(Editor’s Note: This is the third is a three-part series)
After a quick lesson from conceal carry instructor and Romeoville Police Sgt. Chris Burne, I shot a semi-automatic pistol during a visit to the Article II Gun World Range in Lombard on Sunday, Dec. 8.
How would I describe the experience? Thrilling?
No, more like nerve-wracking. My hands were shaking as I aimed at a paper dummy hanging from a clip about 5 yards away. And my first shot sailed high above the “X” in the center of the target, most likely because I was leaning back and anticipating the recoil that comes from firing a 9 mm Ruger, a small gun that packs a big kick.
My next two shots hit much nearer to the mark I was aiming at and for that I have to credit Burne, who walked me through the basics of holding/firing a real gun for the first time. Who knew I was cross-eyed dominant or that I would have to shift the gun in my stance so I could look down the sights with my left eye?
I use the word “real” here because I have distant memories of shooting at tin cans sitting on fence posts with a BB gun when I was boy. This was not a .357 Magnum. But it was not a BB gun, either. Why so unnerving?
The range is tucked—or should the word be hidden?—in an industrial warehouse complex off a frontage road. After you make your way inside, you quickly discover it’s loud—gunshots simultaneously ringing out from multiple stations.
And, when you depart, you go away with the distinct smell of gunpowder on your clothing. I relate this to the cigarette odor that once made visiting a bowling center an eye-watering experience. Earplugs/earmuffs are required. Protective eyewear is a must too, if for no other reason than to prevent injury from a spent shell flying back and hitting you in the face.
When I returned home, my wife asked me if I’d ever shoot a gun again, if I would consider shooting as a hobby. The answer: No.
Guns are not for me.
I met a number of people attending the conceal carry class Burne teaches through his Granite Security Systems, Inc., business and I can tell you they think differently than I do, firm in their beliefs the Second Amendment guarantees them the right to bear arms. Talking with them helped me understand why they want to acquire conceal carry licenses and want to carry guns around with them tucked under their shirttails or stashed in their purses, their reasons ranging from practical (safety) to patriotic (what is more American than defending the red, white and blue in combat duty?).
Still, I will say it again: Guns are not for me.
I wonder when Illinois residents begin applying for conceal carry permits in January if it’s only a matter of time until our neighborhoods and our streets become more dangerous or if there is some reason to believe the conceal carry folks will join forces to create a civilian deterrent to violent crime. I wonder if we are living in the Wild West in the here and now or if we’re heading back to the days of Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill Cody.
Soon, will everyone be carrying a gun? I know this: Crooks don’t bother with rules and regulations.
I wonder how many conceal carry applicants in Illinois will be granted licenses without the benefit of attending a class such as Burne’s that devotes a great deal of time to talking about the law and the ramifications of, “What happens if I do have to discharge my weapon?”
I wonder if 16 hours of training is enough. I wonder how many conceal carry newbies will shoot themselves or their loved ones. I wonder how local and state officers will enforce rules that prohibit conceal carry in places such as schools and parks and on mass transit systems.
I wonder if this is a train wreck waiting to happen. Or if lives will be saved because a shooter in a movie theater will be taken down by the guy sitting in the row behind him—before he can expend all of his ammunition. Can you say Aurora, Colorado?
I don’t have the answers. I do have a number of questions. And I’ll leave you with this one: “In the world we live in, do you know how to tell the good guys from the bad guys?”