You can know anything. It's all there. You just have to find it.

-Neil Gaiman


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Way of the Gun

I haven't written lately.

And lately I don't really know what to say, at least nothing illuminating that hasn't been said before.

I guess I will leave that to the blowhards and pundits and other self-righteous, shit-house rat crazies who think they have the answer to all your problems.

I don't.

I only have a few.

And some personal stories.  One that happened when I was a kid, and one that happened last year.

When I was a kid we would go "up north" in Wisconsin for Thanksgiving, to visit my mom's side of aunts and uncles and cousins.  Her aunt and uncle had a dairy farm and for Thanksgiving dinner there would be about twenty adults and probably the same number of kids screaming and running around the house.

It was probably more like a dozen, but it was a lot.

As "city kids" we enjoyed hanging out with our wild redneck second cousins, playing in the barn and hooking up sleds to the back of three-wheelers (now illegal and we totally know why because we tipped them over) and racing around the cow pasture.  It was like tubing except instead of a boat and raft, you had a ATV and a shitty plastic sled.

For those who haven't the pleasure, you really don't want to be pulled twenty miles an hour on a sled and hit a frozen cow turd.

For real.

Those snow pants only give you so much cushioning.

The other past-time up north was hunting.  Deer hunting.

And my dad was the only male relative in the bunch who didn't deer hunt, who didn't own blaze orange gear or a gutting knife or any kind of gun.

So he sat in the living room and watched football while the ladies cooked in the kitchen and the men went out in sub-freezing weather to go and wander around the woods looking for the big buck.

Well, as a kid of around eight, I was all interested in "hunting".  I wanted to know what went on "out there" in the woods and so one year I begged and begged to go.

Did I mention I sobbed when Bambi's mother got killed?

I knew they were hunting deer and shooting them and gutting them and whatnot, but in my kid brain it was a very abstract thing.  I had never seen it happen.  I had only see the end results.  And mince meat pie.  Mince meat pie is gross.

My mom of course said, "Jesus Christ, no you can't!"

But I kept begging.  Then she let me go with my great uncle Ronnie who was an experienced hunter and a Korean war vet.

Then my mom dressed me up.  I still remember her wrapping a bright orange scarf around my face because it was so cold outside.  I looked like Randy from a Christmas story, except I was head to toe blaze orange.  I was so brightly dressed I looked radioactive.  I could probably be seen by a space satellite.

So then I waddled off into the woods with Uncle Ronnie.

And here's what happened.


It was so boring.  And freezing cold.  My feet were numb.  My toes were numb.  I couldn't feel my face.  My uncle showed me some deer tracks and I nodded and then the snot in my scarf froze to my upper lip, making a tasty snotsicle that I slurped on each time I tried to breathe through my scarf.

Hunting was boring as shit.

Way worse than actually hitting frozen cowpie with your sled.

When I got home and undressed and curled up on the couch with a hot cup of cocoa, I realized that my dad, who was reading in book in the recliner and snacking on mixed nuts, was an amazingly smart person.

Now I realize that hunting is a useful skill and blah, blah, blah, but that eight year-old experience was the one that made an impression.  This is the same reason I think fishing is boring.

Because it is.

The second story happened last winter, when I ordered a "Hand Gun Experience" from Living Social.

Nice, right.

I am not pro or anti-gun. I would never own one or keep one in my house.  (I prefer knives and samurai swords and baseball bats, which are so much more personal).

But I did want to know how to use one.  In case I ever needed to.  Because of the zombies.  Or the gubb'mint.  I could imagine a situation where it would be useful to know.

But I don't feel comfortable around hand guns.  Because they are only made for one thing.

Killing people.

A hand gun's reason for being is not hunting.  It's not meant to be a doorstop or a paperweight or a useful tools to open cans.

It's one singular defining reason for existence, the only thing it was made for, is to kill another human being.

That is all.

And don't let anyone tell you different.

People will say it's for defense.  To keep away and frighten intruders.  No.  It's not.
Karate is for defense.
And a security system is to keep away intruders.
Or a large dog.

A hand gun is for.... wait for it - Killing. A. Human. Being.

Now, I'm not some tree hugging bleeding heart liberal, but I do like trees.

I just like to be clear about what I mean.  I'm not saying it's wrong to own a handgun (I know people who do), but that is what the weapon is for, so there is no point in pretending it isn't.

There is a reason why the targets at the shooting range are body outlines.

Which brings me to my "hand gun experience".

The short version.  I sucked at it and then got a little better at the end.

But here is the long version.

We went and made an appointment at the Gander Mountain Academy for the 45 minute session.  We showed up and watched a video and signed a waiver and then our first instructor took us to the Virtual Range.  We had 9mm that had a CO2 cartridge, which got us used to the weight and feel of what a real gun felt like and how to properly load and aim and fire.

What I think most people are surprised at (I was) was how heavy a gun is and how loud they are.  My arms were shaky and even though I knew it was a fake, I felt very anxious about holding it in my hand.

One of the things I heard over and over was this:

Do not point a gun at anything you do not wish to destroy.

The instructor asked me how I was doing.  I was having trouble focusing on the target and I wasn't sure if I should close one eye and she said yes.

I did and got a bit more accurate.

She said,  "You're doing good!"

I set the gun down and said, "I don't feel comfortable holding it."  My hand was trembling when I set it down.

Then we moved into the virtual target room, a 180 degree wall of simulations.  Some targets and then some in various dangerous scenarios.

I was okay in the target shooting.  Matt was actually very good.

Then came the "real" situations.  Some people coming out of door and hallways and start shooting at you, and some don't.  You are only supposed to shoot the bad guys.  Some times it was hard to tell.

I aced this.  But I shot pretty much everyone in the stomach.

Matt shot everyone.  Everyone.  Even the unarmed janitor.  And he shot them all in the head.  He grew up watching a lot of Clint Eastwood movies.  I said, "Man, you will come in handy during the zombie apocalypse."

Then we went to the live firing range.  I watched behind the glass for a while before it was my turn.  Here is what I'll say. There were all types of people in there.  Old.  Young.  Guys.  Women.  People who look like they are working for the mafia, and little old ladies you see at the pharmacy.  You just cannot tell.

Matt went first and he did pretty well.  Like, I said: A born zombie-killer.

When I went I remember several things.  The head set, and double doors I had to walk through.  My God, it was loud in there.

Then I remember all the shiny brass casings littering the floor, so many you could slip and fall on them.  And maybe startle someone who would turn around and accidentally shoot you.

So I walk carefully down to the end where instructor Dave was waiting.

He yells, "Hi!"

I nod and feel like a dumbass.

"This is your Glock 9mm!  Okay?  Load it for me!"

I do and feel a little shaky and sweaty.  It's hard to concentrate with the noise.  I have trouble and try to remember the proper placement of my hands and fingers.  I feel like I'm dismantling a bomb, which I guess is an appropriate analogy.  I just don't feel good holding it.  It is also weird to have someone stare at me while I do it.  For one stupid moment I realize I would have more confidence doing open heart surgery than trying to load a gun.  And I have absolutely no medical training.

I finally do it and hold it up and check my stance.  My shoulders and arms ache after all the practice and this real gun is heavier than the fake.

I relax and try to aim.  I was supposed to fire 9 rounds, reload, and then fire 9 more.

I squeeze the trigger, remembering something my brother said to me once when he had to do this for his training.

Pulling the trigger should always surprise you.

Which I think means that you should be focused more on your aim and when you finally squeeze the trigger and hear the gun go off it will surprise you.  When you are expecting the recoil you tend to overcompensate and miss the target.

My first shot was over the shoulder.

So was my second.

I was anticipating.

I stopped and took a breath and aimed.

The rest all went in the body.

I finished and put the gun down and caught my hand shaking again.

We both got to keep our paper targets as a souvenir.

When we get home I threw mine away.

So what was the point of this story?

That, at the very barest of bare minimums, anyone who wants to own a gun should have to take a class like this.  More realistically they should have to go through several hours of certification, and that you shouldn't be able to just walk up and slap down a credit card and buy a semi-automatic weapon.  Ever.

And that weapons like an AR-15 are a soldier's weapon of war.  Period.  They have no business being owned by private citizens, and if they are, you better have a damn good reason to own it.

And while there will always be crazy people doing crazy things, that we, as a society, can still try to make it REALLY DIFFICULT for those people to succeed in ruining other people's lives.

So do we need some tougher gun control laws?

Hell, yes.  We do.

That is my point.

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