Should I Go To A Gun Range?

Growing up, toy guns were verboten in our household. My brother and I - like most young boys - grew up on a diet on Star Wars, The A-Team, and Transformers. Gun were cool!

Our mother would brook no truck with this. Guns were banned. When my brother was given a water pistol as a birthday present from a friend, the offending squirter mysteriously disappeared.

(In fairness, we were messy children, so it could have been lost in the detritus of our bedroom. However, my parents had form at making our beloved toys vanish...)

And so it went. My brother and I played with toy lightsabres, read books, went cycling, and never so much as touched a toy gun except those rare days when we went to another child's house where the parents were less strident about cultivating a love of weaponry in their offspring.

Fast forward to the present day. As you read this, I'll be on holiday in Las Vegas. I mentioned this to a friend and his first reaction was "You should visit the shooting range at Discount Firearms Inc.!"
machinegun-740
I felt physically sick. The thought of holding a death machine, having all that raw, unimaginable power at my fingertips just scares the shit out of me.

And yet... Isn't that what I wanted as a child? I wanted to hold a gun, fire a hot stream of lead at someone - or something. True, I lusted after Han Solo's blaster - but laser beams are just as deadly.

I should, I know, be open to new experiences. I like to do things I've never done before - I'm not the guy who always goes to the same restaurant and orders the same dish.

A few years ago ,my friend RadioKate wrote about firing a gun for the first time. She perfectly captures the mixture of thrill and terror in her writing. She also looks damned cool.
gun-kate
It's well worth listening to her AudioBoo of her experience.

So, should I go shooting?

Growing up in suburban UK, I've never been around guns. I've never seen one - much less shot one. I find them scary and I dislike the macho politics which surround them.

I vividly remember being New York in 1999 and seeing a TV advert for the NRA - they were claiming that the UK was trying to rob its citizenry or arms and that the American people should beware of such tactics. They then showed guns which were being destroyed following the weapon amnesty brought about by the Dunblane massacre, they talked to Christian Terrorists in N.I. who were worried that the peace process would lead to arms decommissioning. It left me with a rather soured attitude to firearms and the people who like them.

I don't want to be around guns. I don't want ever to have to use a gun. I can't envisage needing to shoot anyone or any thing.

At the same time - how fun does this look?
zombie-hunt-360 Shooting zombies with machine guns! That's basically every cool movie from the last decade! How could you not want to do that?

Another wave of nausea has just hit me as I typed that. I want to take the cinematic experience of death and destruction and carry it into real life. Sure, it will only be paper targets - but what if one of the other participants goes crazy and starts spraying the room with bullets? What if I trip over and blow my feet off? What if... what if...?

There's an element of "When in Rome" to my quandary. I didn't have much of a moral problem indulging in Amsterdam's traditional delicacies (pancakes and syrup), nor chasing the Green Fairy in the countries which permit her, nor eating unpasteurised cheese, nor - as we'll be in Nevada - sticking money on a roulette wheel. All things banned somewhere - yet all incredibly enriching to experience.

We've got a fairly full diary for our Vegas trip - a whole bunch of shows, restaurants, museums, national parks, and gambling. Am I really missing out on a great life experience if I don't hold a gun in my hand and lay waste to paper targets?

I don't want this to turn into a debate about gun rights, nor about the morality of owning weapons. I'm just curious if people think this is an experience worth having - or one which can be safely missed.


6 Responses to “Should I Go To A Gun Range?”

  1. FJ!! van Wingerde (@fj) Image of FJ!! van Wingerde (@fj)

    When we were 7 we didn't want lightsabers to slice people, we wanted to be cool.

    Second, about when in Rome, I lived in the US for 13 years without really seeing an unholstered gun (I did see them holstered on cops) except for that one time that someone put some on the table after dinner to show off his latest eBay purchases. You can be in the US and not hold guns, trust me.

    But to the meat here: you describe both revulsion and fascination, not interest and disinterest. I say go, there's something to confront here.

    Reply
  2. Andy Mabbett Image of Andy Mabbett

    Do it. I'm a life-long pacifist (despite being hooked on war games and Airfix models of war-planes as a kid). Just before handguns were outlawed in the UK, a friend, who shot competitively, invited me to his gun club, where I fired 50 rounds form a Magnum revolver, at paper targets (which were circular, not humanoid in design). I wouldn't say I experienced any sort of thrill, but it was an interesting experience; like, say, visiting an aircraft cockpit or a locomotive footplate. And yes, I did hit the target. With some of the bullets.

    Reply
  3. Kate Image of Kate

    Behind those sunglasses I was quivering with fear. Not entirely sure I ever wanted a photo of me with a gun to exist. It scares me.

    It's a tough question. I think my response on this occasion might be to say skip it. When I went shooting it was a one on one experience, with someone who understood the power of the guns and was sensitive to my fears. I was a guest, I was being polite and I didn't pay anything.

    I think that does make a difference. On the one hand I'm pleased to have had the experience, but it did horrify me. I would worry that if you do this in a place that takes tourists etc they won't necessarily be so understanding and patient with you. You might feel peer pressure to do more than you're comfortable with, or the attitude of the place may be a bit more "shoot the big ones, it's fun!". I don't know, but I just think I wouldn't have been comfortable in a place like that. Even with all the kindness extended to me I can't say I was ever comfortable in the presence of the guns. I turned down the offer of firing the rifles too. Six bullets was more than enough for me.

    Of course it's up to you. The experience will be a powerful one I'm sure. I just think that if it were me I might feel a bit disgusted with myself if I were pushed to do more on the basis that everyone there just thought it was "normal". I'm quite happy for guns not to be normal in my life.

    Reply
  4. Dan Lane Image of Dan Lane

    I hate the idea of using a gun to hurt a human being or animal (yet would not hesitate to do so in self-defence) and I support the restriction of their availability.

    Having stated my position on such things the unavoidable truth is that guns ARE cool!! Partly because we grew up around role models with guns and because guns are loud and powerful and capable of stopping your enemy... see that guy over there without a gun? Congratulations! You are more powerful than he is. (and this is why guns should be restricted).

    But like rollercoasters versus reckless driving, when you and the gun are in a supervised, safe and controlled environment guns can be fun!

    Do it, you might not get the chance to again!

    Reply
  5. paul barker Image of paul barker

    No, not now & not ever unless you think you may need to kill in self-defence. Water pistols & paint guns are toys. Real guns are for stopping other people with guns/swords/knives/petrol bombs etc.

    Reply
  6. PaulS Image of PaulS

    Definitely do it. Not for the thrill, but for the learning. If nothing else it will give you first hand experience of just how deadly a gun can be. I've shot guns (pistols,shot guns and rifles about 35 years ago, all at paper/clay targets... ...and one pigeon) and at one point was fairly proficient. I am honest enough to admit a degree of fascination, but also a much larger degree of abhorrence that anyone would even think of using one against a fellow human being. Film, etc. cannot give you the experience, the smell, the sound and the touch. It's one of those things you need to be in the physical presence of to truly understand... ...and reject.

    Reply

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