To those who grew up hunting and shooting, or were converted to gunnie-ship, guns are useful tools, or perhaps an enjoyable hobby, or perhaps links to our past that should be treasured as some people lovingly maintain classic cars. To those who grew up in a liberal family, guns are dangerous weapons that cause untold injuries and death every year, that bring blood and destruction, and that are only loved by odd folk at best, and ignorant rednecks at worst. The former are scornful of nanny-state regulations and prohibitions, while the latter genuinely believe that fewer guns would lead to less crime and tragedy and try to behave and legislate accordingly.
Allow me to try and bridge the gap.
At the Sooper Seekrit Blogger Meet, Greet and Skeet (organized by Jay G), I was the only novice shooter. Let me say that once again: I was the ONLY novice there. Every single other participant brought his/her own gun. Almost every other participant brought more than one gun (I think it WAS everyone, but I’m leaving it open just in case). Most folks brought at least three or four, and some brought COLLECTIONS, y’all. Looking at this prospective meet from a liberal mindset, one would assume that this meet would consist of swaggering men swigging beer while discharging their guns and laughing uproariously. Perhaps one man would take Lissa aside to show the little lady how to shoot a pistol, allowing the others to carouse and caper about whilst blasting holes in targets, wildlife, and potentially, each other.
Um, that’s not how it goes.
A bit of background: I come from a liberal family. They range in opinion and political spectrum from my sister, who is far smarter than I am and likes John Stossel, to my mother, who belongs to the Green Party and thinks that one country is never justified in invading another. (Including our invading Germany in WWII; I asked.) Folks, these are good people. They are intelligent people. They find it hard to understand why I no longer see the world the way they do, and I’m very bad at explaining it; they love me and so we just don’t talk politics very much at the family get-togethers. These are not — repeat NOT — stupid people. And yet I am sure some of them would envision our Meet ‘n’ Greet in roughly the terms I described above. They would be wrong.
The Four Rules (as I remember them; wording differs):
1. All guns are always loaded all the time.
2. Never let your muzzle cover anything you’re not willing to destroy.
3. Do NOT put your finger on the trigger (or inside the trigger guard) until you are ready to shoot.
4. Always be sure of your target AND what’s behind your target.
Before the shoot, I’d emailed Jay G listing these out to assure him I had them down pat. If, however, I’d temporarily forgotten any, I could easily reference the laminated poster by the range, which included these rules as well as the absolute prohibition of any alcoholic beverages before or during shooting.
To set up the range, a long rubber hose was laid down to mark the firing line. Jay G had with him a loud, shrill whistle he used for Cub Scouts; if I recall correctly, he had inherited this whistle from his father, who used it for policeman duties. EVERY SINGLE TIME people went downrange to set up, or clear away, targets, their movements were preceded by a BLAST from Jay G, who would announce, “Cold range!” Only after every person had backed away from the firing line and safed their guns could anyone cross over the firing line. Once the targets were set up and the range was ready to go, a general announcement was passed around. After every person was behind the firing line, after every person had donned ear protection and eye protection, then a BLAST from Jay G would precede the announcement, “Hot range!”
Never once did I see a person near the firing line without ear and eye protection. Never once did I see a person waving a gun around (the gunnies are laughing incredulously at the very idea). Never once was a loaded weapon pointed anywhere but downrange, in a very specific bounded area free of humans; every weapon that carried a safety had that safety engaged until the shooter stepped up to the firing line. Every single shooter there was gentlemanly (or ladylike), friendly, chivalrous, and engaging. I was there, I saw it.
Remember the part about my being the only novice? Well, guess what? This *extraordinary* behavior and these ostentatious precautions are . . . ordinary. They’re the norm for gunnies. It was not a show put on for my benefit or to protect against my inexperience, it was a mutually accepted mode of conduct to ensure that no one was harmed and everyone could have fun.
If you had tried to explain that to me ten years ago, I may have laughed in your face.
I think that, by virtue (or vice) of living in New England, gunnies have a good deal of experience interacting with anti-gunnies who think guns are dangerous and perhaps evil. In contrast, I find it hard to believe that anti-gunnies could have predicted the safety measures that are a given at a meeting such as we had yesterday. (Please note that these two terms are not mutually exclusive; there are non-gunnies who just aren’t interested in guns, without being anti-gun.)
I also imagine that anti-gunnies, and even some non-gunnies, would be horrified at some of the humor that was displayed. Let us examine one remark from yesterday; I’m hoping it will help me to bridge that afore-mentioned gap. (Please excuse the hubris, but I am going to use my own quote.)
“Every time Sarah Brady cries, an angel gets its wings.”
Now, when I said that yesterday at the Meet, I knew that it would be received favorably. People laughed appreciatively. On the other hand, I was seriously nervous about posting that line here because, to date, the only folks reading my teeny-little blog are my friends and family, most of whom are liberal, and many of whom disagree with my (relatively new) conservative viewpoint. I would not be at all surprised if someone’s immediate reaction was, “Wow, that’s incredibly cruel. To make fun of a woman whose husband was shot in the head is beyond the pale. Lissa’s my friend; I never would have thought she would stoop to something so low.” I would understand that reaction, honestly.
So why did I say it? How did I know it would be well-received? Was I just hanging out with a bunch of cruel, ignorant people? How could I *possibly* think that was funny?
The folks at the Meet were not cruel. They were not ignorant. They *do* believe that the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees their right to bear arms. They believe that no man or woman of sound mind and clear record should be denied their Constitutional right to bear arms, any more than they should be denied their right to free speech, or free religion, or free assembly. They hotly resent laws and regulations that are specifically designed to curtail this right. But they don’t go postal; they simply respond with humor. They don’t go around shooting display window TVs or puppies; they set up a range with safe rules and shoot TeleTubbies and Furbies. (And watermelons, and old computers, and gallon-bottles of water, and balloons, etc. etc.)
In their minds, Sarah Brady has made it a life crusade to deprive them and others of their Constitutional rights — a right that, for a young woman like myself, could quite possibly make the difference between life and death during an assault by a large man — and freely distorts facts to do so. Yet if the folks from yesterday met her, I bet they would be polite and courteous, even as they informed her of her numerous mistakes and incorrect information. And then they would offer to take her shooting. (Obviously, I’m both generalizing and making some assumptions here; everyone from the Meet, please feel free to pop up in the comments and correct anything I’ve gotten wrong. Such as, you wouldn’t take Sarah Brady shooting because you’re afraid she’d try to shoot you and then scream “assault!”. Just kidding. I think.)
In closing, I think gunnies know that gun control advocates are not *evil*. I am not as sure that gun control advocates think the same of gunnies. I hope this long-winded post may remind gunnies of how utterly alien their mindset and customs are to non-gunnies, and even to amateurs like myself. Likewise, I hope that non-gunnies and perhaps even anti-gunnies can catch a glimpse of what shooting is really like. And I hope that, perhaps, another noobie or two will decide to dabble in gunnery and will believe me when I say, I have tried the private range, and it was good.
UPDATE: I can haz links? Thanks go to Rattail Bastard, JD and of course Jay G