Sunday, April 14, 2013

Leaping the Grand Canyon for want of a Rattlesnake

The difference between researching guns and committing to owning and carrying a gun, for me, was like leaping across the bottomless gaping maw of the Grand Canyon.  On the one side of the sheer drop are like-minded non-gun owners and the great masses of anti-gun Second Amendment haters (here and forever known in the New Gunner Journal as Treasonous Traitors).
And as you sit with them and contemplate gun ownership, ruminate over their lethality, ponder the vagaries and the responsibilities of gun ownership,  deliberate on the accountability of the gun owner and whether owning a gun is worth the obligation to safety and the training that will protect you and your loved ones from the bad guys in life - it all seems surreal and dreamlike, how silly that anyone would want to own a gun!  It seems like a childhood fantasy of hero's in white and bad guys in black who cry "Curses, foiled again!" - As they fall in a dramatic, groaning, bloodless, soft focus death while the heroine buries her face in the barrel chest of her Savior, wistfully sighing, "My Hero!"

But I'm here to tell you - owning a gun is nothing like that.  Its a commitment that quite literally changes your life.

Once you make that giant, unnerving leap across the expansive canyon, the magnitude of your decision quickly comes into a sharp, cutting focus - the difference between duck down feathers and an anvil.  The weight of the choice you've just made, to own, train and carry a gun that can take the life of another in the blink of a momentarily distracted eye, is crushing - in many respects, nearly overwhelming.  And for those who are reading this who've never owned a gun, who are so cocksure that gun owners are fantasizing, irresponsible, feckless dolts - You can't possibly know what the far side of the canyon is like until you arrive there, until you experience it, until you've made the commitment, taken the weight of the responsibility and the accountability - in short, until you've made the conscious, dire promise to keep yourself, your loved ones and innocents alike, safe from harm... at any cost.

Now, with the leap made, I own my first gun.  A Walther P22Q.  A fine little .22 caliber pistol that is fun and cheap to shoot.  And then my second gun, my carry gun, the one posted on top of my Journal, an ATI FX45 1911.  A beautiful, hairy beast with the charm and grace of a Princess and the stopping power of Joe Frazier having a bad day.  Sounds cool and fun, doesn't it?

But here is where the real truth of gun ownership comes into play.  This is what is so hard to explain to non-gun owners.  To the gun-control advocates.  To those who believe gun owners are immature men and women who need to have their ego's stroked.

The real truth (for me) is that every time I open my safe to access my gun, the weight of the responsibility washes over me.  As the safe door opens, I am completely committed to the task at hand, my concentration sharp and fixed on what I'm doing.  I'm hyper-aware of my surroundings and anything that might take my attention away from the work ahead of me.  The only way that I can describe the sensation is like this:

Reaching into my safe for my gun is like reaching down to pick up a venomous snake - a dangerous, agitated, buzzing Rattlesnake.  You know that every bit of your attention needs to be on the gun.  There is a soft sensation of dread, that this gun could and will bite, if you aren't completely and utterly engaged in what you are doing.  And this is not a bad thing.  This is what keeps you from doing harm to anyone other than someone who is using lethal force against you.  This is what keeps you focused, reminds you of your safety checks and practiced habits - finger out of the trigger well and the gun always - ALWAYS - pointed in a safe direction, never sweeping anyone.  This is what stops you from cutting corners, doing things the easy way.  This is what makes you check and recheck your gun to make sure its empty.  This is what forces you to walk back down the long hallway and put away your live ammo before breaking down and cleaning your gun - instead of leaving it on the table, an accident waiting to happen.  And you do these things, step by anally retentive step, even when you are alone in your home.

Does this sound like a childhood / hero worship / gun toting fantasy?

No, its a heavy responsibility.  Its an oath you've charged yourself with.  It is a self-imposed discipline.  It is training and work and practice, classes and more practice, expense and more practice.  In many ways it defines who you are, who you've become and who you will be when the chips are down and those around you, those you love and are bound to protect, are in mortal danger.  No one I know who owns a gun takes this lightly.

Now that I'm on this side of the canyon, I look back on those who I've left behind and I realize they are clueless.  What they think they know, they don't.  What they believe, they should question. What they understand to be true is a lie. And, unfortunately, the only way to find this out is to come to the far side of the canyon.

I'm here... and the view is breathtaking.

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