"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Also known as the 2nd Amendment.
How did this happen?
There are many reasons for one to choose to own a firearm: Self-defense, the exercising of one's 2nd amendment right, insurance for potential times of civil unrest, pure enjoyment (as in target-shooting), hunting, etc. Yet, despite this, I've been surprised to find that my decision to arm myself has sparked a variety of responses from people with whom I am acquainted. Emotions ranging from joyful glee to tentative fright to that of sour judgment have been levied in my direction - all because of my desire to own, and use, a firearm.
I was quite unprepared for such disparate reactions. So, let me take a few posts explaining my journey towards owning a firearm.
First, why... Why own a firearm? Well, let's say that I've always been interested in firearms but, for various reasons, have never pursued said interest. Introvert that I am, I tend to not want to look like I don't know what I'm doing (in front of others) and, when dealing with firearms, one had very well know exactly what they are doing. While I could have certainly found ways to learn, whether it be through friends, or the classroom - I never made it happen. That changed recently, though, as I finally decided to get the education, knowledge, and training to be proficient in the handling of firearms. What was the catalyst? Middle age, perhaps. I've joked with more than one friend, that, given I now reside in middle age, I'm simply going through that so-called crisis in which men desperately need to hold on to and prove their manhood - typically via the acquisition of a convertible sports car. If that's the case, then at least my venture into the sport of shooting is much cheaper than that of purchasing Nissan's latest Z model!
However, it goes far beyond a mere desire to prove my manhood.
Yes, shooting a firearm gives one quite the rush. The night I returned from taking a gun safety / practice class, my adrenaline was flowing and I couldn't wait until the time I would return to the shooting range for more - fun. Up until that class, I had never fired a pistol and had never fired a rifle with a caliber larger than .22LR. The night of my class, I fired a .40 S&W caliber semi-automatic handgun (an HK USP), and it was, literally, an amazing experience!
As I stepped into my shooting lane that night, our instructor had us - I was joined by about 5 other shooters - load one round of ammunition into the pistol's magazine. Upon his command we were to load our firearm, take aim, and fire at a paper target (ostensibly, a silhouette of a human being). The HK USP is an all steel gun, which means it's a bit heavy. This particular model had a serrated grip which seemed, to me, to be excessively rough. Gripping the gun in my right hand, I placed the magazine (with one round in it) into the magazine well. After the magazine clicked in I then pulled the slide back to engage the cartridge into the chamber. At that point, the gun was "live"... and deadly. My trigger finger, up to now, was not on the trigger as - per basic firearm safety rules - you do not put your finger on the trigger until you are about to fire. As I leveled the live handgun, pointing it towards the target, I placed my left (support) hand into position, against the open, left side of the pistol grip, wrapping my left hand fingers around my right (strong) hand. I then acquired my sight on the target, held my breath, and gently squeezed the trigger.
Many shooting instructors tell you that, as you squeeze the trigger, the actual firing of the gun should come as a surprise. Let me tell you, the first round I shot definitely came as a surprise. In all honesty, after the gun fired (loudly), and the recoil bounced back into my body, my initial thought was, "What on earth am I doing here? I'm in way over my head!" Our instructor then asked us to load our magazines with multiple cartridges and continue firing. I did so and found that, as each successive shot reverberated through the indoor range, I grew accustomed to the sound of the gun firing, to the shock of the firearm pushing back against both of my hands with the recoil lifting the barrel up, to the blast of hot gases venting out from the gun, to the sound of an expended shell casing bouncing onto the concrete floor, and to the distinctive smell of burned gunpowder. I became fascinated with acquiring the target in my sights, and then seeing how close the projectile, which I had sent flying, came to hitting my target. I marveled at the processes involved in taking dead aim onto a subject - the concentration - the discipline - the mechanics.
Is it wrong for me to enjoy shooting a firearm, a firearm which, if pointed and fired at a human being, would most likely kill them? I don't think so, and if you happen to think so, then I'd be interested in knowing what you think about the fact that multi-thousand pound vehicles are frequently seen being driven erratically about, at speeds upwards of 80 miles per hour? The kinetic energy stored up in a moving SUV is tremendous - and I shudder to think how casually such energy is wielded about, without the slightest regard to the potential impact to innocent human life.
Yet I traverse a tangent.
Having a rip-roaring fun time, though, was not the only impetus for my researching and entering the realm of gun ownership. Self-defense was another. We live in dangerous times (and not simply because Barack Obama was elected). I have a family to protect, and a firearm is one method with which I, and they, can be protected.
However, the very lethal nature of a firearm, combined with legal ramifications of using lethal force, make the use of such a methodology extremely complicated.
And that's what I'll discuss in vol. 2 of this series - Having a pistol for self-defense.
- first image: my Glock 22; second image: results of my first night shooting, with the HK USP; all images © 2009 A. R. Lopez