There was no way to prepare for it. When Captain called, I checked my calendar hoping that I had appointments but I did not. My calendar was totally open for Labor Day. I told him to check and see if the place was open. What facilities are open on a state holiday? I was pensive, not really afraid because I just knew the place would be closed.
Captain called and said, “Are you ready for your first shooting lesson?” I thought, “No, I am not.”
I said, “Of course, what time?”
My father, Alvin E. Haynes, Sr., was a New York City police officer. I grew up around guns and respected them. I did not want to have anything to do with them when I was younger.
One of my resolutions this year was to learn more about who my father was and to experience some of the things that he did. My father did not go anywhere without a gun.
He would always tell me, "It is not about the gun, it is about who is holding the gun. If more upstanding individuals learned about them they would realize that they are not the enemy, the bad guy or the person who misuses it is."
He would always wear one on his ankle in a holster and sometimes in a holster strapped across his chest. We never touched his gun. We knew not to unless we wanted to get a spanking, which would have been the worst thing in the world when I was growing up.
He kept it in a top dresser drawer. I recall being a child and being asked to go get a handkerchief out of the drawer and when I opened it there is was. It was bigger than life, at the time it seemed as though it was a mile away from the handkerchief. I remember staring at it in awe. My father being a policeman and having the responsibility of making sure his gun was safe was always his first priority. I knew that surely if I had even attempted to touch it , I would be arrested, it would be dusted for fingerprints and I would surely go to hell for being disobedient.
My father liked to shoot more than just guns, he like to shoot photos. He was a photographer and loved to take pictures. He used to moonlight at Harvest Manor, which was a banquet hall in Brooklyn, NY. He worked security and he liked taking pictures at their events. I remember him telling us about how someone tried to rob the place and he had to pull his gun to avert a robbery. He was such a great storyteller. We were always mesmerized when he told us about his “gun stories”. There was an element of fear and excitement. It was the fear that kept me from going near guns.
This year I have made some major changes in my life. I have previously written about the new New Year, according my calendar begins in October. Hey, I figure if the new forty (40) is now thirty (30), we can also change the New Year. I challenged myself to do the things that I least wanted to conquer immediately instead of waiting until January to make a resolution.
If I made my resolutions in October, I would have three (3) months to figure out if I really wanted to actually keep the resolution in January. I hope you are following me. For example, if you want to lose ten (10) pounds, lose it now! If you want to speak another language start learning now. The local library is great because you can read about your interests and return the book if you become disinterested. It is free. Why wait?
One of my new New Year's resolutions was to learn more about guns. I probably should have kept my intentions quiet but when Captain called to inquire about advertising Meridian Firearms, I could not help running my mouth like a faucet. Our conversation was in the middle of August. On September 2nd, Captain was calling me back talking about guns and going to the range. I thought, “This is not really happening? I was just talking.”
Captain on the other hand was very serious and explained to me all the reasons why I should try it out. I told him that I did not have a gun. He told me that he would bring everything that I needed. I was stuck. I was the one who was running my mouth about how I really wanted to do it. I could not back out.
So on Labor Day at 10:00 am, I found myself driving to meet Captain so he could take me to the range.
As soon as we arrived at the range, I was shocked by the sound of gunfire. I had not heard gunfire like that since I went to college and lived on 127th Street and Convent Avenue in New York City.
When I moved into my apartment, I was told that I would not need to get a bed frame and to just keep the mattress on the floor. The landlord explained that even though I was moving into an up and coming neighborhood, there was occasional gunfire. I realized the windows were closer to the floor than normal.
One night as I slept, I heard the distinctive sound of gunfire. Not the single shots fired from a handgun but the multiple rounds of an Uzi. I will never forget carefully looking out the window and seeing someone lying in the street. The situation quickly moved from gunshots, to the unforgettable sounds of grief and despair to the wailing of police sirens. I remember the sound of the hydrant being turned on to wash the blood from the street.
Captain quickly jolted me back to reality. I wanted to tell him that I had changed my mind and I thought, “Changing your mind about something you have never done is not an option. You would be so hypercritical ”
I also told myself to calm down as I could feel my blood pressure rising. My heart was beating in my chest so loud that I had to concentrate on what Captain was saying as he happily bounded out of his car. I wanted to get back in mine, I wondered if he could tell how conflicted and concerned I was about the whole situation.
Captain opened his trunk and I think my eyes were big as saucers. He had some ominous looking cases in the back. He opened them one by one. I wondered how I was still standing. I felt faint and thought, “I am not touching those things.”
He began to tell me about firearms safety as he handed me a pair of protective glasses and headgear. The morning was cool and slightly windy but my head felt like it was on fire. I had never been to an outdoor range or a range period for that matter. Sheesh, I had never held a gun in my hands.
The attendants were very personable and knowledgeable and greeted us as we walked up. I wondered if he could feel my overwhelming sense of hesitation. Is this normal?
When we arrived at our chosen bench, I had a few minutes to compose myself because every fifteen (15) minutes you had to wait until the others stopped firing. The anticipation was overwhelming. One of the men was stuffing gun powder into a muzzle. It was loud. With each shot out of the barrel, I would jump because the noise was so startling.
When it was time to stop the attendant told the shooters to finish whatever they had in their magazines right now. They added to take everything from the bench that you might need and step behind the yellow line. So the shooters unloaded their firearms and stepped back from their benches and walked behind the thick yellow line. At this time I am thinking, “This is your final chance, you can make a run for it.” I did not run because I was frozen.
After a few minutes, the attendants walked by each bench to make sure everyone had unloaded. I watched the yellow chain link go down and the shooters went to go look at their target practice papers to see how close they came to the bullseye. A few minutes later the attendant told them that down range was closed and to approach the bench to commence firing.
There was no way out. I sat down and Captain showed me a couple of guns. I chose a handgun first. The first time I squeezed the trigger, I scared myself. The gun was so powerful that it kicked back. My aim was so off and I saw a poof of dust from where I hit the dirt. I hit the dirt a lot. My aim was not good. I was thinking, “I hope I don't break my finger trying to pull the trigger.”
Captain reassured me that it was my first time so I should take it in stride. I held the gun in my right hand and cupped my left hand underneath it to steady it. The stress was overwhelming. I shot the gun a couple of times and I heard the attendant do the “15 minute” call to step behind the yellow line. I was relieved! While I was attempting to shoot the gun straight, Captain was standing a couple of feet behind me talking about personal safety and the reasons why it is good that I am practicing and becoming familiar with firearms.
My second gun was smaller and it was harder for me to hold and shoot. I was baffled. Then I remembered that I have size 8 hands. I always thought if I got a gun it would be cute, small and pink. At this point, the wind was picking up and I was beginning to sniffle. There was nothing cute or pretty about me or handling a gun. I began to concentrate on what was a good fit for me instead of what I thought would look good.
I learned how to load magazines and about the safety on the actually firearm for two (2) different firearms in thirty (30) minutes. In that time, I began to become more comfortable. I could see that I had hit the target a few times.
My third gun was a Smith and Wesson. It fit perfectly in my hand and the kick was not as bad as the others. I was in a comfort zone. I realized that I was no longer jumping at the sound of the other guns. I realized that I could do this and how much I respected the instrument.
Every fifteen (15) minutes, Captain would give me an update on how I was doing and tips on how to handle the gun better. He would reassure me that I was doing well. Every fifteen (15) minutes I wanted to be done but each time I emptied the magazines. Spent shells littered the concrete in back of me. I could hear the clinking of the metal as they hit the ground.
My fourth gun was an AR15 military rifle. I was immediately taken aback by it. It was long and had a lot of places that looked like you could attach accessories. It was my favorite by far. My accuracy was getting better. I was also getting better and unloaded the magazine with minimal problems.
It was amazing to me that the target was 25 feet away and after a couple of hours my accuracy had improved.
I did not realize how much time I had actually spent there. My sniffling nose and watery eyes reminded me that summer was coming to an end. I was actually happy that I was outside because it was just another opportunity to experience something different than an indoor range. Besides if you ever have to use a gun, it may be snowing, raining, hailing or sleeting. It sure looks easier in the movies.
I realized that more people had arrived. There were at least five (5) women, four (4) teenagers and sixteen (16) men. It was very interesting. I saw more guns than I had ever seen in my life. There were two (2) women practicing on a revolver. They were good too. I felt sorry for whomever would try to break into their homes. They were clearly there to practice and not for hunting.
On the way out, I saw a man walking in with three (3) children under the age of twelve (12). The man was carrying a small stand. I thought those children will learn about gun safety and hopefully when they grow up will be responsible gun owners.
Captain was an amazing teacher. I plan on going to the range again. There are so many reasons to learn about firearms. After shooting the first two handguns, I realized that you can not just get a license and a firearm and not practice, you will be putting yourself and others in danger. When the gun kicks due to inexperience, your target does not move but wherever your bullet goes something will be hit will be, so get it right.
I now understand why I would hear stories about shots being fired and no one was hit or the wrong person was hit. Inexperienced people who have guns do not really understand how firearms work. They are very powerful and need to be respected.
During a recent discussion with Captain he said, “When it comes to personal protection and the use of fire arms, you want a relationship like that which you have with your family doctor. You should want the best, and to establish a long term relationship with that person. Fire arms use and training should be continuous.”
I plan on taking more classes with Captain, I am not sure that I would have had a better instructor. I did feel like people were very interested in my presence. I believe if people knew more about the gun laws and received training we would all be better off. You do not send a fireman into a burning building without training him first.
I believe that Meridian Fire Arms will train you for a lifetime, and help you to select that weapons that best fit your life style and shooting personality, if that is what you choose to do. I think that everyone should at least hold a gun in their hands at least once with a qualified instructor or experienced gun user as a guide. Meridian Fire Arms is providing our readers with a discount for certain services. If you have any questions about Concealed Pistol Licenses or just signing up for an introductory class, please call 517-230-8814 for details. For a twenty percent (20%) discount mention code word "RINA".
Learn about the safe use and the responsibility of being a gun owner. I know that I will be practicing and making sure that I know all the rules, laws and regulations prior to purchasing a firearm. I wanted to know what it felt like to be responsible with a gun despite the negative stigma that comes along with it. It is time to educate and not discriminate.
Now I need to brush up on my Spanish and attempt to be an extreme couponer. I have so many things to accomplish and I will be diligent about realizing that I can conquer anything that I put my mind to! Si Se Puede!
P.S. I have had plenty of responses about my firearms experience. Most comments have been extremely positive. I also found that there are many gun owners from all different backgrounds. I ignorantly thought that hunters, Republicans and law enforcement only purchased firearms. Through this experience I realize that you have the right to bear arms in this country unlike so many others. I can only say that if you are considering getting a gun, to make sure that you are very well trained and you practice a lot with some one who is responsible and well trained.
This was printed in the September 11, 2011 - September 24, 2011 Edition.