Monday, July 30, 2007

A "Liberal" changes their mind

A liberal with a gun
by Sara Sedlacek · July 25, 2007

When I started here at the Index one of the first people to come in to talk to me (and openly make me aware of his agenda and his motivation for speaking with me) was a representative from the West Liberty Gun Club. He was a nice guy so I gave him his soapbox time. We had very differing opinions on gun control and a gun’s place in society, but he invited me to the gun club anyway.

Several weeks ago, I did a story on the West Liberty Gun Club. It was the second time I’d been out to the club. The first was for a competition and I was so confused I couldn’t write anything about it. We used that first visit as an educational experience, just to get familiar with the lingo and the people. My second visit to the gun club gave me an opportunity to do something I’d never done before and never in a million years thought I would want to do again: I shot a gun.

I’ve always thought guns were neat to look at. I always enjoyed going to the Rock Island Arsenal and seeing all the different kinds of guns, but I never wanted to shoot one. I shot BB guns as a kid but that was a long time ago and a BB gun is a heck of a lot different than a rifle.

So there I was, on that second visit, a cynical outsider with a cookie-cutter image of what “gun club people” were like. In my mind anyone who belonged to the gun club must be some kind of militant, gun-toting, camoflauge-wearing guy resembling the offspring of Ted Nugent and G.I. Joe. Not a single gun club member looked anything like G.I. Joe or Ted Nugent. In fact, most of the members I met on that second visit were children, and well-behaved children no less.

I was amazed at how seriously the kids took the competition. They were careful with and, most importantly, knowledgeable about their guns and shooting sports. They were also very calm and patient, not like any kids I’d ever seen.

It was also comforting for me to learn that most the people involved in the gun club are not hunters. Most of them are interested only in shooting sports. There were some hunters. All of them, however, had the same concerns I had about guns. They were worried about guns falling into the hands of the wrong people and people owning guns and not learning about how to care for them and use them properly. Though we had different ideas about how to solve these problems, the concern was shared.

After learning a little more myself, I was asked by members of the club if I’d like to try shooting a .22 rifle. I did and, as it turns out, I’m not a bad shot. Members of the club invited me to a ladies’ fun match, at which I placed fourth (out of only nine, two of which tied for second place. The third place winner was only 11-years old.) this past Sunday. As it turns out, shooting a gun accurately takes more concentration than I ever thought. Through this experience I’ve realized that guns are what you make of them. Guns are violent if you use them for violence. I found that it takes a certain amount of serenity and meditation to accurately fire a gun, two things I never thought could be associated with guns.

I walked into that gun club with the worst thoughts about the place and I walked out with a completely different opinion. It never hurts to try to learn a little more about the things you don’t like and the people you don’t agree with, you may find out you didn’t know enough about them to have an opinion in the first place.