Taking Aim

A few months ago in my Editor’s Note, I was extremely critical of several people after a 9-year-old girl shot and killed her shooting instructor at a gun range outside of Las Vegas. My criticism included the girl’s parents, the operators of the gun range, as well as the instructor who was killed. While I stand behind my criticisms, I have to disclose that I wrote in ignorance. 

Since as long as I can remember, my household has been a gun-free zone. The first major gun-related event that truly resonated with me was the shooting at Columbine High School. I was 15 years old and had spent my entire life at a small private school in Louisville, Kentucky. It was like Disneyland, where nothing could ever go wrong. Suddenly, we were collectively terrorized by the “Trenchcoat Mafia,” by kids who were “different,” dressed all in black, and violent video games. 

Since that day, and maturing as the only son of two parents who kept me away from guns, cigarettes and motorcycles, I have been hypersensitive to the issue of guns — particularly whenever there is a senseless killing or mass shooting. 

Understanding my predisposition, I try my best to approach gun-related issues with a measured, common sense mentality. I have never hunted, and will never — it is not for me. However, in this country, I know that even if something (activity, vice, hobby, et cetera) is not for me, that does not mean it is not for others. So long as it is done responsibly and legally, I will advocate vehemently for the rights of others to do whatever they choose to do — just like smoking and riding motorcycles. 

A couple of years ago I was with some friends on a private property in rural Kentucky. My friend is one of the most responsible people I know, and I would absolutely trust him with my life. So when we decided I was going to shoot a gun for the first time in my life, I knew I could not have been in safer company. We loaded a handgun with one round, which was all I needed. With all of the appropriate safety measures and tips for shooting, I fired one round at a lake, which I missed (an entire lake, and I missed it)! The funniest part is the shell discharged and hit me in the forehead, which completely confused and terrified me. But it was an important life experience.

Fast forward to last week. The publisher at LEO and I spent a morning with the owner of Open Range — a gun range, store and paintball arena out in Crestwood. Open Range has been an advertiser with LEO for several years, dating back to before my involvement here, and it was important that we formally meet and have the opportunity to discuss future of the publication.

Six months ago, I never would have thought to visit a gun range. It was not of interest to me. Now, I am grateful for another important life experience. 

From the moment I walked into the store, I was comfortable. The shop felt like a Quest or Urban Outfitters — with a few different products on the wall. Everyone there was courteous and professional. We were given tours of a 100-yard rifle range, 25-yard pistol range and 11,000 square foot paintball arena. So after a positive discussion, where I got to know the owner and gained a better understanding of his business, he offered for us to try shooting a machine gun before we left. Feeling comfortable because of his professionalism, I could not refuse. 

We took an MP-5 and two magazines each into the 25-yard range and shot at a paper bullseye. We fired the weapon on three different settings, the final being fully automatic.

We were two fish completely out of water. Yet the professionalism and care with which they operated put us at ease in what otherwise would have been a terribly intimidating environment. I even it the target once or twice.

Ultimately, that is what life is — a series of experiences that you hope to be able to share with others. On this particular Wednesday morning, I got to experience something I never would have expected to enjoy, with a group of people that I would not have otherwise met. I am not ready to become a card-carrying member of the NRA, but I am happy to have shared this experience with a great group of guys.