I never had a fascination with guns until just a few years ago. If I really thought about the timeline, it probably dates back to the start of the History Channel show “Top Shot“, but emotionally I attribute it to a series of shows on the Versus channel that ran in odd morning slots. It was in those early hours between waking up and getting out the door for work that I had the opportunity to learn all about the history of firearms.
Growing up as a kid, I could have learned about hunting with my father, but I didn’t because my mother disliked the idea. I remember helping to pick out BB-shot from cooked squirrel and rabbit when I was younger, and embroidering a pheasant on a tie for him for Father’s Day one year. I don’t remember what year it was that my mother freaked out and insisted that all guns be removed from the house. Given her bipolar condition, I think it was for the best, but it did cut me off from any first-hand education about firearms.
After several months, that documentary series on Versus started to repeat episodes, but I continued to watch and absorb details of terminology. Then I started to hit the library for books to reinforce my expanding knowledge. Before this period, I didn’t know the difference between a rifle and a shotgun or a clip versus a magazine. (Now I cringe when I hear the terms misused on television.) I suppose the average American probably doesn’t know much about guns at all, despite our reputation in the eyes of some other cultures.
Eventually I decided I wanted to know what it felt like to hold a gun. I still had no interest in owning one, but I had an intellectual curiosity to apply my studies to experience the real thing. Plus, I told myself that I might one day need to know how to handle a gun. I imagined myself caught in the middle of a bank heist — as one does — or somehow stumbling upon a weapon. I probably watch too much television, I know, but I certainly didn’t want to be one of those characters that crop up in movies, shooting my foot.
So I did the sensible thing and enrolled in a Basic Pistol Safety course approved by the National Rifle Association. I learned how to safely load and unload a variety of handguns, and by the end of the day I was shooting paper targets at 7 yards. I had gotten my first-hand experience, and I got the itch out of my system. For a while.
That was more than a year ago. I still go days without thinking about handling a firearm. Then I’ll get a glimpse of something on TV which gets my brain churning again, thinking about how to identify various makes and models of guns. I wonder about how heavy a shotgun might be, or how much more power a rifle might pack.
Occasionally I am also reminded of something I overheard as a kid. My aunt had been suffering from cancer without telling anyone, and one day she took a shotgun out into the back fields of the farm and killed herself. I don’t know when it happened, and I don’t remember when I found this out. Maybe that’s the year my mother freaked out.