A few years ago, I spent the day in the mountains with my boyfriend and his friends, shooting guns. They were convinced it would change my mind on gun control.
We drove up a canyon, and upon discovering the place we were headed to was too crowded, we drove up and over to the back side of the hill. This seemed particularly stupid to me because the folks on the other side were shooting semi-automatic weapons into the hill. I knew they couldn’t go through the earth, but I wondered if someone might shoot into the air and kill us with a falling bullet.
The thought didn’t stay with me for too long, though, because as soon as they started unloading the car, I realized I was not just there to try shooting a gun. They had amassed an arsenal for us to play with.
First up was a huge double-barrel pump shotgun. Just cocking it made me giggle. It felt like a zombie-killing weapon, and I pictured myself in the middle of “The Walking Dead.” I assumed what I thought was the appropriate position and looked through the sight at the target. I slowly and deliberately pulled the trigger. The next thing I knew, I was on my back on the ground, knocked over by the recoil. Everyone had a good laugh.
Once I finally figured out my stance, I turned out to be a really good marksman. I consistently hit the target, often smack dab in the middle. As the day wore on, I became more and more confident in my skills.
My boyfriend handed me gun after gun after gun. I shot the shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, a Glock 19 handgun and, toward the end of the day, an AR-15.
My fear of the people on the other side of the hill completely disappeared. My fear of anything disappeared. I was invincible.
If there had been a gun dealership on the way home, I would have stopped and forked over all of my money. I have never been on a high like I was after shooting those guns. It left me breathless and hyper-focused.
The boys had taken pictures and video of me shooting, and initially I couldn’t wait to post them on Facebook. I said goodbye to the group and went home to upload the images from my digital camera. The first time I watched it, I felt a rush of adrenaline. I looked so powerful, unstoppable … badass. But by the time I got to the end of the album, there was an unease.
I started to feel a little sick. I certainly felt a little embarrassed. How stupid could I be? I had knowingly participated in an activity where the chances of something bad happening were high, and the “something bad” would have been devastating. I thought about the men on the other side of the hill shooting in our direction, and I did some googling. Turns out a stray bullet shot up in the air that made its way over the hill could have been lethal.
Finally, I had to reckon with my own vulnerabilities. I was so horrified to think of how susceptible I had been to something that I was morally against when I woke up that morning. It was so easy. It was so fun. I was such a sucker.
Here’s the truth: Shooting big, loud guns is fun. And it’s a high like no other. But that is all it is. Nothing about those kinds of weapons can be justified by a need for self-defense, unless you are legitimately concerned about zombies. Guns like that exist to make people feel powerful and invincible. Weapons like that are not a necessity.
I haven’t looked at those pictures and videos again. I learned a lot about myself that day. But I also came away from the experience with an ever-firm belief that no one should have let me have those guns. No one should have those guns. No one needs those guns.
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