I’ve never had a baby, so the comparison in the title shouldn’t be taken literally. And I’m not saying babies are either lethal or gun-like. (However, they are unwitting weapons when in the hands of unfit parents using them for psychological and emotional warfare).
But I think the way I felt driving home with a new gun on the floor of the back seat might be, on a fun-house mirror level, similar.
“What do I do with this thing?” “Am I prepared for this?” “What if I drop it?” “This is a huge responsibility.” (And, gun-specific:) “This thing could maim – or worse – somebody.”
I bought it after shooting at a range with my husband last weekend, which was the weekend following the inexplicable horror that took place at the Aurora, Co. theater. However, none of what we did that day – going to the range, shooting some (many) targets, or buying the gun – had anything to do with that. We would have gone, anyway. I didn’t buy it to “beat the government” in case they decide to “take our guns,” nor am I a doomsday preparer, a gun fanatic, a militia member, or a drug dealer. I don’t even like talking about the Second Amendment.
However, I am, admittedly, someone who’s seen too many true crime shows with women as the victim 90% of the time, and that’s one of the two reasons I wanted a gun.
The other: I love target shooting! This is from last weekend, the third time in my life I’ve shot a gun. (The first time, I was 14 and visiting my mother. She had – and has – guns. The second time was the day I shot into a hay bale as part of a gun safety course required for my permit.)
We shot for over an hour, and it involved a lot of loading, unloading, spinning revolver cylinders, releasing clips, pulling slides, and getting a few shell casings in the face (right between the eyes, just above the glasses)/down the shirt/in the hair (Ian couldn’t figure out why they kept hitting me in the head when, any time he shot, they flew off somewhere over his shoulder).
But, even after all of that, taking home my very own pistol and a box of bullets was an entirely confusing experience.
I’m afraid of guns. Not in the “Eek! Gun!” way, but in the “I respect and am appropriately afraid of what they can do when fired” way.
When my mother showed me hers when I was a teenager (unloaded, of course, because she is the queen of gun safety), I picked up her revolver and looked straight down the barrel.
But, turned around, it was less scary. And after going to the range and shooting fairly well for a first-timer, there was some interest in overcoming that fear. I wanted to be as comfortable with guns as my mother was, and to maintain, as she does, a healthy respect with caution, rather than fear, at the root. The kind of caution that never gets complacent.
I have a ways to go before the fear is replaced with caution.
“I have to become one with the gun,” I told Ian. That’s the only way I can go from “Yeah, I know it’s mine, but it still scares the crap out of me” to “Yes, it’s dangerous in the wrong hands, but I know how to use it, so it’s fine.”
I brought the brown paper bag, inside of which was the plastic carrying case with the gun inside, from my car to the dining room table. I took out the case, opened it, and pulled out the gun. Its weight was surprising. Between the range and home, I’d forgotten how heavy it was. I expected plastic, maybe, like a squirt gun. I raised it and aimed and pulled the trigger. Nothing. Not even the “click” it makes when it isn’t loaded (which, of course, it wasn’t).
I tried to pull back the slide and wasn’t strong enough. Stupid thing wouldn’t budge. It had worked much better on the one we rented at the range. Probably something wrong with this one.
Ian, much stronger than I am, tried it, himself.
“Jesus,” he said.
“Yeah. Should we take it back and get a replacement?” What if it was defective? What if the first time I shot it, it backfired into my face like the gun used by the female assassin (foiled by George Clooney) in The American?
It was so tight everywhere – the slide, the levers that release the slide – that Ian looked it up online.
“After firing about 300 rounds through it, it loosened up,” someone wrote. Ian also found a lot of positive comments about the gun, in general, which was nice. Who doesn’t like buyer’s validation?
Hands aching, and frustrated by the no-worky, I aimed and pretended to pull the trigger a few times before putting it upstairs.
Then I hid the case in the coat closet so it wouldn’t be seen if someone broke in. And then I hid the bullets. Just in case. When I saw some of the gun-purchase paperwork on the table, I slid it in the drawer. What if someone walked by the window and peeked in and saw that I had a gun?
What if, indeed. What, someone was going to walk by my window, peer in, see the paperwork, and think, “Oh, awesome. They got a gun. I’m gonna break in and try to find it.”?
Obviously, owning a gun made me feel more paranoid than safe.
But it would get better. Most likely. I was in the middle of being mostly totally positive it would when Ian asked, “Did you post a picture online?”
We’re both members of a forum that has nothing to do with guns, but which has a gun thread where people share very serious, very manly, very straightforward pictures of their existing collections, the guns they want, and the guns they just bought.
I told him I hadn’t. And, almost certainly to combat my fear of my own brand new gun, I shared my own version of their stock weapon photo:
Disclaimer: The tragic, senseless, scary, and sad Aurora theater shooting affects most people on some level. A majority of us have been to the movies, and it’s too easy to imagine the terrifying experience of being the people caught in that situation. The interviews with the survivors and the friends and families of the dead are heartbreaking.
None of what’s written above or in the future about this new purchase is in any way related to what happened in the theater, and so I hope it won’t be perceived as insensitive or as a direct affront to those who lost someone or were injured. I also have no desire to use what happened as support for any kind of political argument – that would be unbelievably tacky. This series of posts is an entirely unrelated subject, and it’s about a gun that would have been bought had the Aurora shooting never happened. Self-defense isn’t usually necessary, and it’s certainly rarer to require it under Aurora-like circumstances, but – for those who feel they need or would like to have it – it is a security, whether or not something tragic and terrible has recently occurred.