10 June 2009

Pulling the trigger

When I pulled the trigger, it was like unleashing a power I’d never known.
The .223 round tore through the center portion of the target’s head faster than my eye could ever hope to track it. I lowered the AR-56 so the barrel pointed at the ground, and smiled. There, on the Eagan Police Department’s firing range, I’d just lost my firearm virginity. A co-worker of mine had asked me to tag along to shoot some video footage of firearms training, and I gladly went along. After watching him and a few other people pop off rounds from Glocks, I eagerly jumped at the chance when one of the instructors asked who wanted to shoot a carbine.
Amazingly enough, the trainer let me take a few shots at a human-torso shaped target on a far wall. He went over the operations of the rifle, loading it and pointing out the functions of the rifle’s laser sight on the top of the receiver. My head was drowning under a torrent of realizations: “It’s push-button death;” “It’s the complete opposite of sex yet, just as enjoyable, with an obvious starting, middle and end;” “This is what separates us from the animals,” etc.
After my instruction was complete, I buried the butt-end of the rifle into my right shoulder, and lifted the rest of it to face the target on the wall. My arms shook - partly from tension. I’d never fired a gun before, and I was really sensitive to noise. I’d always hid in the car during fireworks as a kid. Why the hell was I lighting the equivalent to several of them going off inches from my ear? Oh well - too late now.
I lined up the red dot on the center mass of the target, and pulled the trigger. The recoil was less than expected, and the noise was more thunder-sounding than anything else. In that instant, I realized the power of a firearm - not only in terms of the destruction it can wreak, but in how it can resonate with the human mind. For that split second, I was literally a god of thunder, capable of snuffing life with the mere twitch of a finger. My heart skipped a beat when I’d heard the empty casing hit the ground. I’d fired my first gun, and found the experience intensely satisfying.
I managed to beg another set of shots off of another instructor, who clearly hadn’t seen that I’d just shot up another target further down the range. I felt like a chubby kid asking for seconds on ice cream, but how many times would I ever have this chance again? That time, I fired three shots - two went through the target’s “head,” and the other went through the torso.
Guns are more than tools. Guns are the ultimate personification of personal power projection, the ability to push an idea, be it “I wish your government were more like mine” or “I was bullied as a teenager and you are all going to pay for it because you happen to be at my school/the mall/church/fill-in-the-blank.”
With great power comes great responsibility, but none of that was really on my mind as I walked away from the firing range. What was on my mind was the obvious metaphor of the human-shaped target on the wall. Guns have no other purpose, justified or not, than to kill or at best maim/wound. In my glee at hitting the target’s head twice in a row, I’d forgotten what it really represented - and it bothered me. What in particular about it bothered me? I think it was the thought, “Hey, that was easy.”

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