How do you know when a gun is loaded?
Knowing the one (and only) correct answer to this question was the first and most important prerequisite to receiving my firearms safety certificate.
I took the firearms safety course when I was in high school, prior to joining the Rifle Club. Our school (and, in fact, most high schools in Western New York State) had a rifle club and team.
Yes. We had guns. In the school. All the time.
If a person was a member of the Rifle Club, they could, during their free periods, sign out a gun, be handed a box of ammunition (with the same have-a-nice-day casualness that a cashier would hand over a box of Tictacs), and shoot on the indoor rifle range in the school basement. Here’s your gun. Here are your shells. Have fun.
And, we did.
I can see your mouths hanging open in amazement, but I promise, I shit you not.
Nobody thought anything of it. Like football, basketball and wrestling, riflery was a bonafide high school sport. I got my varsity letter participating on the Rifle Team. The team was undefeated in the State during my high school years. I received my National Rifle Association Expert Rating – the highest marksmanship designation – when I was a junior. To receive this rating, I had to achieve an average score of 98 or above (on a scale of 1 to 100) shooting at a bullseye the size of a pea from fifty feet. When you consider the fact that I can’t even back my car into a parking space without hitting something, that accomplishment seems even more amazing.
Rifle clubs in high schools are, unfortunately, a thing of the past. It’s too bad. There’s a lot to be said for teaching respect for firearms and how to handle them properly. I remember the first time I shot a rifle – the noise, the recoil. I thought, ‘Holy shit, I could KILL somebody!’ Granted, it was only a .22 calibre rifle, which was probably less likely to kill than just really tick somebody off. Still, it made the concept real to me. You point at somebody, you shoot...there are severe consequences.
I’ve fired all kinds of weapons, from shotguns at woodchucks and clay pigeons to semi-automatic weapons at the pistol range. Oh, and ask me about going bat-shooting sometime. It’s never occurred to me to point a weapon at a person. Well….okay, it’s occurred to me (a few past boyfriends pop to mind), but I never acted on it. It’s not that there weren’t opportunities. Kids in Phys Ed classes used to run laps in the high school basement, not far from the rifle target bays. I could have taken any one of ‘em out neat as you please. It seemed unsporting, though. After all, if I could hit a hurtling clay pigeon or a mark the size of a pea, busting a cap in some slow, fat kid in a pair of bullseye-red shorts was hardly a challenge.
The demise of riflery as a school sport saddened me. But it’s a different world today. The last thing that comes to people’s minds when they think of guns in school is team sports.
I’m not opposed to people owning guns, but I’d like to see thorough background checks, psychiatric evaluations, competency tests and renewed-yearly licensing required.
There should also be some sort of test to determine whether a gun owner has the stones to actually follow through. I have had a number of people tell me “oh, I’d have a gun for protection, but I’d never use it. “
Guns are for shooting – plain and simple, at targets, food to put on the table – or attackers. They have no other purpose. Guns are not magical talismans that you keep in your bedside table drawer and wave around to ward off evil. If you do not believe you could pick it up, and point it at someone, and shoot, you have no business owning it. If you can’t use it, I guarantee your aggressor will be more than willing to take it away from you and use it against you. Gun ownership is a solemn responsibility. Never, EVER take it lightly.
I do not currently own a gun, but if circumstances dictated, I would. I’ve still got my NRA “Expert” medals in a little display box on one of my shelves. I look back on them fondly. And, every now and then, I think to myself, a few of you former boyfriends really don’t know how lucky you are.
Oh, and the correct answer to the question at the beginning of this blog?
A gun is always loaded.