Channeling My Annie Oakley
Confessions of a Bleeding Heart Liberal
Early one Saturday morning, Donnie shook me awake. "C'mon...get up...we have to go soon! C'mon...wakey, wakey!"
I slowly raised an eyelid and gave him a virulent look...
"Where are we going?" I mumbled.
"I made an appointment for us at the shooting range. It's time you learned how to use a gun."
I buried my head beneath the pillow and said some colorful words.
"Hurry now...we have just enough time for you to get dressed and to go over safety procedures before we have to leave."
I was the product of a mixed-marriage. That's right...my mother is a liberal democrat and my father, a conservative republican. I ended up with my mother's political genes.
Except for the occasional carnival game, the late night laser tag outings and one rather pathetic attempt at skeet shooting where not a single clay pigeon was harmed, I had never held an actual gun. Nor, I must confess, have I felt any particular desire to do so.
They make me nervous.
But here in Arizona, it's like stepping back in time. It's not only everyone's right to bear arms...it's their sacred duty. Before moving here, I'd never seen signs at a Walmart stating that weapons were not allowed beyond a certain point. And this had become an issue when...?
I got out of bed and reluctantly shuffled into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. Once it was ready, I perched on my favorite stool and woke up to the savory brew slowly..."Ahhh good stuff." This is where Donnie found me when he walked in holding his pistol.
"Aren't you dressed yet? I wanted to go over the basics before we go...and here you are still in your pajamas!"
I looked at the clock...
"I need to be dressed to learn about a gun? Donnie...we still have an hour and half before we have to even leave! Just do it now...okay?"
And so...my lessons in firearms began. At one point I made the mistake of giggling...
In exasperation, Donnie lowered the gun back to its resting position. "Laurie, this is serious stuff. Seriously. If you aren't going to take it serious...then it's too dangerous for you. This is NOT a toy!"
I was torn. Part of me wanted to go into conniptions of laughter at word "serious"...but I realized that my sense of humor at the moment was just a response to my nervousness. When I'm uncomfortable, I bury my misgivings in humor.
"It's okay, Donnie," I said, "I get it...seriously." And then I bit the inside of my cheek.
So off we went to the shooting range. From the outside it looked like any industrial office building in the area. There was no extra security...just a few people milling about outside drinking coffee.
Once inside however, I had to blink a couple of times to adjust to what my eyes were seeing. One wall was completely dominated by a heavy glass window. On the other side were the firing lanes...every one of them in use. The main floor was devoted to sales and expert advice. It was like a Rambo wet dream. Weapons in glass cases, wall to wall gun accessories, books, t-shirts, ammunition...if it had anything to do with a gun, it was there. I wondered briefly if they sold gift certificates...
But what really knocked me for a loop were the patrons. I may as well have been in a busy bowling alley...was this actually considered family recreation? By the window was a family of five. The oldest child, a boy of about eight or nine, had his nose pressed up against the glass watching the shooters. By the accessories wall, a knot of teen-aged girls had gathered to debate over which holster made the best fashion statement. At the gun counter, a harried housewife was perusing the stock with a rather frightening amount of concentration. I sincerely hoped her husband hadn't been doing anything he shouldn't have been doing...
I tried not to gawk, but I was painfully aware that I was out of my comfort zone. I concentrated on reading T-shirts, while Donnie secured our reservation and perused the goods in the store. When I stumbled across the "WWRD (what would Reagan do)" t-shirt I choked on a snort of laughter. I looked up quickly to see if my cover had been blown...
Across the room, a refugee from Deliverance was giving me the evil eye. I tried to act republican...but I was sure that at any moment he was going to point a finger and declare, "I KNEW IT! I thought I smelled a bleeding heart liberal! There she is! I bet she comes from a blue state! Get her boys!"
With an arsenal at their disposal...I knew I wouldn't stand a chance. And given the fact that they would only give up their guns if I could pry it from their cold dead fingers...they'd probably be determined, to say the least. I also didn't want to rely on Donnie's affection as assurance he would protect me...especially not after that whole giggling incident this morning. Seriously...
I thought I would err on the side of caution therefore and attempt to blend in.
It was almost a relief when they called our names for the firing range. I put my protective head gear on...squared my shoulders...tried to think of Mel Gibson in those Lethal Weapon movies just to get my attitude on. I felt a tap on my shoulder.
Turning around, I saw Donnie mouthing some words and making impatient gestures. "What?" I yelled. He rolled his eyes, reached out and lifted one side of my headgear. "I said...you don't really need to put those on until we go through THAT door," he explained, pointing.
We were given lane number one. This was somewhat of a relief as I believed this cut the chances of me accidentally shooting somebody by about 50%.
"You're up!" Donnie quipped.
"No...you go first..."
"You don't want to go first?"
That's right...I wanted to delay the inevitable for as long as I could.
All too soon, Donnie was reeling in his paper target and holding it up with pride. He explained that he'd made all kill shots...an easy thing for him since he'd only placed the target at 25 yards, as a consideration to me. "Don't worry about kill shots...just try to hit the paper target okay? I'm going to be watching your form..."
"Okay. Is it loaded?" I asked eyeing the pistol that laid on the counter before me as if it were a snake ready to bite.
"Yep...it's ready. Just do as I showed you."
"Okay," I breathed...and ticked off the sequence he had taught me, pausing between them to switch the gun between my hands as I palmed the sweat from my hands to my jeans.
"Now squeeze slowly...try not to anticipate the actual shot..." he coached from behind me.
"Wow! Nicely done...you hit that target right in the head. See?!"
And he smiled widely, his chest puffing out just slightly as if to say, "Uh huh...that's my woman! She's a killer!"
I put the gun down and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Well that wasn't so bad," I said.
"Where are you going? You still have seven more shots to fire!"
"So try to put three more in the head...and then put the last four in the torso if you can."
I picked up the gun again reluctantly...ticked off the steps again...wiping my hands...squeeeeeeeze...BANG!
"Well look at that...you hit him right in the head again...almost the same spot even. See how you have those two holes nearly making one big hole?"
I nodded...just wanting to get this over with. My hands had begun to shake already and if I could have fired faster I would have...
After emptying the clip, Donnie reeled my target in...
"Nice work," he said a bit uneasily, "you made all eight kill shots. Are you SURE you've never fired a gun before?"
"Well then...let's see what you can do a bit further out."
He sent the paper target further out into the lane. Once again, I made him go first. It gave me time to slow down my heart rate, wipe my hands and rub my now aching upper arms. All too soon it was my turn again...
Seven of my eight shots ended up being "kill shots." The eighth took out a small portion of the target's neck. I don't think he would have lived...but then again... Donnie plastered the result of my lessons on the wall of the garage as a deterrent to anyone foolish enough to invade our home.
"So...when do you want to go again?" he asked.
"Can I be honest with you?" I replied, "I'm really not crazy about shooting a gun. And while I'm sure if I had to use one...I now can...I doubt very much an assailant would stand completely still and wait while I ticked off each step and dried my hands before shooting him. If you want to sign me up for a self-defense course...that's fine. Or if you want me to carry pepper spray...that's fine too. I just worry about the chance that I could mistake you for an intruder some time...and if I reacted before thinking...I could never live with myself knowing I'd killed you."
Donnie looked at the garage wall...and then back at me again.
"I can live with that," he said.