Jenna and I met a student at the gun store on Saturday to help her buy her first handgun (wow, the shelves were empty!), which is a free service we offer all of our students, and since we had our son with us, my job was mainly to keep him entertained. Jenna does a great job helping students with this stuff, so my role is just to stay out of the way. But here’s pretty much how the experience went.
- The place opens at 10am, we got there about 9:50 or so and there were probably 20 people in line waiting to get in. It’s the gun version of a hip L.A. nightclub, only substitute artificial people with ridiculously overpriced clothes that they can only wear twice before they’re old news, with families (I think Kyle was probably the youngest one there, but not by much – there was one girl there a couple years older with pink hearing protection – very cute!), couples, and single guys (I didn’t notice any women by themselves, but that’s not uncommon anymore) – all of which seemed like they needed another cup of coffee. Or maybe that was just me. It was a beautiful morning, although a little chilly. Overall, I’d describe the mood as “excited.”
- Do I need to mention that the clientele was racially diverse? Stuff like that doesn’t usually even register with me, but I read this this week. Apparently gun owners are white, hillbilly, racists. News to me.
- Since we figured most of the people in line were there to shoot, this particular place also has an indoor shooting range attached to the gun store, we didn’t feel the urge to stand in line with everyone else, so we waited in the car for our friend to arrive.
- Right at about 10am, the doors opened and our friend arrived. As expected, nearly everyone was there to shoot, which made our job there a little easier. Jenna and our friend started roaming around (they first made a bee-line for the 9mm Luger case – this store has the guns arranged by which cartridge they shoot), so Kyle and I began wandering.
- Some history: Kyle is a great sport when it comes to this stuff. He’s been to the gun store with us many times, and he’s even been to a couple of the local gun shows. I have no idea what he thinks about all of this, but I get the impression it’s a bit like going to Wal-Mart to search for new curtains… and that’s exactly the reaction we’re going for (just another part of life, even if it’s largely boring for a 5-year-old).
- So, he and I wandered around, I was shocked at how little the place actually had in stock (maybe I should’ve expected that part), and since I had promised him that we could watch some people shoot, we made our way back to the range.
- The shooting positions have large windows behind them, so if you stand in the lobby, you can watch everyone shoot (which by itself scares off many of the new shooters, I’m sure). So, we took up position behind a few people who were setting up and I began to explain what everyone was doing.
- Me: “Kyle, pop quiz – what are the 3 NRA safety rules?” Kyle rattles them off as he always does. Me: “Nicely done. How is everyone else doing following those rules?” Kyle: “Umm, well, umm…” that’s when I looked up toward the firing line and nearly lost my pants for the first time.
- A fine, well-intentioned gentleman had decided to lay his pistols down on the the bench in front of him FACING AT HIMSELF AND THE LOBBY. Nice.
- So picture this – you’re at a shooting range, you have your own shooting position, there’s a clear lane in front of you, you’re facing downrange, you take a pistol out of it’s case, and lay it down on the bench in front of you… and make a decision to point it straight back at your own belly button. Yes, apparently these people exist.
- About 4 nanoseconds later – Me: “Hey Kyle, let’s go look at these other people over here,” as I herd him to the opposite end of the range away from Ding Dong #1.
- So we wandered down to the other end of the range, or maybe I should call it the viewing area, since there’s something very bizarre about this fishbowl-like atmosphere at places like this, and Kyle and I talked about what people were doing, the girl’s awesome pink hearing protection, etc.
- We passed several very experienced shooters, a few were shooting at those cool zombie targets (the ones with the zombie holding a butcher knife), and a woman shooting a .45 Colt or .44 Magnum revolver (kaBOOM!). Good stuff.
- The whole time I’m trying to balance being the Dad who won’t shut up vs. the Dad who doesn’t communicate at all. I’m pretty sure I’m failing miserably at this, but that’s probably also true of ALL situations, not just this one.
- But, I’m trying to let Kyle take all this in as best I can.
- The next person my eye jumped to was a woman with a grip like this:
- When she fired the next shot, that slide JUST missed the top of her thumb. Her husband, standing right behind her, had no issues with any of this.
- Kyle and I wandered back-and-forth behind the “please stare at me while I shoot” glass for a few minutes longer and I noticed a Dad shooting with his son (the boy was maybe 10 or 12). The boy was shooting what looked like a Browning Buckmark, nice little guns, but he was struggling to chamber a round. His Dad, standing immediately to his right, not 2 inches away, was busy with his own gun.
- I stood there for a few seconds, watching the boy struggle with the gun, when he starts swinging it back-and-forth in an effort to get it to do whatever it was he was trying to do with it.
- The swinging got worse, and at one point he pointed the thing at the man standing to his left, in the next shooting position, and I was afraid he might swing completely around, pointing it straight back at us. I’m reasonably certain the thing was loaded. His Dad may have been, too (was that over the line?).
- Me: “Hey Kyle, let’s go check on your Mom.”
Look, not all shooting ranges are the wild-wild west. Many are very closely monitored. And the overwhelming number of people there were safe, cautious, and were having a GREAT time. I, on the other hand, could not get out of there fast enough.
Was I overreacting? I’m sure I was. And trust me – I’m fully aware that playing tennis looking like this takes about 99.9% of the fun out of it:
But apparently I’m that guy now who wants to do this to his kid before going back to a public indoor shooting range: