First, load the magazine. Press down and slide in the bullets one by one, ensuring the ends face the magazine’s back. Then, pop the magazine in the pistol. You should hear a click. You’re ready to shoot.
You might not expect me to be holding a nine millimeter Glock. I’m fairly liberal. I grew up in New York City where nobody I knew had ever shot a gun. I support gun control legislation. There have been nearly 100 mass shootings in the United States since 1999 — the year I was born. Stories of these tragedies plagued my childhood and confirmed my belief in stricter gun regulations. I am not a poster child for the National Rifle Association.
But for me, recreational shooting in a controlled environment is empowering, not political. And shooting a gun at The Gun Range in Philadelphia feels amazing.
The Gun Range is extremely cautious and closely follows Pennsylvania State law. Since I’m 19, I’m required to be accompanied by a 21-year-old. I also can’t have any past convictions. These laws minimize the risk of accidents and ensure the safety of the range’s patrons. Before shooting, I’m given a brief lesson on how to operate the gun safely. Next, I put on earmuffs and goggles and enter the range. I ensure the double doors are closed behind me, and I make my way to Lane 12.
The sound of a gunshot is jarring, even with ear protection. My hands are shaky as I collect myself to take my first shot. Eventually though, I get in a rhythm. It’s relaxing, freeing even. Generally, I’m a very anxious person — not an adrenaline junkie. I hate roller coasters and ziplining. But the rush I get while shooting makes me feel powerful and in control.
Competitive shooting is a legitimate sport. It’s even in the Olympics. These athletes dedicate their lives in the same way as other Olympians, and deserve the same recognition as a track star or basketball player. Their discipline should be celebrated, not politicized.
As a woman, my protection often falls into the hands of others. Don’t get me wrong, I’m self-reliant and independent. Still, I feel unsafe roaming the city at night, attending parties, and sometimes walking to my classes. My friends and I are frequently harassed on the street by unrelenting men. At times, I can feel helpless and need to ask a male friend to walk me home. It’s frustrating to not have complete control over my safety. But at the gun range, I do. Here, I feel confident and empowered.
Recreational shooting is hardly a solution to the societal problems that women face. The bottom line is, I feel safer now that I know how to operate a gun. After visiting The Gun Range, I’d seriously consider owning a firearm once I graduate college. I don’t see anything wrong with having a weapon for my protection. If shooting provides me with a sense of comfort, what’s the problem with it?
I understand being hesitant to use a weapon. Nonetheless, in a controlled space, it can be exhilarating and somewhat calming.
You don’t have to be a raging Republican to go to a shooting range. At the Gun Range, I wasn’t provided any political propaganda or encouraged to take action against the restriction of firearms. You can be in favor of gun control and love to shoot.
The recent tragedies of gun violence that have struck the nation are deeply troubling. Personally, I believe that they demand significant changes in gun legislation. My political views don’t change the fact that going to a shooting range was an enjoyable experience for me. It’s OK if recreational shooting isn’t your thing, but before you condemn it, I encourage you to shoot your shot.
ISABELLA SIMONETTI is a College sophomore from New York studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @thesimonetti.