Thursday, March 14, 2013

I'm Jessica, and I'm a Recovered Gun Enthusiast

Someone I know shot himself to death last month. He had recently referred to himself as a "gun enthusiast."

Headlines worldwide called Nancy Lanza, who reportedly owned two pistols, two hunting rifles and a semiautomatic "similar to weapons used by troops in Afghanistan," a "gun enthusiast."

Ted Nugent, whose hobbies include hunting large game in enclosed areas and issuing death threats to the President, is a "gun enthusiast."

When else is the word "enthusiast" paired with something the only purpose of which is to render something or someone (or many someones) lifeless? While guns may be used to perforate paper targets and puncture beer cans and shatter clay projectiles, their intended use, let's be frank, the reason they were invented, is to kill. Unlike Crock-Pot enthusiasts, chihuahua enthusiasts, collectible salt-and-pepper shaker enthusiasts, baseball enthusiasts, garage band enthusiasts, scented candle and troll doll and necktie enthusiasts, home-mulled wine and Western belt buckle and designer handbag and suspended-bridge enthusiasts, topiary and WWII memorabilia and Elvis LP enthusiasts, marijuana enthusiasts, Bowie knife enthusiasts, drag racing and drag dressing and gonzo porn enthusiasts, someone who puts their interest in and/or obsession with their hobby over the potential safety and lives of their family members, neighbors, pets, friends, passers-by and self -- and justifies said hobby with a line from the Bill of Rights that's been grossly misinterpreted to mean that said hobby trumps the larger safety of everyone surrounding said hobbyist, an assertion that can and should be summarily shot down (pun intended) by the little-studied ninth amendment -- is not an enthusiast. They're an "asshole."

And I say this as a recovering asshole. I've experienced the thrill of shooting and the neat-o mechanical fascination with guns. (As Dan Baum illustrates in the new Gun Guys, an AR-15 is like a lethal erector set.) I dated a "gun enthusiast" in my 20s. I wasn't thrilled to be in the regular presence of a loaded .45, but I figured that learning the workings of my sidekick's sidearm would help me be more level-headed if one was ever pointed my way.

I familiarized myself with its pieces and parts. I found myself enjoying the puzzle and precision of assembling it, as well as the single-minded (dare I say, meditative) focus and emotional gravity required of this task.

I took shooting lessons. That first day at the firing range, I guilelessly shot a few rounds into my paper target's heart and forehead. The instructor punched me in the shoulder and said something like, "You never used a gun before? Yeah, right." "I haven't," I said, startled and sort of proud. The instructor called me Annie Oakley.

That's all it took. One steady-handed day and a compliment, and I was ready to trade in my anti-gun stance for a thigh holster. Plus I read Armed and Female by Paxton Quigley, and thought, "You know, if I'm ever drugged and thrown in the trunk of a car, a concealed weapon sure would come in handy!"

So I bought a Ruger 9mm. My pistol packin' persona lasted a few months, and I never actually packed. In fact, the gun stayed in a safe at my ex's house, because I studied up on the statistics: that my gun was as or more likely to be used against me as by me; that the rates of suicide, homicide and accidental death are much higher in homes with guns. I couldn't conceive of a scenario or state of mind in which I would turn it on myself or use it in a domestic tangle. But how many "law-abiding gun owners" perceive themselves as potential suicides or murderers at the time of purchase?

Shooting was fun, and gun ownership offered me, as a 120-pound woman, the sense that I could equalize a size and strength imbalance with a bullet. But I was a realist, and a pacifist at heart if not by trigger finger. I took a full-contact self-defense class called Model Mugging, and bought a Taser. I collect vintage Pyrex and mermaid snow globes. Neither will deter a home intruder, but they won't result in the deaths of my 15- or 5-year-old children, myself, my husband, our cats or our elderly neighbors, either.  






2 comments:

Jen B said...

I think I saw a Richard Gere movie where he kills someone with a snow globe? (not sure if it was a mermaid one or not)

Jessica Patton Pellegrino said...

Good to know! At the very least I could dazzle and confuse an intruder with the notion of a mermaid in a snowstorm...

 
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