Escape your life for a little while — come play in mine.

Fresh eyes at a private range (a long post, be forewarned)

Posted by Lissa on July 21, 2008

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

24 Responses to “Fresh eyes at a private range (a long post, be forewarned)”

  1. Lissa-

    I’m a bit stunned at the insight you’ve shown in your essay (bit more than a blog entry, no?).

    I haven’t read your blog before our meeting yesterday, but I can honestly say that your writing tonight just about brought a damp eyeball or two. I think you have captured the essence of what we’re about, & let me tell you, I would not have thought it was possible for a person of your experience in gunnie matters, ESPECIALLY with the “liberal” background, to accomplish that much acumen in one day of camaraderie.

    Deb mentioned to me that she thought it somewhat brave of you to go to a place you did not know, to meet people you have not met, whom you know to have firearms in their possession. It is brave, or perhaps foolhardy some might say, but by taking that step you’ve found a whole new group of people that welcomed you into their fold, no questions asked. We all tried to help you in your desire to learn, without ridicule, & with a healthy dose of fun, as well.

    You’ve got a smart noggin on your shoulders young lady; you have just performed a great service to the gun folk community, & I (& the Mrs.) thank you.

    Y’all come back now, y’hear? //redneck hillbilly off//

  2. Breda said

    Every single shooter there was gentlemanly (or ladylike), friendly, chivalrous, and engaging.

    That has always been my experience too – and it is common in every cultural and racial group. Gunnies are good people.

    I’m kind of new to this whole thing too, Lissa. I’m a recently recovered Democrat and only got into shooting 2 years ago. It’s a wonderful new world, full of smart, kind generous people. I’m very thankful.

  3. Jeff said

    Excellent post. Welcome to the community. I’m not sure where you live, but I think I saw mention of it being in Massachusetts. If you’d like to go shooting again or need some help navigating the minefield of MA gun laws, I’m happy to help. I hadn’t read your blog until I met you, but I read your archives today, and added you to my feed reader. I look forward to more new posts.

  4. sailorcurt said

    One thing about the rabid anti-gunnies (like Sarah Brady) that I (I’m not going to speak for the entire gun owning community) personally despise is the fact that they often know better. They intentionally use misleading terms in an effort to confuse the less knowledgeable, they cite incorrect statistics that they well know have been thoroughly debunked. The change the names of their organizations in an effort to mask their true agendas. I could go on and on but this would turn into a rant.

    I have personally met several rabid anti-gunnies and I have always been and always will be polite and considerate…but I find it hard to believe that those who stoop to such tactics have our best interests at heart. I believe that many of them have an agenda that they are determined to see through regardless of whether that agenda is the best course or not. It’s not about guns. It’s about control.

    The bad thing about pro-gunnies is that we have a tendency to get very defensive very quickly and sometimes lump the less knowledgeable, but well meaning people in with those who know better. We need to realize that anti-gunnies aren’t necessarily the enemies of freedom and the American Way of Life…but may just not have all the information they need to make an informed decision.

    As you said…that’s where you can help bridge the gap. I would urge your anti-gun friends and family members not to just accept what “conventional wisdom” tells them and recite the talking points of the Brady Campaign and VPC, but to look into the other side of the story as well. To read some of the studies and writings of such people as Gary Kleck, Don Kates, David Kopel, Clayton Cramer, et. al. Balance the information they get there against the talking points of the Brady’s and the VPC and at least have a good understanding of the issues at hand, rather than a one-sided misunderstanding.

    Finally, even if they don’t want to shoot, urge them to go to a shoot with you to meet people and get a feel for what goes on. They will probably be very surprised.

    Anyway, I’m sounding preachy and I didn’t intend to. Thank you for an excellent essay and an honest assessment of the issues. I’ll be looking forward to future posts. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to meet at some gunblogger event or another.

  5. Jay G said

    A simply wonderful, and powerful, piece, Lissa.

    Many of the attendees commented on variations of your theme; that with all those people and all those guns present at the Bloggershoot, not a single person was hurt. Nobody got shot over parking lot disputes. Blood did not run in the streets despite the fact that roughly half of the participants were openly carrying firearms.

    One might be tempted to think that it is the person, rather than the tool, who defines how the tool will be used. But our enlightened friends who believe in gun control know that’s wrong – they see the gun as the be-all, end-all evil.

    Because once you admit that the gun is a chunk of metal and wood (or plastic, like the AR-15 you were shooting), it stops being a magic talisman capable of raining death and destruction and reverts to being a tool; an invention of man to be used by man against his fellow man.

    And nothing else.

    Someone who cannot be trusted with a firearm should not be trusted with an automobile. Or a chainsaw. Or a set of sharp kitchen knives, for that matter.

    And yet there’s no group called “Stop Chainsaw Violence” or “Butcher Knife Control, Inc.”. Anti-gun folk impart a powerful, mystical quality to firearms that can only be broken by exposure to the object; and you have documented that break perfectly.


  6. totwtytr said

    Terrific post, Lissa. Everyone there was instinctively employing safe technique in handling and shooting their firearms. To me it was second nature, as I’m sure it was to everyone else. Safety was the overriding theme of the day.

    You didn’t bring a gun, you didn’t bring ammunition, but you DID bring delicious cookies! 🙂 More importantly you brought a fresh perspective.

  7. Liberty said

    Wow, Lissa. Well said and bravo! Amazing we had all those people and all those guns, yet no moonshine, confederate flags, white hoods, or anything else the anti-gunners so closely associate with their stereotype of your average shooting caveman.

    Thanks for an excellent, eloquent round-up from a very interesting perspective!

    And by the way … the cookies were awesome!

  8. […] I took our first shots with a fully automatic weapon just a few minutes apart at the blogger shoot. Read her amazing perspective of the day. She gets […]

  9. dr mac said


    I would join in on the accolades but I would not want your head to swell up like a …. balloon ? Heh, heh.

    Your thinking reminds me of my “gun toting wife” who was very much the libersl, democrat when I first met her. You traveled in one day what took her several years. She is still a feminist, but now she is a women who can defend herself against any assailant. All it took was education, and my wife is very intelligent.

    Again, applause for your efforts to open your mind and compare reality on your own terms. If you ever get across the bridges to the Cape I hope you’ll let us know.

    Take care,

    dr mac

    PS- submitted without spellcheck

  10. Ted said

    Lissa, I must confess that I didn’t bring any boomsticks, either. Long story, but we’re still gun-less.

    I did bring the Teletubby, so that’s something. 😉

  11. john b said

    I’m sorry Lissa, I have to strongly disagree with you.
    Gun Control advocates are ALL evil.
    Some are Conscience of their deliberate evil.
    Charles Schumer for example.
    He wishes to make the whole world like NYC.
    Some act unconscious of the consequences of their actions.
    They actually think that stupid sign will make a criminal disarm.
    They are either evil.
    or stupid.
    I don’t have time for either.

  12. Bruce said

    Great post, Lissa.

    I’d just like to expand on what John B. wrote above.

    Those who actively strive to deprive us of our right to arms are evil. Anyone who would use force, be it physical force or coercion under the color of law, to strip another of the right to self-defense is not worthy, in my playbook, of wearing the appellation “fellow human being”.

    The one’s who I would describe as being “not evil” are the ones who follow out of ignorance or blind allegiance to a political party. These are the kind of people who support the “assault weapon” ban because all they know about it is the intentionally misleading information disseminated by the bill’s backers.

    Peel away the veneer of ignorance, and you’ll find a lot of decent, intelligent people underneath. On the other hand, peel away the veneer of evil from the aforementioned evil ones, and…well…let’s just say evil goes to the bone.

    – Bruce

  13. MarkHB said

    What a heartwarming, rational post. Great to read!

    The Munchkin Wrangler and his then-roomie Tam were responsible for my first civillian “go” on an automatic weapon. Couldn’t’ve gotten that grin off my face with a crowbar. Nothing makes a range-visit like going in the right company.

  14. Arcticelf said

    Very well put. Its always nice to hear from new shooters that we (gunnies) didn’t scare them off.


  15. lookingforlissa said

    Thank you, everyone 🙂

  16. dr mac said

    No ma’am. Thank you.

  17. […] on July 28, 2008 My god, you must be thinking, Lissa wrote REAMS, entire virtual LIBRARIES about her experience at the Second (sort of) Annual Northeast Bloggershoot.  Surely she can’t milk yet another post out of it.  To which I respond, “O ye of […]

  18. […] coming; welcome, everyone!  If you liked my “mindset” posts, you might want to check this one; also, I give credit-where-credit-is-due to my family here Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

  19. […] even we have a limit to all things (mostly our budget) and having made Sarah Brady cry in excess (Wait til she sees what I’m picking up tomorrow, she’ll want to slit her […]

  20. […] & Shootin’ Spectacular, yippee!  VERY MUCH looking forward to it; I had a blast last year, and that’s when there still existed the remote possibility that I was going to meet a bunch […]

  21. […] you haven’t already read my post about last year’s bloggershoot, you really should hit that first.  I detailed my amazement with the careful rules and safe […]

  22. spiderbite said

    The most polite place I have ever been or you will ever go is a gun show in the South. Most folks up here don’t get that. I believe you just did. It would be just like that except with beef jerky and funny accents.

  23. […] by Lissa on August 5, 2010 Remember this post?  And this […]

  24. […] (The title is a riff off one of my more popular posts, Fresh eyes at a private range.) […]

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