By Maddie Dorfman
Before our trip to the gun range last Tuesday, I had very negative feelings towards guns. This was in large part based on my understanding of their place in American society. Growing up in a family that constantly warned me of the dangers of firearms, as well as seeing several shootings on the news in downtown Atlanta every day, I have always felt that guns were something unnecessary and harmful in our country. This feeling grew especially strong once I became old enough to understand the mass shootings that were occurring every week at different schools, concerts, and places that should be considered safe. It angered me that people who wanted to cause such damage were able to do so easily because of semi-automatic weapons that can kill several people in mere seconds; it angered me that people were more concerned about their right to own a shotgun than others’ right to feel safe in public.
With all this negativity surrounding firearms in mind, I was honestly quite nervous to go to the gun range in the days leading up to the trip. There were several reasons for this: I was scared of holding such a destructive weapon in my hands, I was worried I was going to be terrible at shooting and make a fool of myself, and, worst of all, I was concerned that I would actually enjoy myself.
I always judged people who saw shooting guns as a hobby because I felt that it was encouraging all of the violence and destruction that I witnessed guns causing on the news. So, when I found myself actually enjoying shooting the guns at the range, my worst fears were confirmed. I did not understand why I was having fun doing something I considered to be so detrimental to society.
Nevertheless, I tried to put these concerns in the back of my mind and focus on doing my best to aim well. Leaving the range, I felt a strange mixture of emotions: I felt an adrenaline rush from shooting the guns, and was proud of myself for not doing too terribly, but I was also irritated with myself for having fun, and confused as to what this meant regarding my previous views towards guns.
Now that I have had a bit of time to reflect on my experience at the gun range, I feel a little more accepting of the enjoyment I got out of the experience. I believe that watching others’ introduction videos to the class played a large role in this acceptance, because this allowed me to see that there are people out there who shoot guns for fun but still have responsible views on gun ownership and usage.
Before this, I think I viewed the issue of gun usage as a dichotomous situation; either someone enjoyed shooting guns and was therefore a redneck who had no regard for others’ safety, or someone did not enjoy shooting guns and was therefore sane. I realize now that this is both inaccurate and unfair to assume. I see that, while there are people who I still believe take their 2nd Amendment rights too far, there are plenty of people who shoot guns as a hobby and really nothing more than that.
Shooting a gun does not automatically equal supporting violence, and I think that is my biggest takeaway from the experience we had at the gun range. I do not know if I will necessarily be going out to the range for a casual outing again anytime soon, and I am definitely still wary about gun usage in our country, but I now feel more open to learning about how guns can actually be beneficial in society through objective observations.