Monday, April 10, 2006

Meditations After One Year Behind The Sights

This week marks a special anniversary -- it'll have been one year since I re-discovered the fine art of shooting. It had been years since I'd picked up a gun, and as far as I remember, the biggest thing I'd ever shot before was a .22 rifle. I remember everyone I knew was at least a little bit surprised that I'd developed an interest in it. My stepfather seemed to think it was pretty cool -- he and I have actually been shooting a couple of times -- and my mother asked me, something like, "What would you want a gun for?"
Well, as they say, better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. The biggest reason I got it, was one night of utter stupidity a couple of months before. About 10:30 one night, I heard a knock on the door...and I answered it. Someone was looking for someone else or something like that, and I didn't know where they were. Everything came out all right, but later on, I thought, what if the guy had been armed? What if he'd had designs on my valuables? I'da been up the creek! Stupid, stupid, stupid...God only knows how many people's homes are invaded just like that.
And so, a few weeks later, I started telling my folks about wanting to buy a gun with my tax refund money. My stepdad's business partner referred me to an old school friend of his who sells guns for a living, and right on April 15 -- tax day? No way! Buy-A-Gun Day! -- I picked up my first sidearm, a Ruger P89 9mm semi-automatic pistol. We went to shoot it that weekend, as I recall, at this little range on the west side of Beaumont, me, my stepdad and stepbrother. It took me a little while to get used to it, but I warmed to it very quickly, and I have made it a habit to get out to the range every week since then. I have since picked up several additional sidearms in two additional calibers...the thoroughly battle-tested .45ACP, and .357 Magnum/.38 Special. More often than not these days it's one of my .45s that goes to the range with me, as it's what stays loaded for goblin beside the bed. I do still have much fun with the wondernine and my little snubbie .357, though.

I've never been asked outright, but no doubt many people who know that I shoot, wonder, "could he actually kill someone, would he actually kill someone if the situation warranted it?" Well, I've thought about that a lot, even since before I bought that first gun, but more so after I read Bill Whittle's essay "Tribes." Here, Whittle speaks of September 11 (emphasis mine):

If I had known, if I had only known, I could have run over that evil, sick son of a bitch Mohammed Atta in the parking lot. I could have been on one of those airplanes. They only had box cutters, for the love of God! Those seat cushions have straps on the back for floatation; they'd make excellent shields against a goddam two inch blade. Ladies, listen carefully…when I say go, you throw your shoes and cell phones and these little liquor bottles and cushions and whatever you can, just throw them right in the face of these cocksuckers and guys, when we get up there we need to kill them, fast, just break their fucking necks, just stomp on their heads until they are dead, because I know how to land a goddam airplane and…and…
Now of course, right at this moment there are people without honor or courage who read that and think this is one big jerk-off chickenhawk fantasy and on some level I guess it is. All I can tell you is that watching that show, I wished to God I had been on one of those planes, asking only that we knew what only Flight 93 knew, and that was the fate that was waiting for us if we did nothing.
Because everybody dies. Even liberals. And all I can say is that I believe in my heart that I would rather die for something bigger than myself than lead a life where nothing is more important than me. I admit freely that were I actually there I might freeze up, and wet my pants, and hide behind a stewardess, because you can never really know until you are there. But my times on the highways late at night, and with the only engine silent at 9000 feet over the South Georgia pine forests and at 400 feet climbing out of Prescott Arizona on Christmas day reassure me, a little, that perhaps I might do okay. Just as well as a common person, a common American person in a crisis – that’s all I pray for.

Now, granted, I have not had the blessed fortune of spending even a second behind the control stick on an airplane, as Mr. Whittle has. But many times I do find myself thinking about the subject of the employment of lethal force... I've barreled down the highways of this great state, going to God knows where...Sulphur Springs, Dallas, Texarkana, Little Rock... I am sitting at home on a lazy afternoon, drinking Shiner Bock and listening to music that I once listened to with someone else -- someone who would have benefited tremendously from the willingness to call upon lethal force...
...and, most importantly, on the firing line, drawing a bead on a target, concentrating and chanting the shooter's mantra -- "frontsightfrontsightfrontsightfrontsight" -- in the couple of seconds before I pull the trigger... times like that, I find my own reassurance, that indeed I might just have enough sheepdog in me to make a difference. Just as much as the millions of common Americans who each year resort to the threat of lethal force to deter harm from coming to themselves and others.
No time behind the stick, as I said, but I have spent a fair amount of time behind the sights of my guns over the last year. I would venture to say I've thrown at least 5,000 rounds downrange in the last year in the various calibers I own. And that right there, is where the rubber meets the road as far as talk of lethal force is concerned. No doubt many people would hear me talk of putting a gun between me and someone who wanted to harm me, and think it was "some jerk-off chicken-hawk fantasy" and that I'd break down in a real situation. That may well turn out to be true. As Mr. Whittle said, you never really know until you're there. Any jackass can sit there and talk smack about popping a cap in somebody. But once you've held instruments of lethal force in your hands, once you've focused on that front sight so many times, rolled the trigger back, heard the CRACK, or the BOOM, and felt the recoil, reacquired the target and started the process over again, and again, and again, faster and faster...well, that changes the dynamics of such a pronouncement entirely. Could I do it? Now the questions really are:
Could I NOT do it?
What would happen if I didn't?
Could I live with the consequences of my inaction?
What if innocents ended up getting hurt -- or killed -- because of my inaction?
Would I be able to live with the knowledge that innocents came to grievous harm because I did not stop the evil in my midst?
The fate that awaits you if you don't pull the trigger, if you do not fight back -- if you do nothing -- is obvious. If you pull the instrument of lethal force, if you push back, as the brave souls on Flight 93 did, you at least have a fighting chance. If you don't, you have no chance. Flight 93 taught us a valuable lesson that horrible day in September, one we would all do well to heed. I hope and pray I never see the day I am forced to make the choice to use lethal force to defend myself...but if I do, at least, despite the efforts of the likes of Sarah and Jim Brady, Josh Sugarmann, Mike Magnum and the rest of all those treasonous scum who want to rob me, you and everyone else of our natural right of self-defense, I will be prepared as much as I can be to do it, and that's all a man could ever ask for.