Locked, Loaded And A Little Bit Humbled

Published in The Ferndale Record and The Lynden Tribune, November 28, 2012

The three of us, my daughter, my 15-year-old grandson (who, of course, was born when I was 25) and I made a trip south to the Norpoint Shooting Center in Arlington.

We walked in and my daughter said we wanted to shoot guns, but that she and I had never done it before. The tough-as-nails guy behind the counter looked at the boy and said condescendingly, “So, I guess you’ve played Call of Duty, right?” Apparently, he’d seen this scenario before.

Our boy’s answer was classic. Not glib, sarcastic, or even defensive. “I know how to shoot guns. I’ve done it a lot. My dad taught me.”

Camping trips into the Colorado wilderness with his rugged and kind father taught him plenty about guns and how to use them in real life.

OK, then, on to the business portion. Waivers were signed and money was exchanged.

We each chose a paper target and rented our weapon of choice. Mine was a Smith & Wesson Military and Police 9mm handgun. My daughter wanted to try a 10/22 rifle. The boy went with a .357 Magnum.

We were assigned a lane on the range and since two of us didn’t know what we were doing, the teenager who did had to stay on the lane with each of us, one at a time, to provide instruction and safety. We took turns politely.

Even with the ear protection we were given, it was loud on the range. Funny, it doesn’t sound or feel that shattering on TV or in movies, but I quickly learned that the whole process is way different than I imagined. It’s not just point and shoot. There are matters of focus, awareness, procedure and protocol.

My first shot, complete with muzzle fire, shook me to the core of who I am physically and emotionally. I laid the gun down on the platform and promptly felt I’d had enough. The powerful recoil was overwhelming; gunfire was coming from lanes on both sides and an ugly feeling rose up in me. The peace-loving, baby-protecting, violence-hating young mother I used to be made an appearance. I could see her wagging her finger at me in horror.

But the woman I’ve become put her in her place. No, I don’t intend to harm another person, rob a convenience store, kill birds for sport, or own a weapon. I went there just to shoot, and I wasn’t leaving after one round. I had to dig deep.

Without making my experience sound loftier than it was, I came away with a couple of new thoughts. I realized for the first time how utterly grateful I am to people who use firearms on a daily basis in my behalf. I wouldn’t want to do it for a living, but I’m thrilled there are good people who are willing to serve and protect.

Also, I convinced myself to do something unusual, different for me, and a little unnerving, simply to see what it was like. It was harder than I thought, on every level. So, I decided to use it as a metaphor for my life. I saved the shiny casing of my first round and it reminds me I can do difficult things.

Props for the day go to the boy, who exhibited not only considerable firearm smarts and safety, but compassion, patience and tolerance for rookies. Also, he spent the day before his 15th birthday shooting guns with his mother and grandmother, and in that capacity alone must have set some sort of teenage precedent.

I would go again. After all, Mondays are “Ladies Night,” and 50 percent off the usual cost. But mostly, I agree with The Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown when he said, “Guns aren’t toys. They’re for family protection, hunting dangerous and delicious animals, and keeping the king of England out your face.”

Thanks, Krusty. Words to live by.