Holding and Firing a Gun for the First Time

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Do one thing that scares you each day." On Sunday, I did something which scared me. I went to a shooting range, held a gun for the first time, and fired it about a dozen times.

People talk about being desensitized to violence thanks to the news media and TV shows like 24. Yeah, right. I’ve seen a lot of shooting and gore second-hand but it didn’t prepare me for the shivers I felt when someone in the lane next to us took out some super duper gun ("Magnum" something) which shot out an an orange ball and made the whole building tremble. (It reminded me of wandering down the back alleys of Kunming, China, or any street in India — I thought I was prepared for the poverty, but I wasn’t.)Benshooting

I went to the range with my friend Kai Chang, a gun enthusiast in the Bay Area who was visiting Colorado. Kai was exceedingly kind and generous in describing the mechanics of guns, the shooting subculture in America, safety procedures, and the like.

I aimed at a target about 15-20 feet away. The first time I fired the gun, my arm jerked back in a kind of unconscious shock. Didn’t take long to normalize the reaction. After all, it’s not a hard procedure — load the gun with ammo, pull back some lever, then pull the trigger.

The two employees of the range were stereotypical: both were wearing "USA" shirts and hats and one made a snide, proactive remark about gun control. An American flag hung in the back. Why is it that these kind of people are also excessively patriotic?

When all was said and done, I was happy to learn about how to hold, load, and shoot a gun (who knows when I’ll need that skill), but still miffed at how this "sport" is supposed to be a "recreation". Clearly, it is, and I totally respect someone’s right to pursue it.

Thanks very much Kai for bringing me along and introducing me to this fascinating sub-culture of America! And for a great dinner and six hours of conversation!

7 comments on “Holding and Firing a Gun for the First Time
  • Firing a gun is something that everyone should do at least once in their life, in a controlled environment of course.

    The immense power you feel when you hold a small piece of metal in your hands is very strange.

    Worth doing.

  • I live in the midst of hunting country, in a town called, of all things, Rifle. As a vegetarian whose ancestors settled this town (I have many photographs of the results of their hunting prowess), I like to say that I come from a long line of meat-eaters. Hunters, hunting, guns, target shooting–it’s all around me. It’s often overwhelming, especially during hunting season, but it’s very different from shooting handguns at humans in cities or shooting assault weapons at Columbine. My dad quit hunting when I was a kid because my brother is extremely allergic to deer. I’ve always been glad that he did. He kept his rifle, though, in case, as he put it, the Russians invaded. After he died, I gave the rifle and the bullets to my brother, so my house is gun-free. I wouldn’t be able to protect myself against those pesky Russians anyway.

  • This is something I have always wanted to do – I have never wanted to be intimidated by guns. I wanted to be the “owner” of any relationship between me and a firearm. Thanks for sharing your experience. I am even more inspired now.

  • I have had a similar plan in mind as guns have always been a sort of morbid curiousity of mine (they were an obvious taboo in my left wing, vegetarian upbringing) and it seems weird to be completely out of touch with something that is such an important right for so much of our country.

  • Ben,
    First off guns are not violence, violence is violence. And I do not agree with having to harm another person, ever. I am glad you took it upon your self to practice something that fortified us as US citizens. This is our right and privilege.

    This is all based around our conditioning. I have grown up around the tools that will make me a well rounded member of the USA, part of that conditioning, in my family, was gun use and respect. Guns are not morbid; a morbid person carrying a gun is morbid.

    I would encourage you to go “skeet“ shooting, that is fun! If you are interested I would love to host a “skeet” outing in Washington State. Do you think everyone should understand gun use, maintenance, and operation from your recent experience?


    Thanks Jude, that was a great response, from your experience.

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