My first time holding a gun was scary. It’s supposed to be.
“You should be scared of the sound of a gunshot.”
That was the most reaffirming piece of advice I’d ever heard about shooting a gun, shared by Kareem Shaya of Open Source Defense during our Des Femmes “cowgirl shooting” lessons. My husband had taken me shooting once before. Or rather, he tried. He took me to an indoor shooting range, and then proceeded to explain how to hold and shoot a gun while I was wearing ear protection. So many moons ago, the echoes of the other guns had reverberated in the indoor range with low ceilings and limited space was overwhelming. And when he tried to hand me the gun after two minutes of instructions, I was completely overwhelmed.
Flash forward to the outdoor shooting range in Texas: an expansive field, a cloudless blue sky, no one around (except for a plethora of insects), and a couple of overhangs. Before we started the lesson, Shaya asked us why we were all there. On one hand, the question invites a difficult conversation steeped in political beliefs. On the other hand, it opens up a conversation about the role that we believe guns might play in our lives.
One person said that she recently bought a gun, and she wanted to make sure she knew how to use it and take care of it. Another woman realized that, as a recently single mother of two children, she felt like she had no way to protect or defend her family in case of an intrusion. Another woman felt unsafe walking around in her daily life. In all honesty, I had never considered why I wanted to attend the lesson, other than that I didn’t want to be afraid of holding a gun. It had never occurred to me how important it is to have a reason. Gun ownership and use always seemed so foreign to me.
We talked about the modern history of guns, the safety rules of gun use, and finally, how to use a gun. Then we dry fired (pulled the trigger without ammo in the gun). Next we put a couple bullets in the magazine and fired individually at our own targets. For many, an hour of safety and instruction on how to hold a gun may seem excessive and tedious. But it was exactly what I needed to prepare myself.
The fact that Shaya started with the statement that guns are scary immediately reassured me that this person truly cared about gun safety and understood where I was coming from. Using guns still doesn’t feel natural to me. No matter how many times I fired, I still felt myself shake and close my eyes before I finished pulling the trigger. But being around people I knew and having an instructor who emphasized safety above all made me feel much more comfortable. That, in itself, was a memorable achievement on my personal road to self-sovereignty.