” Shooting a handgun at a target is a thrill; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You load bullets into a clip, push it up into the gun, turn off the safety catch, take careful hold of the gun with two hands, aim and shoot. The thing jumps in your hand and you see the bullet knock a hole in the target and spark off the floor at the back of the range. There is an extraordinary rush and then you do it again. Another spark; perhaps this time the hole in the target is a little closer to the centre. Soon you have fired the whole clip and you’re loading the deadly weapon in your hand again.
That is just to preface a more obvious point. To a liberal European reporter, from afar, American gun culture appears utterly insane. Americans are far more likely to murder someone or to kill themselves than people in almost all Western European countries, largely because guns make it easier. That almost 33,000 people are killed with firearms each year in America (including three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, earlier this week) is a colossal and largely unnecessary waste of life. That people celebrate these deadly devices and carry them around while shopping, picking up their children from school or working, seems monstrous.
Yet shooting is fun. And what Europeans—and liberal Americans—often don’t realise is that these deadly weapons are also an accessible, affordable and interesting hobby for millions of people. My experience of firing a pistol took place at a shooting range in the Maryland suburbs, about half an hour’s drive outside of Washington, DC. I had until then never visited a shooting range and I had no idea of what to expect. But the experience was actually oddly familiar. This place was not a temple to violence. Rather, it mostly closely resembled the golf driving range that my father would occasionally take me to as a child.”
Then there is this:
” In the range people fired guns gleefully at targets. Some were white, male, middle-aged and somewhat scary-looking. But not all. Across from where I fired my pistol, two black women, one with a small son, were taking turns (the child heavily supervised). Shooting targets was a fine family day out. At a practice target outside of the range, plenty of people were learning how to hold a weapon for the first time, without pointing it at anyone, dropping it or injuring themselves as it recoiled. Again, it resembled a driving range: people hitting targets for fun.
And the truth is that in the range, the violence that guns inflict on America felt extremely remote. A few stickers here and there made political points (“My right to own a gun is what protects your right to tell me I can’t”, said one). But mostly, the idea of guns as a means to kill somebody was absent. And so it is for most people who fire guns. The most dangerous neighborhoods for gun violence in America are in poor cities, not in the suburban areas where most gun owners live. Most of the 21,000 or so suicides in which guns are used take place behind closed doors. And the numbers, while devastatingly high, are not so high that most Americans will know someone who was killed with a gun.
For the majority of gun owners, being told that their harmless hobby is somehow responsible for the deaths of other people must be deeply unpleasant. Worse still is when they are told it by metropolitan types with more money than them. Michael Bloomberg, for example, New York’s billionaire ex-mayor. Or possibly me. And it makes me wonder whether one of the problems—certainly not the main problem, but one of them—with attempts to control guns is precisely that the people making the loudest case for reform are people like Mr Bloomberg and me.”
There is some confusion sown by the writer with the two separate fatality statistics wherein the ill-informed reader could easily be lead to believe ( intentionally?) that the linked 21,000 suicide deaths are in addition to and not a part of the total firearms related deaths but the typical gun owner knows better .
And while the writer does take the obligatory shots at demonizing that leftist bogeyman , the NRA , overall the article from a self-declared liberal with no firearms experience and plenty of pre-conceived anti-gun bias is fairly evenhanded .
” But keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill is not incompatible with widespread gun ownership. And bringing about the changes that will make America safer means convincing people who routinely use guns safely that they are not the enemy. Perhaps what gun control needs is a few advocates who are a little more visibly familiar with the sheer fun of holding a pistol and pulling the trigger.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly the author chooses to remain anonymous , writing under the byline DK . Still , the article is worth your time . Read it all at The Economist .