so. today was the day of The Great Shooting-Range Expedition. it is, oddly enough, back to freezing temperatures here in chicago, so when i get to Stuart a couple of minutes earlier than the appointed time, we wind up standing around making random chitchat about how cold it is and how excited we are until...Professor Levitt shows up, and then suddenly we are on the move. :) nicole, liyana and i wind up riding with Prof. Levitt to the gun range (on the way, we talk about having never shot a gun before, and the differences between different types of guns, and being indentured servants of the government. it was an interesting ride.).
we get to Hammond, IN a little ahead of schedule, having not driven over the speed limit nor gotten lost along the way (at least, not too egregiously lost; we missed Summer St. but realised it as we were driving through the intersection, so were able to find it fairly quickly on the next pass), and wind up meeting up with everyone else and eating lunch at a little diner across the street from the gun range. it was an awesome little diner, and the prices stunned all of us chicago folk -being able to eat two eggs and what looked like most of a pig carved up into breakfast meats for a little under four dollars? wow! (i had pancakes, and my usual neverending stream of diner coffee. mmm-mmm.) Marie, our TA, ate with the three of us, and it transpired that no one at the table had shot a gun before, so we took a commemorative road-trip-virgin-gun-shooting photo. and then it was time...
we showed up at the gun range, and the lady who runs the place -Deb- introduced us to the process of loading a magazine, loading a gun, aiming a gun, and firing it. then she gave us strict safety instructions, handed out eye- and ear-protection, ammunition, and guns, and we trooped downstairs into the range. (only twelve people at a time are allowed down in the range; and only six shooters, because there are only six booths. so Marie assigns the first twelve by counting from the back of the room, on the theory that the further back you are the more nervous/less excited you are, and therefore you should go first. not coincidentally, all five girls are in the first twelve.) once we had all loaded up our magazines, the first six people stepped up to the booths, and the other six of us all stepped a cautious couple of steps back, and waited for the first explosion. and waited. and waited some more. the six in the booth all loaded up their guns, took careful aim at the targets, and...waited for each other to pull the trigger. it was a real-life game-theory-esque scenario. finally, someone pulled his/her trigger. all of us watching jumped like a mile into the air. it's really quite loud! even through the ear protectors. like having a balloon explode next to your face. after this first shot, however, all hell breaks loose. it sounds like (a very slow outbreak) of WWIII in there. then everyone is done shooting, and i get my turn.
so i grab my target sheet and my loaded magazine and step up to the end booth, where i promptly forget how to load the gun. i do however manage to get the target strung up and pushed out to twenty-five feet. then i remember how to load the gun, and get it all ready to fire. bring it up to line up the target. it's surprisingly heavy -it really doesn't look that heavy. i am, of course, nervous as all hell, which doesn't help in lining up the shot, and i'm almost afraid to pull the trigger. finally, i decide what the hell, line up the shot, and squeeze the trigger before i can change my mind. the bang is startling, the muzzle flash even more so, and the recoil, while not violent, certainly messes up my ability to take another shot right away. but every shot after that first one is easier. (mostly because now i know what it feels like, and what to expect.)
i can see the fascination, sort of. i mean, i fired twenty rounds today, and spent a lot of time trying very hard to hit a specific part of the target. (for those who are curious, i am very proud of the fact that every single shot hit said target, mostly clustered around the poor guy's torso. no wild shots next to his ear or anything. that, however, is easily explained by the fact that i am too short to take a head shot on the poor guy.) a great part of my fun came, i think, from getting things lined up and accomplishing what i set out to do. (perhaps throwing a dart into the bullseye would bring me the same level of satisfaction.) i have also gained a new respect for people who can fire multiple times, without pause, at a moving target, and hit it. or even hit in the vicinity of said moving target. it's hard! it's hard to hit a stationary target without stopping to reaim in between shots! (that said i am still proud of my accomplishment this afternoon. =p)
all in all, it was an interesting couple of hours. i got to do something i would never have gotten to do at home, and learned something in the process. i'm not sure what contribution that made to my understanding of the relationship between guns and crime, and the gun control debate, but i sure as hell had fun!