved what seemed to me to be the irony of church moms firing guns. And then, quickly, without much more processing, I thought, “Perhaps it’s time.”
As we walked the cul de sacs near our subdivision’s main pool, I considered the reasons not to take the class: My fear. My lack of desire to own a gun. I didn’t want a handgun, so the class seemed unnecessary. And “fun” didn’t seem like the right adjective for a day at a handgun training class, either: how could spending the day around guns be fun? But then I thought about the reasons to take the class. Guns are everywhere, particularly where I live. What if I stumbled across a gun someday? I had no idea how to hold one or fire one or load one, no idea how to operate a safety, to check whether the gun was loaded, no idea how to stay safe around a gun. Might that information be helpful? Perhaps.
I thought more about my fear. I don’t like being afraid of anything; no one does. But here I had a chance to confront a fear, safely and in a controlled environment. I could take the class, hang out with Kym, face my apprehension, and maybe learn something in the process. So I told Kym, “Yes,” and I filled out the (extensive) paperwork and wrote my check.
Had I ever imagined I’d do these things? No. But here’s my real “I would have never imagined” moment: I? Enjoyed the class. I enjoyed firing the gun. I? Had fun. I never, ever, ever would have imagined I’d ever feel – or admit – to such a thing.
I’ve struggled articulating why I so enjoyed the experience. Part of it involves the instructor, Dennis, a man who focused us on safety but who did so with humor and patience. Then, too, there was my class, an all-female group of twenty. It heartened me to see women supporting and encouraging and cheering and congratulating each other. (That’s too rare, in my experience.) And there’s also the fact of how I began the day knowing absolutely nothing about guns, but by the end of the day, I felt completely comfortable loading and handling and aiming a gun and shooting at a paper target. In fact, when I finished my fifty rounds, I’d wanted to fire fifty more. The word that came to mind was empowered. Not in the “look-out-I-have-a-loaded-gun-gansta” way, but in the “yay-me-I-just-learned-a-new-skill” way.
Maybe most of all, I felt stronger, because I’d started the day very much afraid of something, and ended the day feeling in control of that fear. Does that mean I want to be on the wrong end of a firearm? Of course not. I’d still be terrified – that won’t ever change. But it does mean that I want to learn more, to take more classes and to get to the range and become even more comfortable with my grip and my stance and my aim. It means I want the legal right to carry a gun, should I so choose (and should I pass the TBI background check).
When I posted my target photo on Facebook, more than one friend said to me, “I can’t picture you firing a gun.” I couldn’t disagree – until I actually did fire a gun. Now, I can easily picture doing it again, and I look forward to the chance.
In the meantime, I take an occasional glance at the paper target, the one now hanging on the bulletin board on the back of my pantry door, and I feel gratitude for Kym’s invitation (and her friendship!) and pride that something that once scared me now empowers me.
The fact my newly learned skill makes my husband sleep with one eye open is really just a bonus, I swear.