By Sara DeFelice
Before October 2019, my experience with firearms was extremely limited. I had never shot a firearm, let alone hold one in my hands. The only reason there was a gun in our house was because it belonged to my grandfather when he fought in World War II. My dad made it extremely clear that it was a display only antique in the house. Under no circumstances were my siblings and I allowed to touch it. I grew up in a small, rural town in New Jersey with many residents who annually hunt deer. Other than my limited knowledge of firearms used for combat, the only other purpose I understood guns served was for hunting.
In high school, I started paying more attention to the media and the ever-increasing mass shootings happening in the United States. My perception shifted that firearms were not just used for hunting and militaristic protection, but to cause damage and destruction to innocent people.
It was not until October 2019 that I held my first ever gun. My boyfriend insisted that I join him at the indoor gun range and just try it out in a controlled and safe manner. I was skeptical that shooting could be a sport and serve a purpose other than causing harm. Holding the gun in my hands for the very first time sent a weird sensation throughout my body. Although it was completely unloaded, the mere weight of the metal in my hands made me feel anxious that I could do something wrong and potentially hurt someone.
After some time passed and I got to fire my first few rounds, I found myself enjoying the range. I liked the challenge of trying to shoot a small target from several yards away. With all of the safety precautions in place, I was genuinely having fun. The weapon did not seem as daunting as the media had made it out to be.
When I got to the range for our class field trip I was surprisingly anxious. Although I have been to a gun range several times since my first experience, I have never gone without my boyfriend. The mere thought of having an audience of my peers and my professor watching me over my shoulder made me slightly apprehensive. Knowing that I had prior experience with firearms, I felt that I needed to outshoot my peers who had never held a gun before. My boyfriend has served as my instructor, and without his guidance, I was nervous that I would not shoot my best.
Over the past ten months, I have by no means become a professional shooter. From watching movies and television shows, I had a false perception that shooting was easy. Characters seem to point, fire and hit their target with little hesitation. Meanwhile, I stand there, aiming at an inanimate target, for what seems like several minutes, attempting to perfectly align the iron sights. After all of that time, I still do not always hit the intended target. The perception from the media that aiming a firearm is easy, is something that I have learned is not true. One cannot simply just point in the direction they want and fire. A proper grip, a slight bend in the elbows to decrease recoil, a wide leg stance, and more are all elements of proper technique. It takes several months and even years of practice to truly master the skill. Although I do not have as precise of an aim as I would like to, my main goal over the past ten months was to become more comfortable around firearms. I now know how to correctly load a magazine, which is something I would never have anticipated a year ago.
Overall, my mindset about the purpose of guns has evolved drastically as I have gotten older and had more experience. I now understand that shooting actually can be a lot of fun in the proper environment. While the media has painted firearms in an extremely negative light, I look forward to learning more about gun culture and the various purposes for owning a firearm in this class. The discussion about guns is continuously evolving, and my hope that through this course the class can make more informed opinions on the matter.