That Time I Learned How to Fire a Gun

I’d always been interested in spending some time at the target range upon hearing some of my friends talk about it. Guns are glamorized in popular media, with characters like Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, Alice and Jill Valentine from Resident Evil, and Maya Lewis from Scandal making them seem sexy. On the polar opposite end, in a culture where blatant violence against innocent bystanders is becoming more prevalent, the idea of being armed seemed like a sound precaution to protect both my growing family and me. My husband and I talked it over, and he surprised me with a concealed carry class admission at Gainesville Target Range as a Christmas present.

Our instructor for the day was a previous cop who now does competitive shooting as a hobby. The number one most important and crucial thing he stressed was gun safety. He gave us explicit instructions on how to handle the guns before we went through practice runs to load and make ready as well as unloading and clearing. He also talked to us quite a bit about laws concerning gun usage, where civilians are permitted to carry guns, how to travel with guns and ammunition, and when shooting a person can be argued as justifiable in court. Being that I live in the state of Florida now, my mind immediately jumped to the Trayvon Martin shooting, which we discussed a bit in class. In order to justify shooting and killing a person as a civilian, one must follow AOJ – ability, opportunity, and jeopardy. Ability refers to whether or not the person is able to harm you. If they’re significantly bigger than you are, or they are armed and you are not (at the time), that qualifies as ability. They have the power to cause you harm. Opportunity refers to whether or not the person has a chance to harm you. A large person carrying a weapon 50 yards away from you does not have much opportunity to harm you. A large person standing a foot away from you brandishing a weapon does. Jeopardy refers to whether or not the person clarifies through actions or words their intent to cause you harm and/or kill you. A person simply walking around with a gun in plain sight has not placed anyone in jeopardy. If they point that gun at someone, they have.

Florida catches a bad rap because of the “Stand Your Ground” law, which many people (including lawmakers) describe as granting carte blanche to people to shoot whomever they choose, even when all areas of AOJ are not satisfied. This is the excuse that many of us were told for why George Zimmerman was acquitted. Actually, the Stand Your Ground law was not applicable for Zimmerman’s trial, as this law states that a person is not required to retreat from any place he or she has a right to be in legally, such as a home, a place of work, or places of commerce. Zimmerman walked out of his home to where Trayvon was, (which in my opinion makes him a dumbass who deserved whatever “pummeling” he got from 16 year old Trayvon) which makes the Stand Your Ground law irrelevant. Evidence in that case showed Zimmerman’s blood on the sidewalk and lacerations to the back of his head, satisfying all areas of AOJ, making Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon justifiable. I didn’t know any of this stuff before I saw these sections of the law broken down. My feelings on this trial haven’t changed, though. Zimmerman should’ve received a second-degree murder charge at least, but I’m not here to discuss that.

Once we finished with the textbook portion of the class, we started practicing loading and unloading the guns, which were 45mm glock pistols. This was challenging because of the safety precautions that I wasn’t used to having to practice. Always point the gun in a safe direction. Index finger on the frame, not the trigger. NEVER, place your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Place hands and palms in safe spots on the gun. Don’t let your hand pass in front of the gun, even while just loading. Remember the live round. Remember the live round. REMEMBER. THE LIVE. ROUND.

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Rotate palm from base of cartridge to the slide…

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Index finger on the frame until ready to shoot. (TMNT apparel optional)

After we learned to load and unload our guns, we put on gear and went to the range…

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Eye and ear protection.

Being on the range was a sensory overload for me. Guns are loud. They pierce your eardrums and your target. They can be difficult to load. They have recoil. It’s not a sport for the jumpy. However, once you get over the sound of pops happening all around you, and you start to focus a bit on not flinching and nailing your sight alignment, it’s kind of cool.

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My obliterated target. I was a little bummed that I kept missing the X, but my instructor said I had good groups, meaning my shots hit the same spot consecutively. You wouldn’t believe what all goes in to being that steady.

We plan to get licenses for concealed carry, and will likely return to the range to shoot again. I didn’t feel like a powerful goddess or a badass while shooting – on the contrary, I felt very vulnerable while doing so. Once we purchase a gun, I won’t be using it to intimidate my landlord or neighbors, but rather I will store it in a locked case in my closet up high where my child can’t reach it, and hopefully only take it out to shoot at the range. In the event that an intruder should enter my home, I will use it as necessary to protect myself and my loved ones. I pray that I never have to, though. Shooting a person, and potentially taking a life, is a huge burden to carry, and I’d prefer not to ever have to.

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