Being on vacation in Florida can be a little weird. Many parts of it are no more charming than a six lane boulevard separating shopping malls. At a near corner, huge machines were stripping what little soil remains over the native sand in order to prepare the place for another shopping centre. On the other hand the feeling of a benign climate, one not trying to kill you, is a welcome relief from a tough winter in Canada. Many, many refugees from wintry states and provinces, and even Europe, drive the local economy.
My host and I went to the gun store shooting range. He had always wanted to go and my presence was for him an incentive. After a brief period of entering our life details into the computer and showing identification, we were let into the range, where people were practicing on targets to loud bangs of pistols. No fuss whatever was made about being Canadian, and our firearms acquisition certificates were accepted as proof of training, though I doubt anything would have happened if we had not had them. After choosing our weapons we entered double doors – for sound proofing – and went onto assigned slots on the range. The range officers had pistols in their belts. They were kindly and experienced.
I explained to the range officer that I was a free-range child, that at ten I had wandered about the family farm with an air rifle and later a .22 hitting cans off fence posts quite unsupervized, after having been taught to shoot by my father. His only rule was not to aim at the house. He did not need to add that I was not to kill anyone. Incredible as it may seem now, I managed not to hit any human being whatever, nor had any kind of accident. The range officer said he had been allowed to wander about his daddy’s land from the time he was six with a rifle.
Shooting is its own catharsis. I had won a ‘crossed rifles and crown’ badge in cadets back in the late Pleistocene for shooting and wondered if I still had the knack. The rifle which I selected was an expensive German .22 with a laser dot range sight. All you had to do was hold the dot on the target (no small task) and squeeze the trigger.
The results are shown below. The distance to the target was 37 feet six inches. My friend was trying to master a 9 mm. pistol at half the range. The lesson to be drawn is that a pistol is a highly erratic weapon unless it is held in practiced hands. Believe me, to be facing a man with a pistol is dangerous, but there is a good chance he will miss you and kill your companions, neighbours, and random passers-by. A rifle, on the other hand, is all business. It hits the target when held in firm hands.
Americans are a chatty group and I soon fell into conversation with an older retired staff sergeant from the Army Corps of Engineers. He had moved to Florida from New England ages before. He said he had thirty weapons lying around the house not including the guns in the safe. A nice guy, but I would not want to be caught breaking into his house.
The gun range was packed on the morning after Superbowl. About one person in ten was a woman, maybe more. Guns lend themselves to the infinite expansion of detailed knowledge that men seem to like: range, trajectory, grains of powder in the bullet, caliber, foot-tons of impact, jamming, clearing the action, magazine size: there is no end to it. You may not be a huge success in life, but if you have a gun, and know how to use one, you have a sense of competence that none can take from you.
I include the picture below for any of my enemies, in case they should be plotting a home invasion. Ten shots, three outside the bullseye.
It is great to be in a place where they have de-criminalized gun ownership.