The first thing I noticed when our car pulled up to the shooting range was the noise. I knew that guns were loud, but it’s one of those things that you have to experience to fully understand. It took two layers of ear protection for me to stand comfortably next to a gun being fired.
Last semester, I had my first experience shooting guns. An old family friend and gun aficionado invited me. He brought a selection of guns for me to try, including handguns, shotguns, and rifles. I was excited to try my hand at shooting, as I suspected it might actually be fun, even though nobody in Mill Valley ever said so, because guns are taboo in liberal communities. Despite my excitement, however, I couldn’t deny that the idea of pulling the trigger of a real gun with a real bullet was slightly terrifying.
I started with the handguns because they were small, had minimal kickback, and are frequently used in spy movies. It took me several minutes of pointing the gun at the target to shoot it. After that momentous first step, it took half an hour before I could shoot more than one bullet in a row without immediately putting the safety on and stepping away afterward. Once I got used to the recoil, and subsequent adrenaline rush that came with pulling the trigger, I got more comfortable. Soon, I could shoot a whole magazine of bullets without a break. I shot four handguns, two shotguns, and a rifle, and I left the range with my suspicions confirmed: guns are fun.
Now that everybody who will never accept that premise has put down this article in disgust, it’s time to talk about guns in society. It’s hard to deny that something needs to be done about gun control, and because the gun debate is so often a political one, here is my political background: I am a hard-core liberal feminist. I believe that gun control laws should be strict and require background checks and waiting periods, and despite reading the Second Amendment, I believe that owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right. That description sounds like it could describe many people in our famously progressive and liberal town, but as I have talked to more and more people about guns, I have found that, despite our similar ideals, many people who live here want to ban guns entirely, which I find to be a laughable concept
The problem is that many expect reality to fall in line with a simple “if, then” ideal. If we get rid of guns, then guns will stop hurting people, so the next step is to ban guns. While I agree that if civilians didn’t own guns, gun-related homicides would disappear, I have bad news for these gun-banning crusaders: the gun genie has been let out of the bottle, and no amount of laws are ever going to be able to put him (or her) away entirely. According to the Pew Research Center, over one-third of Americans reported that they, or someone in their home, owned a gun. They also found that there are between 270 and 310 million guns in the U.S., which is close to one gun for every person in this country.
Guns are everywhere. And so the question should be how to deal with guns in society, not how to remove them from it. Politicians and regular citizens who are fighting to ban guns are doing more harm than good, because guns will not go away in the foreseeable future. While people are trying to make the impossible happen, they are wasting time and political capital that could be used to pass more moderate laws that solve a lot of the problems that banning guns would.
And honestly, the gun debate shouldn’t always be political. Guns are tools, and the choice to use them responsibly, or at all, is a personal one. My motives to go shooting came from a place of curiosity and self-education. I would encourage others with similar inclinations to find a way to experience guns for themselves, if not for enjoyment, then for the sake of safety.
I hate the NRA’s argument that “the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” That statement is presumptuous and manipulative because there a million scenarios where guns may or may not help you or hurt you, and life is not predictable enough to be summed up in one sentence. But, unfortunately, there is a layer of truth to the idea that knowing how to use a gun could help you. Ask yourself this: If, god forbid, you were in a situation where you could use a gun to significantly increase your chance of survival, would you rather have shot a gun before, or never touched one? I know what my answer is.