On guns, sex n' money (minus the sex and money part)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

I'd never fired a real gun before.
So when I was asked if I wanted to join a carpool to the Jackson Arms gun range, I figured it was the perfect chance to learn how to load, aim, fire, unload and blast the shit out of a paper target. Useful experience indeed, when living in a country where (according to a 2011 CBS poll*) 44% of households own at least one firearm.

The gun range itself, which resembled an indoor sports court (only with handguns and sub-machine guns for sale) was plastered with posters and t-shirts bearing pro-gun slogans:

Crime Control, not Gun Control!
I don't call 911, I call 357.
(The equivalent of saying 'why call the police when I can shoot intruders in the spine with my .357 magnum').

The debate on gun control vs gun ownership is one that polarisies Americans, and generally divides them into two firmly entrenched political camps; Democrat and Republican.
Republican voters are known to be fond of citing the second amendment of the U.S constiution:

A well-regulated militia, being neccessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

whereas Democrat voters would most likely tell you that the US constitution is outdated, that gun crime in the U.S is higher than anywhere else in the world, and that most people don't need to own guns anymore.

In a year already saturated with international military - civilian conflict, protests and demonstrations, perhaps it's admirable that Americans insist that they should be armed as insurance against their own police and military. The country's high gun-fatality rate, though, is an inevitable price.

The second amendment was lovingly written out on the wall of the gun range, but the decorations weren't solely dry, pro-gun propaganda.
The walls were also lined with paper targets, ranging from the simple man-shaped form with numbered circles, to more exotic figures - an armed bastard holding a woman hostage, a grasping, flesh-eating zombie, a killer clown holding a hatchet and a large picture Angelina Jolie.

As we lined up, registered and signed disclaimers stating that we would take responsibility for any injury or fatality incurred in the shooting lanes, a disgruntled employee barged into the room.
"There's some idiot girl on Eleven hitting the ceiling."
"Did you tell her that she'll be kicked out?"
"I told her that she'll be paying for any shit that she busts up."
One of our carpool party glanced at me and smiled lightly. He was tall, skinny, calm, bespectacled, and apparently a regular. He didn't seem the type.
"Do you do this for fun or for practice?", I asked.
"I just enjoy the shooting. I find that it's kind of a meditative process... I feel really relaxed because I'm so focused at hitting the target."
One of our party, a Southern gent with a crew cut and a haunted look in his eyes, used to be in the U.S army, and thus was showing the gun-virgins how to shoot in a small practice area. He spoke slowly and surely in a nasal Southern drawl.
"The most important thing for y'all to remember is that you always point at the target. If they see you with a gun in your hand, pointin' it sideways or toward your friends, they're gonna kick all our asses outta here.
"When you've discharged your round, you unload by releasing the cartridge. You then cock the gun, check the chamber to make sure it's empty, then place it down FACING THE TARGET. If there's still a bullet in the chamber when the next person steps up to shoot, they're gonna get a face full o'shrapnel."

The group was quiet as they put on their safety goggles and ear plugs.
The doors led through an antechamber and into the cold, casing-strewn lanes, which smelt of gunpowder and hot metal.
Every few seconds one of the customers would fire, causing a sharp metallic crack to ricochet around the aluminium diamond plate walls. It was a sound you became de-sensitised to after a while.
I carried a handgun to the last booth. It was lighter than I'd been expecting. Loading it was tough though- after I had pushed 6 bullets under the lip, I had to grip the clip and wrestle the final 4 in place. I hoped no-one was watching.
I stood with my legs slightly apart, flexed my knees, looked down the site towards the small circle marked '9', inhaled slowly, let out my breath and then shot at the target.
The gun recoiled upward and the short, sharp report rang in my ears. I'd hit circle 7. I relaxed my posture and gripped the gun more firmly, then let out 5 or 6 steady shots. I was surprised to see most of them hit the centre circle, as was my booth buddy, the army veteran.
He gave me a thumbs up after I unloaded the clip, passed me a video camera so that I could film his shots, and quickly reloaded.
As I was recording he leant back so that his arse was sticking out at an obtuse angle, opened his mouth wide and emptied the clip in about 6 seconds.
An middle-aged Asian man in the next booth came over to reprimand us.
"Can't you read? You're supposed to wait at least 2 seconds between every shot."
"Sorry." replied the vet, with a zealous smile that seemed to suggest that the Asian man was being mentally added to some kind of sinister 'list.'

As we discharged the last of our bullets into the paper target, the vet. was becoming more and more agitated that my shots were hitting centre and his weren't.
"There's a bad recoil on this thing. Wait here a minute."
With that, he placed our gun into the safety tray and carried it back to the shop.
I wasn't entirely surprised to see him come marching back in with a huge pump-action shotgun and a crazed grin on his face.
"3 shells each", he proclaimed as he placed the shotgun down and picked up a box of red shells that was the size of my fist.
"Two in the tube, one in the chamber. Brace the gun with your shoulder, lean into the target and get ready to fire. Stand back."
As he aimed, the paper target man shivered in the wind.
He pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
"Goddamn safety."
The target man seemed to straighten and relax, moments before he had his paper guts strewn all over the lane with a resounding blast.
"Pump to discharge the shell, and repeat."
The vet. leaned in for two more shots, this time peppering holes into paper man's head. He motioned me into the lane with a look of post-orgasm relief on his red face.

It was my time to shoot. Again, the gun was lighter than I'd been expecting.
The shells slotted into the magazine with satisfying clicks, I slid the safety, dug the recoil pad into my shoulder and leant forward in the style of a Nebraska corn farmer preparing to shoot some meddlesome crows.
I gingerly depressed the trigger, wondering if I had actually taken the safety off or had in fact put it back on. As I squeezed more firmly, the gun roared, knocking the butt back into my deltoid.
For a few seconds I was exhilirated by the power of the weapon that I held in my hands. Then I leant in again to finish off paper target man, once and for all.



cartoonhead1970 said...

If Michael Moore is to be believed, Gun ownership in America is the reason so many illegal firearms are in circulation on the streets. i.e. People buy guns to protect themselves and their property and then they get stolen while they are out and circulated as illegal firearms.

Sam said...

So you're saying that people should carry more guns in their bags and purses to replace those that that might get stolen from their house, right marra?