I give this student a lot of credit because she overcame a tremendous fear of guns and shot two pistols and a rifle during our range trip.
By Bevin Burns
There are some things that have been ingrained into my mind for as long as I can remember: don’t talk to strangers, treat others the way you want to be treated, the sun is yellow, and that guns are bad. Very early on in my life I was taught to fear guns because of their power to inflict mass destruction and devastation.
I did not grow up in a house with guns, nor did my parents grow up in a house with guns. No one I knew talked about guns or felt as though they needed to sleep with one on their bedside table for protection. My parents and my community feared the power of guns, and in turn, they instilled that fear in me.
Before the range I had two distinct memories that reinforced my fear towards guns. Flash-back to December 14, 2012 when my fear of guns was recognized for the first time. The day of the Sandy Hook shooting I remember vividly. I was sitting in Mr. Martin’s seventh grade algebra class when he broke the news to us. I later found out that my aunt’s friend and assistant of twenty years lost their son in the terrible tragedy. The trauma that that family feels to this day was a result of someone who should have never gotten their hands on a gun.
It has been almost eight years and the number of mass shootings and unnecessary casualties caused by guns are unfortunately still at the forefront of most people’s minds.
The first time that I had seen a gun in person was on a police officer’s belt my sophomore year as an RA in a freshman residence hall when they were responding to a medical call. I was just inches away from the gun that was safely secured, but still felt a sense of panic come over me.
Prior to last Tuesday’s trip to the gun range my first hand experience surrounding guns was nonexistent. I had barely even seen a gun, let alone shot one. The anxiety I had about going to the range was off the charts. Approaching the range my heart was beating 132 bpm according to my Apple Watch. When we got out of the car and began walking towards the range and heard gunshots ring out from the group before us we all felt very weak in the knees. Even though I knew where those shots were coming from, I was not prepared for the sound and the emotions that hearing a gunshot would bring.
I was not planning on shooting a gun but figured that it might be my only opportunity, since I do not foresee myself going to a shooting range again.
The thoughts were racing through my head just as fast as my heart was beating: Why do I have the right to shoot this lethal weapon after receiving nine minutes of virtual training? What if someone snaps and turns the gun around on the observers? Will the kickback of the gun hurt? Why the hell do people do this to release stress when I feel like I am about to have a heart attack?
The preconceived notions I had on guns and their power clouded my experience at the range (as well as my safety glasses). The power that I felt behind the gun was unsettling. The ease of pulling the trigger heightened my fears behind the capabilities of what a gun could do. One mistake or thought of malice from the person holding the trigger can have such devastating repercussions for countless people.
Growing up the conversation around guns was as taboo as the conversation of sex was. The adults in my life were uncomfortable discussing these topics themselves so instead of being proactive and forthcoming with information they took the easy way out and said “guns are bad, sex is bad, stay away from both.”
The approach of not discussing topics deemed ‘difficult’ was used in my community, but now I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who do not share the same opinion as me. This allows me to broaden my perspectives on countless issues, even if I do not agree with them.
This has made me aware of just how much the environment you grow up in can shape your beliefs, because I am sure that if I grew up elsewhere, I may be a gun fanatic. I have been taught to hate guns and to be afraid of them and probably always will be to some extent, but I keep asking myself, “Why are my opinions so strong if I have almost no experience with them?” That is a question I hope to have an answer to by the end of this course.