Kristine gets her gun ... and shoots it

Kristine Loughman's picture

My New Year’s resolution from last year was to learn how to knit. I barely squeaked under the deadline, since I only remembered at Thanksgiving what the resolution even was, giving me a scant month to learn how to knit.

Well, this year I was determined it was going to be different. No more eleventh hour efforts to tie up my resolution. I was getting it done!

Congratulations are in order as I’m proud to say this year’s resolution is complete, a full four-plus months ahead of time.

My resolution? Go to the firing range. Why, you may ask?

Well, there are numerous reasons. For one, I’ve always wanted to shoot a gun ever since falling in love with sexy Fox Mulder running around with his gun on “The X Files.”

I even harbored the secret dream of joining the FBI, finding a smoldering partner with an affinity for aliens, and you know ...

More recently, I’ve gotten hooked on the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, in which the heroine also gets to run around with a gun. Or more likely, the gun is stuffed in her cookie jar at home or left accidentally unloaded in her purse, but that’s not really the point.

The point is, at the end of the day, I need to know what to do in case I’m ever walking through the grocery store parking lot one night when a kidnapper jumps out from behind a van and grabs me.

I fight like a tiger and manage to kick the gun out of his hands. It slides across the ground and we both look at each other; our eyes meet and we lunge for it at the same time. I wrap my fingers around the handle seconds before he does and swing around, pointing straight at him. But now what? I need to know what to do with the thing, don’t I?

Enter my New Year’s resolution and cue Ladies Night at Autrey’s Armory in Fayetteville. My pals Emily, Renee and Jen were all headed there after work one day, and I decided to seize my chance at crossing off this resolution.

Of course, not being prepared in advance, I was wearing my heels. But I figure, if Stephanie Plum can do it, why can’t I?

The four of us stroll into the shooting range, all girls and giggles. The men behind the counter are unimpressed. We are asked what kind of gun we want (how the heck should we know?!) and pick a Glock.

We are asked if we know how to use it (do we look like we know how to use it?!) and get the 5-minute tutorial on loading and not killing each other.

Emily asks if anyone has ever been hurt at the range. The man tells her she would be the first, a thought not comforting in the slightest. Then, decked out in our protective ear- and eye-wear, we are pointed in the direction of the indoor shooting range and sent on our merry way. Alone. With a gun.

Now this disturbs me slightly. Here we are, four girls, only one of us who has ever shot a gun “a few times” before.

Emily is visibly shaking from the thought of facing her fear of guns. I can’t stop giggling (and subsequently blame the nerves). Jen has the minute confidence of having shot her friend’s gun (a few times) and Renee is trying to remember what her dad showed her earlier in the backyard about aiming and firing.

Yet we are allowed, alone and with no prior instruction, to take a gun, load it, aim it, and shoot it, all in an enclosed concrete space. Even now, the thought is slightly ludicrous.

Very quickly, we realize this is serious. The sharpshooter in the lane next to us firing round after round of viciously loud pops is enough to convince us of that.

If the insane level of noise isn’t enough to unnerve us, his bullet casings are flying all over the place, landing burning hot on our arms and heads.

We are so out of our league. I begin to wonder what we think we’re doing. Emily has managed to memorize all 15 rules of the range during our five minute check-in and begins quoting them to me.

”The gun misfired? That’s rule eight! Put the gun down and get the instructor! Rule eight! Rule eight!” And it’s hot, a stifling heat that adds to my nervous sweat and makes my hands so slippery I have trouble loading the gun.

But we did it. We all managed to load and shoot the gun. After every shot, we’d turn around for the smiles and thumbs ups from our friends.

We even managed to hit the target, a cheerful blue silhouette of a man who got hit far too many times in the nether-regions for comfort.

True, the target was hanging only a few feet away, but we still proudly displayed it on the wall at work, where it serves to intimidate our bothersome coworkers.

We walked away from the range proud of ourselves and hoping to return for some actual lessons one day.

Still, how strange, the thought that I was standing there with a loaded gun in my hands, heavy and hot to the touch. Squeeze the trigger and its over.

The gun has fired before I can even really understand what’s happening. It seemed so unreal that many times I had to be reminded not to turn around with the gun still in my hands. Put it down, point it at the ground, those things can kill people.

The moral of the story? That would-be kidnapper in the grocery store parking lot better watch out now.

I might not be able to accurately hit him, but at least I know what a gun in my hands feels like now.

I know what will happen if I squeeze the trigger, what the kick-back feels like.

Next up, running in my heels while searching for the gun buried in my massive purse while chasing the bad guy I’m trying to arrest...

Next year’s resolution, perhaps?

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Submitted by PS1441 on Fri, 09/08/2006 - 10:32am.

#1 The implications that Autrey's somehow runs an unsafe establishment is the 'ludicrous" part of the tale.

#2 Did any of you four actually ASK one of the Autrey's employees for additional assistance? You seem to mock the 5 minute tutorial, but as you didn't feel comfortable with that, why not ask for more help?

#3 And you did this why? Run out of ideas for this week's opinion section? Cr4p n Giggles? Grow up. Guns are not toys. Guns are tools. Nearly any tool is dangerous in an unskilled hand. It was foolish and irresponsible for 4 adults to engage in this behaviour to satisfy some strange fantasy.

#4 The kidnapper has nothing to be worried about. "Hoping to return one day for lessons". If you are serious about personal defence, you would have scheduled the lesson BEFORE you went to the range. BTW, Autrey's offers personal defense classes regularly.

#5 Or more likely, the gun is stuffed in her cookie jar at home or left accidentally unloaded in her purse, but that’s not really the point. Oh, it is absolutely the point. Your heroine is irresponsible as well. "Accidentally unloaded?"

#6 The FBI doesn't take giggling girls.

#7 That all being said rather harshly, and possibly sounding like a father, let me offer you this: If you are serious about learning to shoot safely and properly, just ask. My 12 year old daughter can teach you a thing or two about responsibility.

Submitted by skyspy on Thu, 09/07/2006 - 8:53am.

This really isn't as funny as you think it is. When they saw you people giggling like little school girls they should have asked you to leave.

I love Autreys. They offer great instruction.

Anytime you are "playing" with a deadly weapon it is serious. Whether your weapon of choice is a gun, a car, or a plane, you need to be serious about taking lessons.

Submitted by ole sarge on Wed, 09/06/2006 - 9:30pm.

What are four supposedly responsible adults doing risking their lives and the lives of others on a pistol range without training?

If your secret dreams are to emulate a New Jersey “bail bimbo” who had the common sense to leave her gun in the cookie jar (ala Jim Rockford, you are to young to remember him) then you do a disservice to the responsible local women who seek help and instruction in protecting themselves and their families. When one picks up a gun they are dealing with reality, not the romantic ideal of a television production.

This is the same type of irresponsible behavior that encourages gun fantasies and leads to the youthful sense of invincibility. Just look at the news pages of your paper and the blogs that respond to your offerings to see where poor judgment in the use and handling of firearms leads young people.

Grow up! Be responsible, take classes and learn about the safe handling of firearms.

We expect better of you.

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