Get Your Gun

Matt stood there with that deer in the headlights “Oh No” look on his face.  I stood facing him, arms akimbo and with the demeanor of a drill sergeant.  It was Christmas and he was 7 years old.  He had his new Red Rider BB gun shouldered, the muzzle of which was two inches from his now laughing little sister’s forehead.  He had pumped up the BB gun and had delivered a poof of air to her forehead.  He knew this was the death knell of his BB gun ownership.

Lowering his head in shame he held the gun up to me like a burnt offering, expecting mercy.   The mommy in me wanted to give him mercy but this was too important of a teachable moment.  

“Happy Birthday, son”, I said.  He looked up saying, “What?”  That was not the response he had anticipated.   “You have just made this your birthday present,” I replied.  His birthday was five months away.  He started to protest but didn’t bother.   He knew he deserved it.

I vividly remember my first gun.  I wrote about it a year ago in the article “The Prodigal Gun”.  There is an inexplicable thrill that goes with acquiring a firearm.  I got that excitement, and I’ve seen this happen to many people: that euphoric, toothy smiling sparkly-eyed, endorphin-filled joy of gun ownership.

That first gun was a .357 Ruger revolver with a six inch barrel and a wood checkered handle.  At first I was afraid of the beastie.   With the kids down for naps, I mentally circled the revolver like a cat sneaking up on an unknown threat.   I imagined the gun might do something dangerous on its own – like spontaneously combust, or sprout legs, turn, and shoot all by itself.

The lady in this photo is my daugher in law, Matt's wife, Felicia and this photo was of her when I taught a firearms safety course where she got her hunter safety certificate.
I scoured the instructions and manual before handling it.  I explored its parts and functions.  I cleaned it with the spanking new cleaning kit that had formidable sounding stuff like Nitro Solvent, Gun Oil and a ramrod.    I signed up for an NRA Pistol course because I was afraid I might shoot myself in the foot before I could figure out how to protect myself against a would-be intruder.

My kids were age 3 and 5 and I had experienced an “incident.”  A burglar had tried to break into my home when I was alone with the kids.  I heard a noise outside my bedroom window at 2am on a summer’s eve and I knew what it was… someone trying to pry the screen off the window.  I could see their shadow on the blinds.  My adrenalin charged, I was shaking, sweat poured out of every pore.   My primal reaction was run out a side door as fast as I could and escape but with two little kids, there was no way.

Fortunately the burglar failed his break-in attempt but the evidence was there the next morning:  a can of opened snuff under the window, and a significant hole in the screen from a sharp instrument.

Feeling like a helpless victim first scared me and then made me angry.  I not only had myself but also my kids to protect.  The next week I bought that .357 revolver.

Once I got over the fear, flinching and angst of having something so powerful in my clutches (or in my nightstand or under my pillow), something in me came alive that I did not fully understand at the time.  There was something about that gun:  the weight of it; the sound of its metal snapping when I dry fire practiced; the feel of releasing the swing out cylinder and the tight snap when it shut; loaded and ready; the way the cartridges slid into place; the smell of gun powder at the range; the fire that leapt from the muzzle when shooting at dusk.  Everything about it seemed akin to some nature inside me that had not been tapped or touched before.  I shot thousands of rounds with that gun.

Soon I bought more guns:  a Browning Citori Over/Under 20 gauge shotgun;  two more shotguns; several rifles and my favorite gun, a Thompson Encore one shot 7mm-08 break action 14 inch barrel Dirty Harry cannon blaster that evokes ooo’s and ahh’s at the shooting range.

I loved shooting so much I enrolled in NRA and DNR Instructor Training so I could better teach my kids and others how to shoot.

After my son’s birthday that year, the NRA asked if I would make a televised statement about gun safety in the home, and further asked if a television crew from a local station could come to my house to interview me and the kids.  They did, and Matt proudly demonstrated safe gun handling, and he recited the three rules for kids and guns:

1. Stop don’t touch
2. Leave the area
3. Tell an adult

After the TV folks left, my son reverently put his Red Rider BB gun back into its case.  Days later, a package arrived.  It was his Grandpa Kistler’s vintage 22 rifle.  My son was awed and looked to me for the okay to handle the gun.  He had learned to respect firearms as not being toys.

He removed the magazine and clicked it solidly back in place with his palm.  It made that wonderful metallic “ka-chink” sound and he got that gleeful, gun-inspired grin on his face.  Now 26, I saw that look on his face again last fall.  I was visiting the kids and he called me into the den of their home.  He stood there, all 240 pounds of him, holding a new pump action shotgun he just bought.  He pumped the empty gun twice, waiting for my approval, and with that familiar euphoric grin on his face.  “Ooooo”, I cooed. “Nice !”

He handed me the shotgun, showing me it was unloaded and I fawned over it for a bit.

These events went through my mind recently because my husband just bought his first hand gun and I just bought my first semi-auto pistol -  His, a Kimber .45 and mine a Glock 9mm, each with night sights.   That same euphoric feeling is there for us.

I just joined the Isle Sportsman’s Club so we can both shoot, and for me so I can take students there for my Firearm Safety Classes.

“Get Your Gun - and let’s go shoot!”  You don’t have to ask me twice.