In a previous post, I mentioned that I voted for Obama, then went out and bought a handgun. First handgun that is mine, not my husband’s. Yesterday, I went shooting for the first time in approximately 12 years, and shot a handgun for the first time in at least 15. Took me a while to go to the range, because when you buy a handgun, sooner or later you expect to have the serious intention of putting metal into a human body, and (along with sex) that’s as about as morally serious as you can get.
I’d spent some time dry firing, or what the Marine Corps calls snapping in. This means that with an unloaded weapon, you get used to the sight picture (which I didn’t mess with, just put the front sight blade level in the rear sight aperture), trigger pull, how the weapon feels in your hand or hands, how far you want your arms extended, and so on and so forth. I also spent some time just holding (i.e., not dry-firing) my pistol with a loaded magazine in it-safety on, no round chambered-so I had a sense of the weight. This way, before I actually fired live ammunition, I had some sense of what that weapon would do and how it really felt in my hands.
The last time I fired a pistol (again, more than 15 years ago), I doubt I could have hit the broad side of the barn with it, unless perhaps I was in the barn. When I bought this pistol, my riding partner asked me how my aim was, and I told her I believed I could throw it more accurately than I could shoot it. In fact, I joked, it would make a handy club if I had to beat someone to death.
I fired 4 magazines of 5 rounds each. (Magazine holds more but I simply didn’t want to spend that much time fighting stiff magazine springs.) I fired the first magazine of 5 just to get used to the recoil and the flash of the propellant. Shot group wasn’t bad: all my rounds were in the target itself. I was not surprised to find the time I’d spent lifting weights paying off: the pistol wasn’t heavy at all. What did surprise me was that within the first few rounds, I felt my body trying to put me in a position that in the saddle is very strong and stable: heels, hips, shoulders and ears aligned, sitting on my pockets with my pelvis tucked underneath me, legs long, body tall, shoulders back so my chest is open, even if I was holding my pistol in both hands, my elbows flexed and close to my chest. In my case, I know my riding position is right when my shoulders and head feel a little behind the vertical, and I felt that way when I was shooting.
From that position, I fired off my remaining ammunition. I fired the second magazine of five rounds, slow, about (but no more than) 10 seconds between rounds. At about 15-20 feet, I put the first four rounds into the center ring and one in the 9 ring. I then fired the third and fourth magazines fairly fast, about 5 seconds between each shot, and put all but 3 rounds in the black. Four of the rounds impacted so close together they form an arched tear.
And then I stopped because I believe you should always end on a positive note.
To say I liked shooting is an understatement. I like shooting the way I like knitting, and for the same reason: they both express fundamental parts of my personality. (In fact, I was wearing a wool shrug that I’d knit at the range, having come there from a yarn shop where I’d bought some of Trendsetter yarn’s shiny rayon Segue ribbon in Popsicle to trim that shrug with. My husband does not approve of plan-he likes simple knitting, he says-but the interesting thing is that he likes the Segue so much that I’m knitting up the remainder (which is to say, most of the skein) into a scarf/ascot for him. Conservative this thing most definitely will not be. But maybe it’s simple because it’s knitted in plain, unembellished stocking stitch, no trim, no nothing, just brilliant color and silky texture.)
But what surprised me was that I was the only woman at the range. And there were enough men there that I expected to see at least another woman or two.
And now, onto women and guns.
I have owned weapons for a long time now. But ever since I went out and bought a handgun after voting for Obama, I’ve gotten some strange reactions. And I’m not talking about stupid guys. I’m talking about smart women.
Without exception, every single woman whom I have told I bought a pistol has asked me, why did you do that? Including my riding partner, who has grown up shooting. She asked me, well, I grew up with guns, but you didn’t, so why did you go do this? My husband, the writer Philip Gold, answered, political paranoia, that being all the Right has to offer this country. I said, umm, I wanted to. Well, of course the next thing she wanted to know was, when can we go shooting???
But other women have had more hostile reactions, including a friend who told me that my home would probably be broken into by a criminal who would steal my weapon to use in more crimes.
But a handgun is also a terrific equalizer. Boxing is great, weight lifting is wonderful, a baseball bat is absolutely terrific, but nothing equalizes people of disparate physical capabilities like a handgun. (Or other firearms.) If you live alone, need to drive cross-country alone, want to hike, ski, backpack, ride, bike, run alone, especially after dark or in remote areas, if you work late, if you’re being threatened or harassed or stalked, if you fear being beaten or assaulted, nothing is more reassuring and can get you out of a bad situation faster than a handgun you have confidence in your ability to use.
So why are women-particularly, in my experience as a feminist, women who would describe themselves as in favor of women’s equality and freedom, typically so hostile to guns and gun ownership, especially by other women?
If you respond, please do not address issues of irresponsibility and safety. Presume that most women (like most men) who own guns are keenly aware of what live ammo can do to the human body, because, of course, most are. Instead, address the issue directly: why are so many women, especially women who claim believe in women’s equality and freedom, hostile to gun ownership, by themselves and by other women?