Wednesday, November 30, 2005

words: Bang

words: Bang

Every once in a while, thanks to the miracle of Blogging, you read about someone who is frightened by guns (or has been taught to fear them, or to hate them, or subconciously associate them with worthless people) but who embraces their fear or hatred and actually tries to learn about them.

Such a person is 'redmemory1', a young woman in Nevada who has "issues".

Because she felt that her life was chaotic, she started a 'new blog' a few weeks ago, and began to bare her soul. Her angst was painfully on display from the first day, but somehow a few people (including Kevin of The Smallest Minority) picked up on her blog and reinforced the process with encouraging words.

A friend introduced her, in the gentlest possible way and by bits and pieces, to guns and ammunition as objects. He took her to the range and gave her what must have been some very high-quality instruction on gunhandling and other shooting techniques. He seems to have done everything right, because a few days later he again took her to the range and she reports that she was becoming . . . perhaps not inured to the startlement of having people shoot guns near her, but at least able to control her reactions. She reported that she didn't really consider it 'fun', but 'necessary'.

I'm extremely impressed by this young woman, for several reasons.

First, because she is able to write about the issues in her life which prevent her from enjoying her own existance, and then because she is taking steps to address these issues, one at a time.

Next, because she is willing to take us with her as she makes major changes in her life, and her attitudes, and writes intelligently and cogently. (I wish I shared her skills in this area.) It's perhaps the epitome of courage to bare one's soul in public, but she manages it without obvious embarassment or false bravado. Her courage is exemplary; her candor, remarkable.

We have all experienced fear, but few of us are willing or able to address it so openly.

Of course, my congratulations to this brave young lady, and my thanks to Kevin for bringing her to our attention. I think everyone reading this article should go to the redmemory1 website and read the story this remarkable woman has to tell.

If this was all I had to say, I would end this article now (and I probably should), but I do have some other things to say which are too extensive to to post in the comments section of her blog. Please forgive the verbosity of the following.

Fear of loud noises:
I've been shooting for over 50 years. Rifles, for the first 30 of them, and mostly pistols for the rest of the years. I shoot in competition, and haven't actively hunted game since 1980-something. Every year I shoot between 40 and 50 matches, some of which extend over two or more days. I've officiated at shooting matches, I've served as an infantry platoon sargeant in Vietnam, and I suppose I've been around more guns and shooting than most people. But there are times when it makes me nervous to be around the sudden, unexpected noise of someone shooting a gun.

Fear of loud noises is probably one of the basic instinctive fears we are born with. Infants are frightened by loud noises; it's not only because they don't understand why the noises occur, but because these sounds seem intrinsically threatening.

As we age and gain experience, we learn to separate those sounds which are reasonable to expect from those which are not. That doesn't mean that our lizard-brain will stop telling us to RUN when we hear them; it only means that our developing intelligence can identify the noise, correlate it to the environment, and reassure us that the fear we feel is not necessary. It's a learning experience, and it takes time to reprogram your subconscious. This reprogramming is not a perfect mechanism, so sometimes you will be frightened by gunshots and so will I. I've learned to live with it and to laugh at myself when I feel unreasonable fear . . . but I don't try to lose the fear because when I hear loud noises at night, in my neighborhood while I am reading in bed, I still feel the fear. It's a survival mechanism, and we can let it control us or we can control it.

Fear of Guns:
Because I was raised in a household where guns were always present, where they were regarded as tools, hobby items or a way to feed the family, I've always accepted guns on that basis.

Not everyone has been as fortunate as I. Some people are raised in households where they learned that guns are evil, guns are tools of destruction, and nobody really NEEDS to own a gun.

Worse, some learn that only 'bad people' have guns. Guns are for killing, and Good People will have nothing to do with guns.

Even the word is ugly. Guns. What an awful word. If 'guns' were called 'flowers', would they be less threatening? Probably not. "A gun by any name . . . "

My Dear, Sweet Lady, SWMBO (an acronym for "SHE - Who Must Be Obeyed", please forgive the not-so-private joke) was raised in such a household. A preacher's daughter, she learned that nobody has a NEED to own a gun.

When we met, we were immediately infatuated with each other. When she ("SHE") learned that I shoot pistols in competition, for fun, she made the conscious choice that she liked me "anyway", and allowed the precious tentative relationship to continue.

It was difficult for her, when I would leave her on Saturday mornings to spend the day at the range. I was careful, when I said goodbye at her door, to always remind her that she was invited to join me at the range.

After some time, she decided to go with me to pistol matches, because we were losing the best half of each weekend together by not being together.

For three years she followed me around muddy pistol ranges in all weather, helping occasionally by picking up brass so we could reload the ammunition for the next weekend. She met the people I spent my free time with, and decided that "shooters" were not a bunch of iconoclastic, misogynistic red-necks who spent their weekends swilling beer while perched on the tailgate of pickup trucks making racist jokes. Actually, my friends and acquaintances turned out to be pretty nice people.

Eventually, she said "Screw this! Get me a gun. I'm tired of being the Brass Wench, I want to shoot cardboard targets and let those guys pick up MY brass for a change!"

(Any woman that articulate just naturally DESERVES to have her own gun.)

Since that date, she has evolved to shooting progressively more complicated and competition-oriented guns. We go to pistol matches almost every weekend, all year 'round. She has a competition gun in her personal gunsafe, and a defense gun under her pillow . . . we don't notice it when we sleep, but we're comforted in the knowledge that it is there and available should it be needed, if we ever think about it at all.

We each shoot between 10,000 and 20,000 rounds a year, and she helps reload the ammunition from brass which we BOTH pick up off the range during each weekend's competitive match.

And yes, the other folks we shoot with do pick up her brass for her, and carefully place it in her 'brass-bag'. I brass for her, too, and she continues to do her share of work at the matches we attend. She's now a Certified Range Officer (has been for several years), and you can frequently see her officiating. In fact, she has officiated at National matches in the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA),. Everybody likes her, because she's fair but honest.

She has also decided that there are many good and sufficient reasons for honest people to 'have a gun'.

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