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.!"
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.
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?
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.