“Now, please remember: The items on this counter can and will kill something if given the chance, regardless of whether you are handling the .45 caliber or the .22.”
I looked down at the three pistols laid out in front of us, swallowed loudly and returned my attention to Dave McCulloch, owner of the firearms and of the patient, yet unsettling words just delivered to the two English boys in his Detroit kitchen.
Growing up in the U.K. where guns have an almost mythical status, I cannot say that recent proposals from Washington to limit their availability to the U.S. public seem outrageous. But today the politics did not concern me. This new experience was solely for fun.
I was handed the heavy, steel-plated 9mm. Seven weeks living in the United States, and I was already fondling the object of America’s most impassioned controversy. It all felt too soon.
I was nervous as I practiced my new right to handle a gun. It was unloaded, yet my innate Britishness caused me to silently squirm. How embarrassing would it be if I accidently set this thing off? Accidents happen. There are five people and half a dozen cats surrounding me in a small kitchen. Manslaughter would not be the freshest start to my new life.
I set the pistol down after pretending to be satisfied with my inspection. It felt like that awkward moment when a waiter asks you to try the wine you just ordered. He watches you, you nod and the strange tradition completes itself.
“Yes, that’s a good gun,” I said.
Our destination was a firing range. The place was like nothing I’d ever seen before: A cross between a survivalist’s basement and a dirty movie store.
Once at our assigned lane, I struggled for a minute with my earplugs as the couple next to us emptied a full clip from a thundering assault rifle into an evil-looking clown suspended at the far end of the tunnel.
Soon it was my turn to propel bits of metal into the piece of paper twenty yards away from me. I took aim and gingerly pulled the trigger.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
If you, like me, have never fired a pistol before, your first time will feel like a cocktail of losing your virginity and getting kicked in the face: It’s scary, you won’t forget it and it’s almost definitely going to be over before you know it.
But I have to admit a cliché, I felt powerful. That paper target had nothing on me.
So, do you want to know a London boy’s opinion of guns? I am going to attempt to separate my childish tendencies from moral common sense and say I enjoyed myself. I’d like to do it again. Maybe next weekend. Perhaps tomorrow. OK, probably tomorrow.
Of course, if I do shoot a gun again, it will be for purely educational purposes. And, I didn’t like the way that clown was looking at me; I want to teach him a lesson next time by blowing his face off with a shotgun. See? Purely educational purposes.
Guns will remain controversial both domestically and internationally, and I am glad we don’t see the same gun violence in the U.K. as the U.S. struggles with.
But there’s just something I can’t help but notice: They are really, really fun to play with.
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