I never thought I would shoot a gun, but never say never.
This weekend, I went to a shooting range off Bethel Rd. called L.E.P.D
It was all my idea and I was the one who kept pushing that Nate and I go to the shooting range. I knew he had a gun, that he liked shooting and I was honestly curious about the experience.
Always, I’d been so anti-gun and adamant that guns were dangerous weapons, but how could I hate something I’d never tried and didn’t understand? It seemed unfair to be judgmental of something I knew nothing about.
When we got to the shooting range on Saturday afternoon, the first thing that struck me was that I didn’t know that you could buy your own targets at the shooting range. You could choose targets like a zombie beaver, mother and child, beer bottles, human outline, plain yellow target or a group of zombies. I was adamant that I wouldn’t shoot a target that looked like a human. We picked out a plain yellow target and used the 2 targets that the shooting range gave us.
We bought a half hour of shooting time and rented ear plugs and goggles.
I slid the thick ear muffs over my ears, they squeezed my ears tightly, muffling all the noise. I opened the heavy grey door that led to the shooting range. The air reeked of fresh, hot smoke. It burned my throat as I tried to take a deep breath. Bang! The sound of a gunshot made me jump. Bang! Every few seconds, another gunshot. There was no escaping the core-shaking Bang!s
The room was a grey cement block, void of any decorations. In the corner was a squeegee to gather up all the bullet shells from the floor. Inside the room were several open stalls, with thick metal walls on each side, a black table top, facing the shooting targets. There were a couple other people in the room, already shooting. Most of them wore baseball caps, camouflage, work boots, faded denim or some combination.
We went up to our assigned stall 8,and Nate hung up the first target. The targets were taped on this device that was controlled by a light switch to send the target forward or backward. You could choose to put your target at 15, 30, 45 or 60 feet. We just put it at 15 feet.No one was trying to become the next Annie Oakley.
In the stall, Nate unzipped his small dark handgun from the case and started to load six bullets. He turned to me but I shook my head and slunk to the back of the room, crossing my arms, holding myself.
He fired off a round and all of the loud Bang!s, the flying bullet shells, the proximity of a deadly weapon, the five or six strangers also in the room holding a deadly weapon, all of it made my eyes start to tear up. I can’t. I can’t do this. Hell no, there is no way I can fire that gun. Hot tears swelled up in my eyes and my nose began to run. I don’t belong here, this isn’t me, this isn’t what I want. All the negative thoughts swirled hazardously through my mind.
Still, I logically weighed my options.
Option 1: Leave the room and wait in the lobby. That’s not who I am. I’m not that girl who just sits on the sideline and pouts. I thought of family vacations where my cousin would opt not to do an activity and sit in the corner (and pout.) I didn’t want to do that.
Option 2: Stay here and refuse to shoot. But, I wanted to come here. I wanted to try this.
Option 3: Try it…
This was my idea to come here. I’m the one who wanted to try something new. How is this different than riding a scary roller coaster? A roller coaster is safe; guns aren’t safe. But I am safe here. Nothing will go wrong. I’ll never know if I don’t try. I just have to do it once. I can do anything once. Just be brave. Be a grown up. Do it, come on. You got this.
I inched up to stall 8, staring down at the small dark menacing weapon that I was supposed to pick up.
“You’re over thinking it. You can do this. I’m right here,” Nate comforted me as he gently put his hand on my back.
He walked me through picking up the gun, placing my index figure next to, but not on the trigger, lining up the sights to aim, resting my elbow on the table, straightening my right arm, and supporting my other arm. I could feel my entire body sweating and shaking. I sniffled, trying to compose myself, shove down all of my fear, but struggling to keep it together.
This is what you wanted. You wanted to try it. So try it. You can do it. It’ll be okay, I shouted to myself.
I took a deep breath, and cautiously moved my index finger to the trigger. I pulled back, it didn’t shoot, I pulled back harder and then Boom! “AHH!” I screamed.
The gun exploded back in between my hands, sending the bullet forward into the target, and the bullet casing shell bursting out somewhere.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” I immediately began repeating apologies for my scream.
“It’s okay, no one heard you. You did great,” Nate said as he motioned for me to gently set down the gun. I did actually hit the target, and I had fired a gun…and survived.
“Here, do it again,” Nate said.
I shook my head and resumed my place in the back of the room.
Throughout the half hour, I did actually fire the gun two more times, not screaming. The second shot was easier to shoot. I knew what to expect and the fear was less intense. The third shot was easier than that. I couldn’t bring myself to fire a whole round of six consecutive shots. I only fired the third shot with the mentality of “Just one more. That’s it. You’re almost done.”
Ultimately, I’m proud of myself for facing my fear and trying something new. I don’t think I’ll go back to the shooting range anytime soon because for now, the memory of it all is enough.