Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pistol packin' mama.

So, remember back in July when one of my patients stock-piled ammo and threatened to kill me? Well, it scared me, and I had a peculiarly 'Murican response. That week, I was at the gun shop talking to the owner about handguns. A background check later and I walked out with a 22. Out at the range, it proceeded to jam repeatedly, in spite of help from a gunsmith who happened to be there that day. He asked a question I never thought I'd be asked, "Have you field stripped your gun yet?" And I gave an answer I sure never thought I'd give, "Yes." Everyone advised me to "trade up." Back to the gun store and after anther background check (in case I'd committed any crimes in the week I owned the 22, I guess), and out again with a Colt 380. It's a scaled down version of the Colt 1911. I picked it in spite of the price tag because it is easy to rack and known to be reliable.  The store owner patted his pocket and said, "That's what I carry." My neighbor, the retired cop, asked what sort of gun I had and when I told him, he whistled and said, "Can't go wrong with a Colt - that's a fine gun."
This is the first time at the range with the original 22. It's an outdoor seated range, and you can hear by the accents around me that it's primarily used by folks born and bred here. I'm something of a novelty at the range. I went back on my own, after I bought the 380, and overheard this:
First Guy: "That lady came here from work in a skirt and high heels, sat down and started shootin!"
Me: "Hey, I can hear you guys!"
Guys: "We're talking about you - come on over!" .... "You're a conundrum - you drive a Prius with a peace sign on the back, but you're armed."
Me: "I'm a Quaker, too, throw that in the mix."
Older two guys, "Whoa! Hahaha!"
Younger guy, "What's that? One of them little rice cakes?" 
After a few trips to the range, I got more proficient at loading the magazine and racking the gun. One of the guys there pointed at my target and said, "We've decided we like having you here but we don't want to date you!" I said, "Well, if you look closer you might be less afraid." Then after I'd retrieved the paper target I said to him, "Actually, I seem to shoot consistently low - so I could be your worst nightmare!" I will say that, to my surprise, the guys at the gun store and the range have been uniformly helpful and friendly.
And then it was time for the day-long required class for a permit. You can own a gun and keep it at your house without a permit, but I wasn't afraid at my house. The class was taught by a retired officer and mostly focused on gun safety and the law. In a rather sinister twist on the old idea that it's better to ask forgiveness than permission, the instructor said, "It's better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6."  I did, however, appreciate that he kept reiterating that if you own a gun you are responsible for where every bullet goes, no matter what. It was a surreal experience, though - we sat at tables with our weapons in front of us. Unloaded, chambers open, and no ammo in the room, fortunately. The class was held at the Sheriff's training building and the highlight for me was that they actually gave us coffee and donuts as a snack. You can't make this stuff up.
Finally it was time to use the indoor range. We stood up at those barrels and shot five rounds at a time at increasing distances from the targets. I wasn't wild about the setup, because there was not protection between each shooter.  The spent .22 casings of the woman next to me kept hitting me. It's not fun to have a hot bit of metal bounce off your forehead, especially when you are trying to concentrate. The worst was when one flew down my shirt. I flinched, automatically tucking inward, which allowed the hot casing to drop into my bra where it was caught against my skin. As soon as I was allowed to leave, I went to the break room to get cold water for the burn. When a friend asked later how the class had gone, I said, "Well, aside from burning my breast, it was fine."
To get the permit you have to pass a written test and the shooting test. And then, through the Department of Homeland Security (named by Aldous Huxley, I'm sure of it) fill out a long application, fork over a lot of money, get finger-printed, and go through a more rigorous series of background checks.  Which I'm totally on board with, by the way,
And there you have it. So... now that I've jumped through all the hoops for a concealed weapon permit, do I carry? Nope. I've actually run into the threatening patient a couple of times near my office. He glares at me, but does not speak since that would violate his probation. He still scares me. But you know what? I don't want to live that way. I went through all that because I didn't want to just sit around waiting to be shot. But now that I've had some time to think about it, I don't want to sit around waiting to shoot back. I just don't. I'll go back to the range now and again because I've discovered I kind of enjoy target practice. But otherwise, the gun stays home, unloaded.

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