Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gay Liberal Goes Shooting -- And Likes It!

The Way Of The Gun - A Gay Liberal Explores Ohio Gun Culture By Taking Matters - And Weapons - Into His Own Hands

I've got my hands wrapped around a piece, finger on the trigger. When I awoke this morning, my irrational anxieties led me to dress as heterosexually as possible. After all, what do you wear to your first time at the range? I've chosen jeans, an orange ringer T and a green zip-up sweatshirt, a combination seemingly straight enough to pull off this charade.

To my right, in the next stall, a weapon fires powerfully, a sound that pierces through both my headphones and earplugs. I have no idea if the comically small revolver I'm gripping will create the same blast, but I'm about to find out. With my feet spread wide and arms rigidly stretched forward, I — a show tune-loving, Democrat-voting homosexual — am mere seconds from pulling the trigger on this instrument of death, something I vowed I would never do.

Yet here I am. The gun's hammer is cocked back, my eyes are fixed on the target downrange, instructor Jim is standing expectantly over my left shoulder, and the time has come for me to fire this .22.

...

I load nine inch-long bullets into the revolver, snapping the cylinder closed. Jim steps back, and I stand alone in the stall — feet spread shoulder-width, both hands clutching the piece, arms locked forward creating a triangle. I need considerable thumb strength to pull back the hammer, which pulls back the trigger as well. And then, with just slight pressure from the second finger on my right hand — "POP."

The strange little explosion doesn't even feel as if it came from the weapon in my hands. And I score an "8" on the target. Another pull on the hammer and press on the trigger. "9." Again. "10." Six shots later, I am destroying the target.

"You're actually a good shot for a beginner," Jim says from behind me.

Two more rounds of nine shots blasting the center of the target, and I'm beginning to tingle with a sense of euphoria. I turn to Jim, grinning like a proud kid. "Can I try the bigger gun?"

...

As I drive home, my hands are shaking slightly and I can feel my heart beating. There's exhilaration from what I've done, excitement in learning I'm an excellent shot.

...

But a couple of hours later, my high is fading, and I have a minor freak-out. I remember a moment in the stall when I saw a moving target's shadow enter the periphery of my vision. What if that had been a person running into my line of sight? What if my target was a human instead of a piece of waxy paper? There are 39 holes in the bull's-eye — dead center of where a chest would be.

I could have killed someone several times that morning. Despite how pleased I am with my shooting prowess, how proud I am for overcoming my fears, I don't think I could ever hold a gun again. I could never kill another human.

...

IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT, and I'm driving downtown toward Cleveland to meet friends for drinks. I send a text message to one to find out where he is. His boyfriend responds: "Dan and I were attacked. I'm at Lutheran. I'm OK. Just getting checked out."

Through text messages and phone calls, I learn that my friends were attacked by a group of teenagers as they tried to get into their car. Eddie has pains in his ribs and a scrape on his leg. Dan is just shaken up. Eddie's wallet is gone.

As I drive, I am suddenly overcome with a mix of anger, fear and frustration — emotions that again make me reevaluate my position. More friends affected by crime, and no way to protect ourselves.

But there is a way we could protect ourselves, something Jim helped me learn just weeks before: We could all start carrying guns.

It seems irrational, but fear is irrational. And I begin to understand how that fear could drive people to arm themselves. I'm not on either "side" [...] I, like so many Ohioans, fall somewhere in the middle. Guns still feel like the ultimate solution, something I'm not ready to embrace yet.

But if the police won't or can't protect me and my friends, taking matters into my own hands doesn't seem irrational anymore.

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