4.06.2009

experiment: guns

I shot some guns last week, during what is now in the running for Most Disturbing Ward Activity*. (Hey everybody, let's eat Costco cakemuffins and rub up against each other while we "learn" how to shoot semi-automatic weapons with almost zero instruction or safety precaution! You should come! Especially if you freelance and don't have health insurance! It'll be a "blast!")

You're here? I didn't peg you a gun person

was kind of the consensus as I made the rounds, surveying the 5 or so "shooting stations" (card tables and overturned coolers topped with guns of all shapes and sizes, laid to rest over both personal (yikes) and beach towels).

Yet they were right. I wasn't really there for the actual shooting and I certainly don't fancy myself a "gun person." I merely thought it would be a very ripe fruit of social observation. To watch social dynamics at play (the same reason why people - presumably - go to gun shows or car shows or monster truck rallies or the Iowa State Fair or rent Trekkies†). Pure spectacle.

A lot of people showed up on the brisk Saturday morning, so although there were probably about 40 guns, not everyone could always be shooting at all times. During set-up most congregated around the muffins. I passed the time by sizing up the attendees, deciding who was most likely to go crazy and turn around and just start spraying bullets into the crowd (a genuine fear of mine, one that had nearly kept me from coming).

I also started to interrogate Chase˚, the short master-gun enthusiast of the group who was a little grumpy and who resembles - honestly he does - a thumb.

He laid out all of his, um, rifles (they were long and rifley, but not all were rifles) on the table, and then angled them slightly, so they'd all line up, and then stood back to admire, like a hostess at her dessert spread.

Are you a member of the NRA?
No.
Yeah, I can't stand Charlton Heston either.
[Blank stare at guns]
So why aren't you a member?
I don't have enough guns!
[shocked] There's a minimum requirement?
[No answer]

He then picked up the obvious showpiece of his collection, a polished, wood paneled rifle, and fondled it just like you would the prettiest of your babies.

Is that real?
Uh, yeah.
It looks like a toy-gun! Like in a musical.
[Insulted stare]

So where's the sawed-off shotgun?
[Silence]
Why is it anyway that a sawed-off shotgun is more dangerous? I don't remember.
[Silence]

[pointing to a camouflaged-skinned gun] Has this gun seen combat?
No.
Were you in the military?
No.
Yeah but how about those Kid Rock army ads? They make you want to join, right?
[Silence]

Have you ever killed a man?
WHAT? (he's all earplugged at this point)
HAVE YOU EVER KILLED A MAN?
[At this point our garrulous host takes the gun, the camo gun, walks toward the (very ignored) hot-pink "safety line," and (holding it at his hip like it's a basketball and not a deathmachine) blasts off a round. He hits a few clay ducks. He turns around and smirks at me like a little boy]

By this point, I'm terrified. I'm also joined by another guy in my ward, Dane. He's got his mirrored sunglasses on, hat backwards and is ready to join 3 Doors Down and Mister Rock in kicking some Iraqi ass (to his credit, he's also the one of the least ridiculously-attired men present).

You look like Goose.
From Maverick?
Yeah.
That's disappointing.
Oh, he can't act, but Val Kilmer's not bad looking.
You mean I look like Iceman.
Ooops, yeah. Him.

We stand now, laughing at my mistake, watching a petite girl almost get chucked back from the kick of a rifle that probably weighs more than she does. She turns around and smiles in recognition and in "oops-did-i-do-that?" while doing so completely ignoring our 30 second safety instruction rule (Not to Ever, Never Ever, Turn the Barrel Around When You're Not Shooting Without First Pointing it Skyward) prompting two whole rows of onlookers and oglers (she's the "cute girl" in the ward, from what I can tell and had attracted quite the crowd) to duck and "whoa, whoa, whoa!" and for her to Steve Urkel once more. Smile. Giggle. Smile.

After my heart rate returned to its normal pace, I turned my gun inquiries to Dane/Iceman.

Do men give their guns female names like they do with boats and cars?
Yeah, they do. See that one [pointing to a sniper rifle], that's Nancy Reagan.
Where's the Lynne Cheney? I want to shoot the Lynne Cheney.
I bet the Nancy Pelosi's a real kicker.

Finally feeling more in my comfort zone amidst all the shooting and compensating, I let the clever and clearly level-headed Dane instruct me on use of the AK-15.

And you know what? It was pretty fun. So next I tried a pistol, handgun, rifle, and some other gun that was long and heavy. Before I knew it, an hour had passed, and I was chumming it up with the gun owners and cutting in line to get another round in. Who knew.


*
Also in the running: Medieval Nights, An Evening with Joseph and Hyrum, the ever uncomfortable Ward Swimming Party, and Financial Preparedness Night, (which I guess is not so much Disturbing as it is just Boring).

Which is funny only for the first 20 minutes or so and then becomes a bit too mean-spirited for my tastes. The IA State Fair on the other hand, attracts a different kind of curio: the kind who live to eat and the kind who live to judge them. I proudly fall in the former category, while my father campaigns for the judgers. While my cousins and siblings and I ran around the Des Moines fairgrounds eating corn dogs and then sprinting back and forth between the potato sack slide and the Gravitron (the best fair ride ever. period), my dad amused himself with a simpler (lazier) pleasure: tallying the food of the morbidly obese. After I'd maxed out on the grease and gravity-trips, I'd dizzily trot over to the picnic table pavilion where my dad would sit alone with a half-eaten plate of potato salad, too busy watching the enormous man a few tables over work his way through a familypack of fried chicken to eat anything himself. It'd take a second before he'd notice me, slumped on his thigh. Then he'd whisper to me "that man's on his 11th piece of chicken. 4 breasts, 4 thighs, and and 3 wings." When he was in this mode, you knew two things: one, you could just kind of slip change out of his hands without much trouble or finagling, and two, he would be here, watching the chicken man, all night.

˚names have been changed to protect the author.


What I have learned:


  • There's no people like gun people like gun people I know. For (surprisingly) good and for bad.
  • Don't make jokes about gun people's guns.
  • Everyone in Utah has a gun. Or maybe just everyone in my ward.
  • I am not a gun person.
  • But that does not make me better than those who are.
  • My handgun accuracy leaves something to be desired.
  • I would have made an excellent sniper, which I like to think fits me pretty well.
  • Val Kilmer is not Goose. Goose is that E.R. guy.

3 comments :

Karene said...

love it. Why did you want to move back to Utah again?? :)

Callie said...

Adrienne, I really enjoyed reading this. And now, after having lived in Texas and gone to the state fair and rodeo, I can understand your Dad's fascination. Anyways, that was great. Thanks for posting it!

Alex and Katie said...

'member 'hen I shot a thingy up in da aire, got it too, went all snaked-eyed