By Abigail Kent
I consider myself politically conservative. I support the Second Amendment of the Constitution, but I have never invested in a tangible experience with firearms. Upon this realization, I felt like a walking contradiction. How can I adequately address gun control issues in America without having a working understanding of the subject matter? This was an issue indicative of cognitive dissonance, a problem I wanted to resolve for the sake of personal knowledge and integrity.
My dad and I enjoy finding activities which double as bonding moments and educational experiences. During the week of spring break, we invested in a gun safety class at the local Wilshire Gun shooting range. Upon arriving at Wilshire Gun, I felt intimidated by the extremely masculine environment. The outside of the establishment boasted an oversized gun scope mounted to the building’s roof and a parking lot filled with lifted pickup trucks on oversized tires. Everything inside the shooting range was black or grey, accented with concrete. But the people were friendly toward me and glad to welcome a newcomer. Our gun safety instructor was an extensively bearded man who looked like he walked off the set of “Lone Survivor.” I took comfort in the fact other class participants seemed to range in familiarity with firearms and interest in the class material. I sat next to a couple who was attending the class as a birthday present for the husband. He was extremely excited. She was less so.
The three-hour class included two main sections. First, the instructor covered the fundamentals of gun safety, which focused on situational awareness and respect for your weapon. Throughout the training, he repeated the phrase, “Owning a gun is a freedom that requires great responsibility” until it was ringing in my ears louder than the gunshots coming from an adjacent bunker. Instructions came rapid-fire. “Point your gun in a safe direction.” “Keep your finger off the trigger.” “The gun should remain unloaded until it’s ready for use.” My head was swirling with all the worst-case scenarios which become a reality because people circumvent gun safety.
Finally, it came time to move from the classroom to the shooting range. The rest of the world seemed to slow down as I slipped on personal safety equipment and studied the target at the end of the range. Picking up a handgun for the first time, my hands tested its physical weight while my mind registered the ethical burden of such a weapon. I could feel my heartbeat in a magnified manner. The textured grip of the handgun was slick from my sweaty palms. For a moment, I felt panicked, but I cleared my head. Lining up my sights, I took a deep breath and pulled the trigger at the height of the inhale. Two to the chest. One to the head. The paper outline of a human lurched towards me on a track, showing where the bullets ripped through the target. I was pleased with myself, and my dad squeezed my shoulder to communicate his approval. I was not half bad.
At the end of my time at Wilshire Gun, I walked back into the sunlight of the parking lot with my dad. I carried my targets rolled up like a treasure map, stretching my arms to alleviate the soreness caused by recoil. I mulled over my time at the shooting range. I had learned copious amounts about the inner workings of firearms and the corresponding safety measures to follow. I had overcome the feeling of nervousness to zero in on the task at hand. Most importantly, I had addressed the issue, which motivated me to take the gun safety class in the first place, establishing a personal understanding of what it takes to handle a firearm.
Guns do not inherently infer confidence or guarantee security. Personal responsibility is the most crucial factor in the equation of Second Amendment freedoms. If a person takes the responsibility of a gun more lightly than they ought, they put those around them at extreme risk. As a result, the constitutional freedom to own firearms comes with significant risk, and America should not take the political discourse surrounding gun control lightly.
This first-person article was completed as an assignment in an Oklahoma Christian journalism course. It was edited by Talon staff and approved for publication.