I hate driving. Besides the fact that I have a highly sensitive aversion to motion, I literally cannot stand to operate a motor vehicle. I would be perfectly satisfied being chauffeured to every location necessary. I would love it, in fact. But since having a personal driver, other than my spouse, doesn’t look like it’s in my future – ever – I’m stuck driving and hating it.
Because it’s summer, my mind can wander and I began to connect the necessary evil of driving to other things that seem to be turning into unpreventable evils. In the wake of the June 12, 2016 mass shooting at Pulse Night Club, killing 49 people, this tweet surfaced:
In fact, since Sandy Hook, this tweet surfaces every time. And each time, it’s heartbreaking, yet holds more and more truth, that this is what America has accepted.
The reasons the NRA is successful are simple: Their tactics insight fear, they have an acute focus on one thing- gun control, and their members vote. The NRA’s current message seems to center around the “good guy with a gun” mantra that somehow more law-abiding, gun-toters is the answer. In short, mass shootings can be prevented or lessened if only there was someone legally carrying a gun there to stop it. Not only is this argument unfounded with little supporting evidence, it assumes that more law abiding citizens (like me) wish to carry a weapon with them capable of taking a human life. The absurdity of that idea was too much for me to process so I sought more information. I have never shot a gun – ever – let alone owned one, kept it in my possession, and discharged it with intent to injure. Most people in America, thankfully, have not either. But I could not make a decision on whether gun-toting America is one I can accept until I did the first thing on that list – shoot a gun.
My dad owns a lot of guns. And he is one of the safest gun owners there are. I knew if I wanted to learn and see what all the fuss was about, he was the one to ask. After Maria had gone to bed, he presented me with two weapons, both 9 mm, semi-automatic, handguns. The first was more compact, a little smaller, perfect to conceal and carry. The second was slightly larger, but my dad said that the recoil was easier to manage as it was absorbed more by the gun. Both held 8 – 10 bullet magazines. Those bullets were a lot larger than I thought for such a small gun.
“Always assume it’s loaded,” he began. I took a deep breath. “And we don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” he continued. I appreciated his reassurance. But I had to know what discharging this weapon was like. And so I had him go on.
“Whenever you want to stop, put the safety on and lay the gun on the table on its side.” He went through 15 – 20 more minutes of safety procedures and let me practice handling the unloaded weapon until I was comfortable. He then packed the guns, ear and eye protection, and we went to be. We would go to the gun range in the morning.
I set my alarm for 7:50 am. I most certainly didn’t want to wait to do something that might take a minute. Maybe I was just going to shoot it once and that was enough. The gun range had less “right-wing propaganda” than I had imagined it would. In fact, it was very organized and the process was efficient. Ten minutes later we were behind lane 24 C setting up the target.
“Make sure you line up the three dots [on the sight].” To me, “line up” was to put the middle dot between the other two. Like the picture below. Done.
I aimed at the center of the target and slowly squeezed the trigger. Bang.
That feeling was so intense. The sheer power of this weapon in my hands was overwhelming. And it wasn’t anything like the movies. I am a female, but I am a fairly strong female. This gun is designed to fire 8 – 10 shots in succession, 1 with each pulling of the trigger. But each intense shot required a complete adjustment of my body and re-alignment of my mind.
The next shot hit the target holder square on. So much for keeping that target. “Are you sure you are lining up the dots in a line?” Yes, Dad.
Bang. I hit the target holder again. “Well, you’re definitely in the middle, but you’re aiming high. I’ll go get us another target holder and we’ll see what we can do about that.”
The 5 minutes I waited for my dad to return were probably the most profound. I was standing there alone in the lane, and all I hear were gun shots. Loud gun shots. From a 45 mm handgun. Through my ear protection I could feel the sheer power of those shots. One after the other. And I found myself imagining being in a situation where this was real gunfire, meant to injure or kill. I tried to imagine being in that night club, or school, or movie theater, or church. And besides protecting the lives of others I also needed to discharge my gun in order to stop the massacre from getting any worse. And I looked at that gun, and I looked within my soul and I knew that was something I would never, EVER be able to do. Could I throw my body in front of someone to protect them from gunfire? Yes. Could I put the safety of my students before my own if an active shooter entered my room? Absolutely. But discharge a weapon designed to kill another human? I cannot believe the NRA wants regular Americans to undertake this task. To bear the physical and emotional responsibility of preventing mass killings and potentially taking human life in the process.
My dad returned with a new target holder and instructed me to aim a tad lower. At $3 a piece, these target holders could start to add up. I pointed the gun lower and Eureka. The three dots were IN a line. Not an isosceles triangle as I had interpreted. One straight line: dot, dot, dot, as my dad had instructed from the beginning.
Bang. Bulls-eye. Center of the target. Bang. A tad high, but still in the fatal range. Bang. Right next to shot #2. Bang. Bang. Bang. Within centimeters of the others. My eye protection was beginning to fog up, but those three dots were still in view, aligned with the center of the target. Bang. Bang. Bang. And the clip was empty.
Now that I had a groove, I went through two more magazines and called it quits. I think my dad showed the target to everyone as we left the store. (He’s proud of his daughter and makes no apologies. I appreciate that about both of my parents.) We went to get some victory coffee (my idea – I needed coffee and Minnesota doesn’t have Dunkin’ Donuts). On the way home my dad answered every single question I had about guns – ammunition, conceal and carry laws, open carry laws, President Obama, the state of Illinois, Cook County, Lake County, being a banker versus a teacher with respect to guns. And what he said that meant the most to me was this: Thank you for doing this with me. I’m glad you wanted to try to do this with me.
Did this experience make me want to sign up for the next Minnesota conceal and carry class? Heck no. But would I do this again with my dad? Absolutely.
I’m glad I can now truly appreciate the power of these weapons that Americans cling to literally and constitutionally. I’m glad I have a better idea of what the “good guy with a gun” mantra is asking law abiding Americans to take into their hands. And just as the NRA will continue its fight to protect the right to bear arms, so will I continue to fight for my right to exist safely in America unarmed.