I grew up loving the outdoors of North Dakota. My dad was a farm kid and he taught me how to fish at a young age. My family was a big hunting family as well. I’ve ate my fair share of deer sausage in my life and I remember seeing my dad’s shotgun bag (which I assume he held his gun in) hanging on the wall. Being a hunting family with a farming background, we were big supporters of the right to bear arms. In college the Sandy Hook school shooting happened and that was my first real introduction to gun rights issues. I started researching why I was pro-gun, and I’ll admit, I was trying to find out if I was in the right when it came to supporting guns. What I found only confirmed my belief in gun rights and I went on to write an article for my school newspaper expressing why being pro-gun was a good thing even in the wake of the terrible school shooting. Soon after that I was introduced to Regis Giles. I have supported her cause ever since and expanded my knowledge of gun rights. But I had a little secret; I had never shot a gun in my life.
It bothered me for a few years that I was preaching to people that they needed to be pro-gun for all these reasons and yet there I was someone who had never even held a gun, much less shot one. I felt like some sort of hypocrite. I had a few friends that told me they would be happy to teach me but it was difficult to meet up with them because of my move to Minnesota. Then, in the spring of my junior year, I heard rumors that there was going to be a gun club on my very liberal campus. I saw posters advertising the club but not much happened past that for me. After the summer I embarked on my last year of college. Early in the year I went to a bonfire hosted by some of my friends in the College Republicans. We talked in to the night and the gun club came up. I revealed my little secret that I had never shot one. One of my friends could not believe I had never been shooting so he took matters into his own hands and we set a time to go out to the range.
On my half birthday I drove out to the local range. I live in the middle-of-nowhere-Minnesota so the range was just a grassy stretch with some black, metal sheets propped up every few yards and two cement tables with folding chairs. There were two buildings on the property but I don’t know what they are used for. I parked my car next to my friend’s truck and walked over to them. He had a rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol. He told me all the safety precautions, handed me ear plugs, and suggested I try the shotgun first. I was hesitant to pick it up but I did as he said. The first thing I said after picking it up:
“Wow, this is really heavy.”
He stared at me for a moment. “That’s the lighter of the two.” What had I gotten myself into?
He showed me how to aim with the gun and instructed me to shoot an empty Coke bottle we had set up twenty-five yards out. I hoisted the gun into position and took aim. A million thoughts ran through my head at that point. Maybe I was wrong. I’m holding something that could kill a person. The final thought was ‘just pull the trigger you idiot and don’t fall backwards’. Then I heard a loud noise and the Coke bottle flew through the air. I didn’t even notice the kick back, although I nearly fell backwards, but I was in shock that I had just shot a gun and actually hit the target. And you know what, I enjoyed it.
I looked over at my friend with a huge simile and he told me that it was a good shot but I should lean forward a bit more cause I didn’t want to fall. I shot the shotgun a bit more then moved on to the rifle, which was incredibly heavy that I couldn’t load it without help, and then moved on to the pistol. For my first time I wasn’t that bad of a shot. I really enjoyed my afternoon at the range.
I went twenty-one and a half years without even picking up one gun. I knew why guns were important but because I didn’t hunt and lived in a safe town I never thought I needed one. Although those are valid reasons to own a gun, I never considered the reason that shooting can be entertaining, like jogging or biking. With this new gun control push from our president, he doesn’t realize that he is taking away law abiding citizens’ past time. Although I was pro-gun I did have doubts and when I was holding that shotgun a lot of anti-gun thoughts did run through my mind. The people who are scared of guns seem to be the ones that have never shot them before. Encourage your friends and family to come to the range with you. Show them that guns can be a safe and enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. They may just change their minds for the better.