Less than a decade ago, I had an irrational fear of firearms. Seriously. I can spend all day long trying to identify the root of this fear, but any reason I can provide is speculative. What isn’t speculation is that I really didn’t know much about firearms.
As a child, my godfather gifted me pellet rifle which my parents kept mostly hidden away. It was seldom occasion during which I was allowed to operate it and it was always under careful supervision. I also had plenty of toy guns and spent countless hours playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians with other neighborhood kids. My interest in firearms all but disappeared as I approached adolescence and even into my early adulthood.
I recall one time heading over to a coworker’s place and being surprised to find a shotgun laying on his coffee table. I played it cool, but I vividly recall an immense fear of the firearm. I was genuinely afraid of that firearm. I had no idea if it was loaded and I had no knowledge on how to check it. That didn’t matter because I didn’t want to touch it as I believed it may accidentally go off. I never said anything to my coworker. But I made it a point to avoid going by his place again. In fact, I never did. I never asked him about why he had a gun. I remember feeling that guns were just for criminals or law enforcement – it was, after all, what I believed to be common sense. And while it never came up (at least not up until then) as a topic with my wife, I didn’t want any firearms in our home or around our kids – I mean we weren’t in law enforcement and we were definitely not criminals.
That all changed less than a decade ago when a trusted friend asked me if I wanted to accompany him to the shooting range and shoot some of his guns (which I didn’t know he owned). Again, I played it cool – even though that fear of firearms persisted. But rather than turning down the opportunity, I found myself accepting the invitation. Perhaps, it was because I trusted my friend. Perhaps, it was because while my friend wasn’t in law enforcement I also knew he wasn’t a criminal. I may never know exactly what drove me to accept the invitation. But what happened next, changed my opinion on firearm ownership.
Immediately upon accepting the invitation, my friend asked me if I had ever shot a firearm. I told him no. He then proceeded to teach me how to go about handling a firearm safely. The rules were quite simple:
- Assume the firearm is loaded and treat it as such
- Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot
- You’re only ready to shoot when your target is in your sights and you know what lies behind your target
Once he was confident I was familiar with the rules, he retrieved the firearms from one of the bedrooms and began familiarizing me with the operation of the firearms we would be taking to range at a later date. For each firearm, he showed me how to:
- Check whether the firearm was loaded or not
- How to load and unload ammunition
- Where the safety mechanisms were and how to engage or disengage them
When we made it out to the shooting range, we reviewed the safety rules and the operation of the firearm we were about to shoot. Then we shot a few targets. The same process was repeated for each firearm. While safety came first, we had a blast.
On the way home from the range, I asked him why he owned firearms. The reasons were his own and personal. It got me rethinking my position on gun ownership. At some point during that rethinking, I realized up until that point the only reason I had not considered owning a firearm was because I had been scared of them – and I had been scared of them because I knew nothing about them. The basis for that fear was irrational.
Soon thereafter, I weighed the pros and cons of owning firearms. I considered the safety implications for our children, my wife, and myself. In that process I realized I had my own personal reasons for wanting to own a firearm. I discussed all of this with my wife – who was opposed to the idea of gun ownership and was a bit shocked that we would have opposing thoughts on this topic. Turns out her opposition came from a place of fear mostly due to a lack of knowledge. She agreed to gain some knowledge and revisit the topic afterwards. It took some time, but true to her word she learned about gun safety, operating a firearm, and took a trip to the range.
When we revisited the topic, we both saw more reason to be gun owners than not to be. We also agreed to take all precautions necessary to keep our children safe and avoid any form of negligence – secure storage and training for the entire family were (and still are) requirements that were (and still are) not negotiable.
Since becoming gun owners, we have found that every other gun owner we know maintains an identical mindset when it comes to safety. Their reasons for ownership may differ, but their commitment to safety remains as the top priority. Some of them are our friends, and some of them are our family.
I realize gun ownership is a personal decision that should never be taken lightly. I also hope that those who chose to not own guns do so from a place of knowledge and not from irrational fear.