I’ve now had two experiences with guns in my life.

Experience One
I was maybe ten or eleven years old. Our parents were out-of-town for the day and my older brother, Greg, then 18 or so, and I were home alone. Our house was surrounded by woods and beyond the woods were pastures where cows, bulls, and horses grazed. Being a pre-teen girl, I was sitting on the kitchen counter, rapt in conversation on the phone with my best friend. That’s usually what I was doing in those days. Greg went outside and noticed that a cow had wandered into our yard from one of the neighboring pastures. He decided it would be a good idea to use our grandfather’s antique shotgun to scare away the cow. He loaded the gun, shot it, and nothing happened. He let the gun drop to his side. It was then the bullet shot out, entering his right foot, ricocheting off his bone, exiting his right foot, and entering his left.

I remember hearing a loud noise and wondering what it was. I had not seen Greg go outside with the gun. I kept talking on the phone. He came to the screen door, saying he had shot himself. As a typical older brother, Greg was always playing practical jokes on me. I ignored him, thinking it was a ploy to get me off the phone. He opened the door and stumbled in, a river of blood rushing over the kitchen floor. What happened next was a blur. We must have called 911. We must have applied pressure to his feet, or maybe elevated them. Somehow Greg ended up at the hospital and I ended up at a neighbor’s.

Guns = rivers of blood.

Experience Two
A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned he wanted to take a gun safety class.This appealed to me. This would be a way for me to face my fears about guns. He made the reservations and I didn’t really think about it any more until we were driving down to Jackson Arms on Saturday afternoon. We were both a little nervous, and a little excited, not sure what to expect. The gun safety class was much briefer than I expected. Main takeaway – always point the gun down range and never at people. After a few minutes, we were being given safety glasses, ear phones, and heading into the shooting range. As I walked in, I was overcome by the smell of burning gunpowder, and the heat of the guns meeting the cool of the air conditioning. And the noise. Holy cow. Even with ear phones on, the shots of guns other people were firing was frightening.

Warren and I shared lane six. Lane five contained a family, evidently on a family outing. Dad was silver-haired, possibly in his late fifties. Daughter one was maybe 18 or 19 in tight yoga clothes; daughter two was maybe early 20s and in a strapless, backless jersey dress, and son appeared to be in his 20s, and on crutches. They brought their own guns in inconspicuous looking backpacks. I thought about my own family outings which often included friend chicken and visits to an apple orchard. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

I was up first. The instructor helped me load the magazine, insert it into the gun, grip the gun properly, release the safety, and shoot. So far, so good. And then. The most horrifying loud noise literally rocked me. My first instinct was to drop to the floor, but I stayed standing, though with shoulders hunched, head tucked. The instructor reminded me to breathe. Evidently those inconspicuous looking backpacks beside us contained very large, very loud guns. Much larger and louder than the .22 I was shooting. I steadied my hands and took aim. Once again, I heard the boom beside me and felt the reverberations through my body. And felt tears streaming down my cheeks. Oh, no. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. This wasn’t what I expected. I steadied myself and took aim. After a round, I pulled my target paper down so that Warren could have a chance. About 75% of the bullets had hit the bullseye.

We continued to take turns. My aim got better with each round. I continued to flinch with every shot of our neighbors. We finished our two boxes of bullets and went to the reception area. The instructor congratulated us and asked if we’d like to upgrade to a larger gun. I politely declined and mentioned to Warren I was happy to wait if he’d like to shoot some more. I think he was glad that I declined the upgrade. As he mentioned in the car, he was ready to get the hell out of there.

I continue to fear guns. And after an afternoon at the range, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

One thought on “Shoot

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