Friday, March 20, 2009

Guns and Roses

The roses are for you guys who have been taking the time to make such good comments in the posts these past few weeks. Much appreciated. Feels a lot less like I'm talking to myself.

The guns are in reference to this post, "Not Until You're 12, Son", which details a recent trip to the shooting range. That line, by the way, is from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (Mike Teevee complains that his dad won't let him have a gun.)

ChickenLittle--who, for the record, I have never once heard claim the sky is falling--mentioned that shooting is a family tradition (though he didn't get the gun obsession gene) and mentioned how firing a BB gun is illegal in his town, which put a stop to a fun hobby his boy was enjoying.

So, for the record, we go to a place called The Firing Line. Lane rental costs $20, gun rental costs about $10, a bag of about 50 bullets runs about $15. (A year family membership costs $250, less if you're a cop or soldier, and covers the cost of the lane and the gun rental, so the trip price goes down to $30. So it takes nine trips to come out ahead, not six like I posted there.)

I've heard some vague criticisms about the place, particularly in the store where we purchase our non-firearm firearms (i.e., BB guns, knives, swords, etc.) but we've never had any troubles, and the people there are very polite, and reasonably indulgent of tyros like ourselves. (We took our basic training/safety class there.) The Boy has noted that the people who deal in weapons--both guns and knives--tend to be very polite.

One thing I want to make clear, though, is that this whole gun thing is not my idea. You have to go back to my great-grandmother to find a marksman--she used to shoot prairie chickens for dinner, and win county competitions--and I never even had a toy gun until I started to hang with a friend who had a bunch of them. (I had a lot of toy cars and slot cars, which indicated absolutely nothing about my adult interests.)

We used to have these spring-loaded guns that shot out quarter-sized plastic disks that would curve if you knew how to shoot them. These were great toys and fun for playing tag with, though they would hurt if you took one point-blank--something we did pretty regularly because, hey, at the time, we were teenage boys. (Also, at least early on, the toy guns did not have those orange "I'm a toy!" safety tips.)

My parents never expressed an opinion one way or another on the subject of guns. But growing up when I did, there was an atmosphere of "guns are bad". If you had to use one--no matter how righteous the cause--you could expect to feel horrible about it and need lots of unhelpful counseling. (Remember "Hill Street Blues"?)

I never so much as held a gun until I was past 30. As weird as it may sound, I'd feel far more comfortable defending myself in hand-to-hand combat than using a gun. My dad just suggested going to a shooting range out of the blue. I agreed mostly for two reasons: My father kept saying that most people couldn't hit anything past 15 feet with a handgun when they needed to; it seemed like an experience I should have.

Well, I found myself able to hit a human-sized target at 60 feet pretty easily first time out (no instruction), so that resolved that. Also, I had the experience. (On the subject of experience, it's interesting to note that when firing a rifle later on, I began to see that the notion that Lee Harvey Oswald could've fired the three shots during the assassination was really not far-fetched at all. There's no substitute for going out and experiencing something for yourself.) But, frankly, I had mixed feelings about the "gun thing:.

But that didn't matter much, because there was The Boy. And The Boy, though quite young, was (and remains) fascinated with all things weapons. And when The Boy learned there were guns and shooting, the next thing he wanted to learn was when he could engage in shooting said guns.

Well, life goes on, and we actually didn't get around to it until he was ten or eleven, or maybe just barely twelve. I've come, in the space of that time, to regard shooting as an important skill. That is, one should be comfortable and familiar with guns, so as not to fall prey to any ideas of their mystical power. (Turns out, e.g., they actually don't kill people.) So, when we're in the groove, we go about twice a month to the range.

I've told The Boy that if he adheres to this new program well, we'll go to one of these Appleseed Rifle Camps. There's one within driving range, and they're not terribly expensive. Though we'll have to actually bring some rifles. Buying guns with a Dem in the White House seems fiscally imprudent, but with luck, they won't have passed any really price-hiking legislation by the time I get around to it.

As a parent, you often think you're going to pass things down to your kid. (I've so far been unable to get one kid really interested in music.) But this is one of those things that the kid has really passed back up to me.


  1. You get good comments because the quality of your writing inspires it, Blake.

  2. Echoing Ron's comment. Your blog is terrific, Blake.

  3. blake,

    Thanks so much for the inspiration! We just back from here. We did a one time visit, but will probably join. The place was packed. Families (girls and boys) too!

    We started out small. He wanted to shoot handguns, so I chose a .22 Beretta. Shot at standard circular targets (not ready to go to silhouettes). Good lessons here about accuracy vs. precision. I was more precise, but he was more accurate.

    Oh thanks so much again blake, I owe you one!

  4. Well, thanks, guys. Appreciated.

    And I'm pleased as punch it worked out CL. The nice thing about renting is you get to play with a wider variety of firearms without having to commit.


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