Seeing guns in new light

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Last weekend I shot a gun for the first time.

Fortunately, I wasn’t part of a Hollywood-esque drama culminating in a major shoot-up scene. It was just me and the gun, a personal instructor and several others interested in learning more about gun safety.

The full-day adventure – an Oct. 30 fund-raiser called Range Day – at Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club in Mesa was sponsored by Temple Beth Sholom in Chandler. Participants had the opportunity to use a variety of guns, from a .22-caliber revolver to a 9 mm semiautomatic. I also shot a 12-gauge shotgun.

At certain moments, while standing in the shooting stance, pointing my gun at the target, I felt like I was in an episode of “Charlie’s Angels.” But that was after the gunshots stopped making my heart race.

Earlier that morning, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel holding a gun. I associated guns with stories on the nightly news – drive-by shootings and bank holdups. But I felt the opportunity to learn about guns was important – and I forced myself to stop imagining headlines about “Freak accident at shooting range” appearing in the following day’s paper.

I’d never really had strong feelings about guns, or even thought much about them. I knew I would not want to hunt, and I had read too many headlines about accidental shootings by children. I had no intense views about gun ownership beyond concern about how just about anybody could go out and buy a gun.

When I first picked up the .22-caliber revolver, I hesitated before pulling the trigger. The instructor had shown me how to load the bullets into the cylinder and pull back the hammer. Now all I had to do was aim at my target and shoot.

But I waited a few seconds before I did so. I had followed all the safety rules enforced by the instructors: ear muffs, eye protection, gun always pointed toward the range. When I finally pulled the trigger, the recoil was surprisingly gentle, and I actually hit a spot on the target.

As the day continued, I became more comfortable and confident about handling a gun. Rather than viewing it solely as a weapon of destruction, I started seeing it as a device that one should know how to use.

Before attending Range Day, I’d read an article called “Gun-Toting Journalists” published in a recent issue of American Journalism Review. The article described how journalists in the Philippines attended a course at a military camp in Manila to learn techniques for evading assassin attacks. Twenty-two journalists in the Philippines have been killed since 2000. Although the common belief is that journalists should not carry weapons, an exception is being made there because of the threats to journalists, mainly those reporting on corruption and crime.

As my husband and I drove home from Range Day, I felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn about gun safety in a supportive environment.

I’m also grateful for the freedom to own a gun, if I choose to do so.

This article first appeared in the Nov 4, 2005 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.