Guns are a hot topic. Tied to political rhetoric about what so-called freedom represents, involved in innocent deaths and an idea of self-protection, their mere availability or threat of denial can cause the bitterest of arguments. I had never shot a gun, or even held a real one in my hands. I’d faked it for TV show roles, however, and run around shooting costumed zombies with an air soft gun. I have to admit, I was curious. Yes, I am a liberal with definite views on the availability of guns in this country. Do I want one for myself? I have to say that I do not. But I was very interested in having the gun shooting experience in a controlled environment. I went to LAX Firing Range in Inglewood to find out what all the hubbub is about. By merely partaking in this adventure and posting photos, I sparked both sides of the gun controversy from decades old Facebook friends and Instagram followers alike.
LAX Firing Range, located conveniently near the larger than life L.A. icon Randy’s Donuts, is quiet from the outside. A simple sign reveals what the inside holds, but that was hardly enough preparation for a newbie, like me. I looked on this as an adventure… like rollerskating. My naivety was quite profound. Here in this country, guns are such a major part of popular culture that I thought, “Easy peasy. I pull the trigger and shoot. What fun!” It wasn’t until I entered the shop, gave the guy at the counter my driver’s license and filled out forms telling them I had no mental illness or criminal record, signing away the range’s liability if I was hurt, that this started to become real.
My friend, Erin and I were given a gun and a bag of bullets in a red plastic carry crate. Walking with them out onto the shooting range, I suddenly felt extremely vulnerable and scared. It dawned on me, finally, that these things kill and are not a toy. I realized that anyone in the firing line could potentially aim their gun at me and I would be gone in the blink of an eye. It had all been a lark just a minute ago. Still, I had signed on for this experience and was ready to see it through. We were shown once by the busy gun shop clerk how to load our weapon and given a brief safety rundown. Neither of us absorbed all of the information properly and stood there holding our gun and bullets feeling rather helpless.
Luckily, a man named Levon, a good samaritan and expert marksman, who had been training for some time as a student at this range, came to our rescue. He stayed with us, guiding us, helping us load, giving us tips on how to aim and what to do. He was an excellent teacher; kind, patient and knowledgeable. My first shot was in such a whirlwind of adrenaline that I forgot afterward about the basic safety rule of keeping the gun pointed toward the range. Oops! This was fun! What a rush! Under Levon’s instruction I was a decent shot too, often hitting precisely where I aimed on the target. Erin, also, took to the adventure quite naturally, though we both needed Levon’s assistance until the very end. I truly enjoyed my shooting range experience and honestly found the whole thing invaluable in my understanding of this major controversy in our country. Feeling the cold steel between my hands and coming face to face with a gun’s power in all of its intensity made quite a dramatic impact. Would I shoot at a range again? Of course. Have I changed my mind about feeling safer if I owned a gun myself? I’m sorry, I haven’t.