I have never held a gun.
I have never learned how they work.
Up until now, I haven’t wanted to know.
But this week, I have an opportunity to get trained by experienced marksmen and range-masters. It’s something that has never been open to me before, and I’ve decided to take them up on the offer. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but I am interested to see what it’s all about and to understand more of my adopted country in the process.
The little I know about guns, I learned from TV
If there’s one thing everyone knows is that, stereotypically, Americans love guns. They love the flag, their constitution, and their perceived ‘right’ to access these weapons. But that idea of Americans is a far cry from what I see in the Bay Area. We’re a little more liberal in these parts, but guns are still currency.
The extent of my knowledge about guns comes from watching a tonne of Law & Order, with little comprehension of what “Glock 9mm” and “semi-automatic” and “cop killer bullets” actually means. But now I work in law enforcement. I see the outcome of what three bullets to the forehead looks like when I accidentally collect someone else’s photocopying.
Things are quite different in Australia. Following the massacre at Port Arthur and the one much closer to home at Strathfield, things changed. The Federal and State Governments cracked down on gun ownership, severely limiting their availability and use. For me, guns were only associated with murder. How anyone found any enjoyment in their use was worse than distasteful, and those folk were to be distrusted.
This lack of exposure to weapons (and I’d argue that this is a good thing) always made me nervous when there were guns around. A family friend with a penchant for hunting weaponry and a rather unstable mental history also reinforced this for me (and we will never get back those four horrific hours he made us all watch footage of his buffalo hunt in Montana). And I certainly never took the touristy option in South East Asia to shoot an Uzi.
So to go from a nation with an enviable record on guns to one with a massive problem is a stark contrast. Now I see guns on a daily basis at my place of work, and am surrounded by a group of smart men and women who can use them on my behalf should it ever come to that. But at first, just their heavy holsters made me so uncomfortable I found myself scratching my skin with discomfort anytime I saw them. Now? I don’t even think about it. It’s my new normal. Welcome to America!
But have you tried it?
But for years, when I had discussed my stance on guns with others, some would say things along the lines of “you really can’t have an opinion until you stand at a range and pull that trigger for yourself.” And I always thought they made a reasonable point: how could I stand up and have such definitive and unyielding ideas about guns and gun control, yet I’ve not had any experience with them?
So I jumped at the opportunity.
I think it’s going to be like…
As I type this, I don’t know what I will think or how I anticipate I will feel when I step out on to the range. Contemplating this in my lounge room, I can only conjure up whispy ideas and dream-like imaginings. But honestly, there’s a part of me that has always wanted to know.
Will I secretly enjoy the rush of adrenalin?
Will the whole experience make me ill?
Will I be indifferent?
Could this even be something I am good at?
I always thought that if I had an opportunity to learn more about them and to experience it for myself, that I would take it. And so, once again, I am choosing adventure and experience.
But what if you had a chance to get closer, to get more informed, to experience another world for yourself? Would you take it?