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Saturday, March 7, 2020

The First Day I Shot A Gun. Was It My Last?

Person Holding Black Revolver in Bokeh Photography

It occurred to me just before I pulled the trigger that I held a tool of death in my hands, that what I was about to do would be the same act that millions have taken before me, that the power to kill was one quick release of my finger moving a half-inch.

It was a surreal moment.

The 29-cent bullet, fired out of a Glock 19 black hand gun went right to the red spot on the paper target some 15 feet away.

A sense of relief came upon me. I didn’t lose control of the gun. It didn’t kick back. I didn’t miss the target. No one got hurt. It almost seemed natural, though it went against everything that I believe in.

But no one forced me here.  How did I get here?  Who am I?

I was at a shooting range in Delray Beach, Florida. I’d never been to one. I guess I was always curious. Sadly, I treated a weapon of destruction, crime, and war (but also one of law enforcement and defense) as a toy.  I went with my 15-year old son, two New York liberals, to see how the other half lives.  It was an interesting experience, for sure.

My son, not old enough to drink, smoke, drive or do most of anything, was handed a gun. No background check. No questions asked.  We paid for a lesson but no one made us get one. We could have just said we wanted one of the machine-gun looking assault weapons hanging on the wall, ordered some ammo, and gone shooting. That’s a scary notion.

The place looked like a jewelry store on one half, with at least 500-600 guns of all sizes and power displayed in glass cases and protected by about eight workers, each packing heat. On the other side was a door, actually a double door, that leads you to the actual firing range.

It’s a bunch of lanes, three to four feet wide each, like a bowling alley. Only you aim a gun at a target instead of tossing a heavy ball down a wooden path.

You wear headsets that block out most of the noise but you feel the vibration of the fellow shooters while smoke fills the air non-stop and shell casings spray into the air, sometimes hitting against your goggled face.  The shells fill the floor like cracked peanuts at a ballpark.

Though it’s very loud even with the headphones on, if my son and I shout to each other, we can hear what we are saying.  But you feel a little under water, swimming through the gun-powdered fragrance in the air.

We ended up polishing off a box of 50 rounds each, saving one bullet for each of us as a memento. I scooped up some shell casings too. We also recovered our target posters.

I am for gun control.
I am generally anti-war.
I’ll never go hunting.
I believe we need more gun safety measures.
The world is too violent and guns are an easy, cheap way to destroy many lives.

So what the hell was I doing there?

Some things, even what you despise, need to be experienced. But I did no harm. We didn’t hurt anyone. I didn’t register for the NRA. My views still have not changed. But for an hour, we did make guns acceptable in our lives. I don’t feel regret but I also don’t feel proud.

I’m turning 53. Why did I wait this long to go to a shooting range? Would I go back?

I don’t know.

But I do see that a shooting range is not much different than parasailing, or some other activity that one normally doesn’t do. The range may actually be a safer place. Some people get hurt on motor boats, skiing, or skateboarding. This place actually puts safety first and makes you think about what you are doing.

Is this just an outgrowth of when, as a kid, I had a water gun, then a cap gun, and later a BB gun?  I was just role-playing, holding a prop in a fantasy, right?  Or was I practicing and training for some unforeseen day when I have to pick up a gun and aim it at someone looking to do me harm? Is the shooting range a mere gateway to a much more dangerous activity?

As a writer, I like to dream and live in a world of make believe, what could have been what should have been, what might been, and what shall be. Somehow the gun range felt like an extension of the world in my mind, and yet I know in my heart that was a physical, real, and tangible act that could put me one step closer to a more perilous situation.

Do we, as writers, in some way, glorify violence? Many books feature shootings, from war stories to crime fights to suicides. Does writing about these things somehow contribute to our gun culture – or does it help mollify it?

As you can see, this event challenges me and stirs internal debate, but I’m left feeling okay with my actions. On a cartoon-like sports level, all I did was aim at a target. But on a deeper, more probing level, I question if I crossed a line to where those that I fear or despise reside.

I can still feel the rattling percussion of guns being fired off to my left and right while I tried to focus on a target.

Were some people there like me, for sport?  A novelty? Or were some there because they are gun nuts, perhaps criminals or overly aggressive people who have guns all over the house, readying themselves for an invasion? Were they survivalists and anarchists? Were they gangsters? Or perhaps former soldiers and law officers who miss the feeling of a fired gun in their hands?

The old adage is “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” But mass death is not possible without guns and the world has way too many guns.

I don’t know how to end this post because I’m not sure what this event left me with.  Usually I have a viewpoint to express, to lobby for, but I find myself writing sideways, filled with doubts, ambivalence, even surprise. But no focused answers. No certainties. It was just something that I did, something I’ll never forget, and thankfully something harmless that I can just walk away from.

And yet, it wasn’t nothing. It was something. It was a step closer to all that I rail against.

Did I set a bad impressionable example for my son? Is he mature enough to understand gun violence or will this open him up to being more acceptable of guns? Time will tell. That chapter has not yet been written. But I guess my actions could have triggered his future relationship with guns.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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