This is the second part of my gun range visit, begun yesterday. I seem to have not written anything about the actual shooting session with the boys itself, probably because it was unexceptional, possibly because I considered it private. All I recall is the younger boy didn't like it much at all—guns are loud, even with ear protection—and neither asked to shoot again, leaving me slightly disappointed, as I half hoped it would become a family activity we'd do from time to time. I was fully prepared to buy a gun, for target practice purposes, should it become necessary. But it wasn't. So I didn't, a thread of logic that eludes many—our right NOT to own guns—and is the source of much tragedy.
'How do you know he won't shoot you?"
Spoken by my wife, standing in the kitchen as I grab the car keys.
I am hurrying to meet a reader, one of many who offered to go shooting with me after I was turned away from Maxon Shooters Supplies in Des Plaines.
The thought never crossed my mind; I'm not significant enough to shoot. It isn't as if I'm unearthing atrocities in Chechnya.
The reader, Chuck is waiting at the gun range when I arrive: black leather jacket, about my age and height, apparently sane. An insurance adjuster.
He has a small arsenal of weaponry in locked cases — a matte black Browning 9 mm, a Colt .45 automatic, a nickel-plated Smith & Wesson .357 magnum, a .22 Harrington & Richardson revolver and a .22 rifle.
We sit at a table and go over the guns, only a portion of his collection, the size of which he doesn't specify beyond "quite a few."
Why so many? I ask, explaining my theory that men assemble big armories as part of elaborate, if unspoken, end-of-the world fantasies.
No, he says, it's a matter of collecting, of appreciation.
"They're a work of art," Chuck says. "My wife is into Beanie Babies, and I do this."
Fair enough. They are sleek.
He hands me material on gun safety. It takes 30 seconds to read — treat all guns as if they're loaded, don't point them at something you don't want to shoot, etc. — but I shudder to think of how many people buy the ranch ignoring them.
Then to the range,
Shooting guns is fun. I could lard that thought with all kinds of caveats and expressions of regret about mass killings. But save politics for another day. I learned a lot — a .22 caliber bullet is tiny next to a .45 slug, a pencil eraser compared to a pinkie. The .357 magnum does not have a kick like in the movies.
At least not in my hands. A lifetime of video games serves me well — I plant all 16 shots from the .22 in the innermost target ring, and do well even with the large caliber guns. The first shot from a new clip with the .45 is a dead-center bull's-eye.
"Asshole," mutters Chuck, massaging the word into a compliment.
I save a pair of human-shaped targets for the boys, figuring they can decorate their rooms with them. Boys love that kind of thing.
—Published in the Sun-Times April 27, 2007