I have gone from apprehensive to intrigued.
As I wrote in my column last Saturday, crime rates here had me wondering if I should get a handgun.
I don’t like the stats. Mother Jones magazine reports that a study in Philadelphia found the odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he carried a gun. His odds of being killed were 4.2 times greater.
States with higher gun ownership rates have higher gun murder rates — as much as 114 percent higher than states with lower gun ownership rates.
And I heard that something like 70 percent of people could not — just couldn’t — pull the trigger on another human being. That would be me.
That was my mindset going into a beginner’s handgun class last weekend.
But the biggest reason I wanted to attend this class is because I hear from many women in the community who wonder “if I should get a gun.” The comment, rarely taken seriously, is usually finished by someone, usually a man, saying, “and a big dog! And you’ll be set!”
Certainly other women must feel like I do, I thought. And the only way to figure out if this might be for me is to learn about it.
The class happened to be comprised of all women, which I have learned can often be beneficial. No offense to the men out there, but sometimes not having men around boasting or trying to show a woman “how it’s done” — try this in a ski class and you will lose your spouse or girlfriend — makes it a lot easier to embrace a new idea.
One of the women was the wife of a prison corrections officer who said he wanted her to have the knowledge of how guns function. The other woman in class was a Realtor who often has to take people she doesn’t know well to remote areas of the county to homes that might not have been seen in awhile and (add to the list) have squatters living in them.
Our licensed instructor, Georgane Greene, got her handgun in 1989 when her husband was going out of town for several weeks. Oh, and there was the serial rapist in her neighborhood.
“I’ve never had to use it,” she said of her SIG Sauer Mosquito. “But I’ve had to show it twice.”
One of those times was fishing. Innocuous enough, right? Two men approached, asked how the fishing was (lousy) and said they’d like to join her. They didn’t even have poles of their own. Greene said they probably didn’t want to join her, and they said they would. She turned her back to them, leaned forward in a new cast. Her fishing vest hiked up on her waist, displaying her holstered gun. The men changed their mind about fishing with her.
“The Japanese didn’t invade the U.S. because they thought there was a gun behind every bush,”Greene said. “Because of an armed citizenry, we were not invaded. They think twice when they know there’s a gun there.”
Some equate knowing how to use a gun with other life skills, such as swimming or properly using a child’s car seat.
The goal of the class was to give us the knowledge, skills and attitude for owning a pistol. I had a lot to learn.
I know a few rules.
Always assume a gun is loaded.
Never, ever point a gun at someone.
And if you do, you must be of the mindset that you can pull the trigger. And possibly kill another human being.
That’s where I get queasy.
There were words in class that I even understood! Things like “revolver,” “barrel,” and “bullet.” Yup. That was about it for me. Others, including caliber, sights, cartridge, magazines, +P, single- and double-action and many other words, were all yet to join my vocabulary.
We learned the anatomy of a pistol — and the difference between single- and double-action guns — the basic but set-in-stone rules of handgun operation (aiming, finger placements all over!) and the horrors of misfires, hangfires and squib loads.
The more I learned, the better I felt. Funny, that knowledge stuff.
We learned some of the anatomy of ourselves: pistol finger, dominant eye, placement of the hand in the grip.
The basics of aiming, from breath control to follow-through. Sight alignment.
And we shot airguns — in an office on the main drag of Gold Beach, where people could see us — into a cardboard box.
I was pretty surprised to learn we’d be shooting at a target from 10 feet away. I thought 30 feet would be the norm.
“Where would you have to be in your house to be 30 feet (from your target)?” Greene asked.
I guess I’d be in my back bathroom, with two walls between me and the bad guy. “Know your target — and what’s behind it,” Greene said. Things like, oh, your neighbor’s kitchen window?
“That’s why we practice up close and personal with pistols,” she added. “Pistols are an up-close-and-personal encounter.”
Of course, being practice guns, they weren’t sighted perfectly. And they were set to a 6:00 sight alignment, which I’m not used to. I found myself compensating to get close to the bullseye. That’s called “learning.” I was taking a foreign object, doing something with it, making a mistake and figuring out how to rectify the situation.
Then again, if faced with a life-or-death situation on my front porch, there’d better be no mistake about it. Hence the practice. Practice, practice.
Each gun feels different. A different heft, comfort level in the palm.
Each trigger has a different pull to it, some are more sensitive — some are sensitive on just the first shot, and then easier after that. It’s a form of safety.
Each has different features; I particularly liked the Mosquito’s hammer-release button that would safely put the hammer back in place without shooting the cartridge I just loaded. (The “like” factor was greatly improved because part of the gun is a beautiful deep purple! These gun manufacturers know how to cater to women like me. It’s like wine; I buy it for the creativity in the label art.)
OK, we were supposed to disassemble guns in this class and clean them. As a tactile person, I felt this would be the part that made me feel most comfortable about handling a gun. I’m less afraid of my car breaking down if I can troubleshoot a noise and have a feeling what the problem might be. (And brought my tools on that road trip.)
But, alas, that will take place in two weeks, as will the gun range portion of this class, due to that torrential rain on Saturday.
In the end, I kind of liked the revolver — all that antique Western flavor to it.
But I also liked the little Mosquito — they don’t make it anymore, so you get the Firefly — because of its safety features (and the purple frame).
I liked the .22-caliber, because the .45 just seemed … so deadly.
“A lot of people will say that’s not a self-defense round,” Greene said. “‘OK, stand in front of me; I’ll practice,’” and they’re, “Well, wait.”
If you’re going to get shot? It’s going to hurt.
And you can put a little more oomph into that .22 by using hollow points.
“Will they be able to keep coming at you?” Greene said. “Yes, until they bleed out. But most of the time, if someone starts firing, they start running like hell. All you see is arms and legs scrambling in all directions.”
Last week, I was apprehensive, a little nervous. Ready to turn my back on the whole thing.
Today, I’m intrigued. Looking over my shoulder in curiousity.
I know I’ll feel even better after we take the “take-down” class — haha! Not as in, taking down a bad guy, but as in taking apart a gun, cleaning it, seeing its guts and how it all works. With familiarity builds confidence.
And actually shooting on the range, later this month. I’ll keep you women (and men) posted about my thoughts.
I might actually find a gun (gulp) I feel might be a perfect fit for me.
Like that cute little Mosquito. You know; the purple one.