Packing Heat

When it comes to the gun hysteria that’s sweeping this nation, I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry.

I try to be amused when I hear about the millions of people stockpiling weapons and ammunition for that fateful day, sure to be right around the corner, when our government thumbs its nose at the Second Amendment and confiscates all our guns. I shake my head in amazement as I watch drivers jockey for parking spots in the jammed-full lots of sporting goods stores. Because I know those folks aren’t lined up to buy fishing poles or canoe paddles.

But it’s when some of them start talking that I want to wring my hands in despair.

They’re convinced that President Obama is Hitler reincarnate. Or perhaps the devil himself, who for four years bided his time, hoping to be re-elected so that he could pursue his evil gun control agenda. I’ve even heard a handful of people
say—and though I wish they were joking, I’m pretty sure they weren’t—that our
president must be happy about the mass shootings in Arizona and Colorado and
even at Sandy Hook Elementary School because those unthinkable acts of violence have helped advance his cause.

So what’s the rational response to such foolishness? Maybe it’s to become armed with knowledge.

That’s why I signed up for a “permit to carry” class. I got up real early a couple of Saturdays ago and spent most of the day learning everything a body needs to know to be allowed to legally pack heat in the state of Tennessee.  The class—about thirty men and women ranging in age from twenty-something to
seventy-something—met in a nondescript building on Bockman Way in Sparta.

Johnny Bryant and Charlie Hawkins of Highland Rim Tactical were our able
instructors.  They explained the difference between a revolver and a semi-automatic. Taught us the three cardinal rules of gun safety. Helped us to determine our dominant eye. Showed us how to load, aim, and fire a gun.

Then they led us in a long caravan to a shooting range on Fire Tower Road. Where we all got a chance to squeeze, not pull, a trigger. Exactly fifty times.

And where, as it turns out, I learned that I’m a pretty darn good shot. Forty-eight times, I hit the “bad guy” target in the torso. One bullet missed him entirely. And
one hit him right between the eyes. The disturbing thing about this discovery?
I, who like to think of myself as something of a pacifist, had a blast. (Pun
intended.) It was so much fun, in fact, that I was ready to rush right out and
buy myself a .22 revolver and a whole bunch of bullets and start firing away at
empty milk jugs and shoe boxes and Coke cans.

I didn’t, of course. Partly because it’s nearly impossible to find any guns or ammo to buy. But mostly because I’m not yet fully convinced that I want or need a gun. And I’m not the only one who feels that way. When I asked my fellow students why they were taking the class, a couple of them said predictable things like “to affirm my Constitutional rights” or “in case the thin blue line isn’t there
when I need it.” A few were nervous about home break-ins. One woman was
convinced that a zebra-striped holster would complete her fashion ensemble.

But most confessed that they were there simply because they wanted to feel more knowledgeable about and comfortable around guns.  Which is precisely why I took the class. That and the fact that the woods behind my house are full of coyotes.

Coyotes that I don’t need an assault weapon with a 100-round ammunition magazine to deal with. If, indeed, I choose to shoot at all.

(February 3, 2013)

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