For the first 42 years of life, I had never even handled a real gun, much less shot one. My experience was limited to shooting BB guns as a teenagers. We would usually shoot at cans, but one day I took aim at a bird that was too far away to hit, pulled the trigger, and saw the bird fall dead. Seeing the bird drop from the branch it was sitting on made me feel queasy. I never wanted to kill anything with that BB gun and I don’t remember shooting it again after that.
Certainly any idea of shooting a real gun was out of the question. I was, quite frankly, afraid of guns. Even if I realized that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” I didn’t have any access to guns, I didn’t know how they worked, and I didn’t have any need for them.
All that started to change when my friend was talking about how she qualified as an expert with the Beretta M9 in the US Coast Guard. That inspired me to want to see what I could do with a handgun. With the seed planted, it was just a question of how to bring the idea of me shooting a gun to fruition.
Fortunately, my friend knows a law enforcement officer with training experience who would let us come to the range at his farm to shoot. He had a 9mm Sig Sauer P226. Nice gun. Big gun. Heavy gun. We loaded the magazine, he showed me how to grip it, and told me to go ahead. In January 2011, I shot a gun for the first time. Soon enough, and with some additional tips on grip, stance, and trigger pull, I was able to shoot the Sig very consistently.
I shot around 50 rounds that day. It was fun and I was hooked. I went to our local Borders Books (R.I.P.) and started reading every book I could about handguns. My search was on for the best first gun to get.
In retrospect, the opportunity to shoot alone was not enough. I was primed to take up that opportunity by a couple of recent background experiences. The first was seeing the reality TV show, “Top Shot.” I don’t have cable TV at home, so did not even know that Top Shot (or any of the many other shooting shows) existed until I was flipping through the channels at a hotel. I came across a Top Shot Season 1 marathon on the History Channel. I was absolutely fascinated, by what I saw, especially the Trick Shot Showdown episode.
The second experience was an encounter at my apartment complex. One day I was in the parking lot with my kids when I noticed a neighbor of mine distressed and arguing with someone near her car. He was yelling at her to just get back in her apartment and she was yelling at him about not taking her car. I was nervous but I stepped over to ask her if everything was OK. He looked at me and said he was her boyfriend and to just mind my own business. I said I didn’t want any trouble and that I had my kids with me. They then went to their apartment and I went to mine. The next morning, my neighbor knocked on my door. I looked through the peep hole and she looked panicked and disheveled. I hurried my kids into a back room and let her in. She said the guy she was with had stolen her cell phone and car. I ushered her outside to use my phone. In the end, it turned out this person had mental health and drug problems, and associated with people who took advantage of her. Although the complex forced her to move out, the experience made me realize that even a nice apartment complex had its potential dangers.
So, although I did not consciously recognize it until much later, my interest in guns really was stimulated by the fun competitive shooting I saw on Top Shot and the need for personal defense I felt from the encounter at my apartment complex.
As I began to investigate guns more, I came across Michael Bane’s “Down Range Radio” podcast. Episode 194 covered new trends for 2011. In that episode Bane distinguished between Gun Culture 1.0 and Gun Culture 2.0. Historically, Bane suggested, people entered Gun Culture 1.0 through their families, especially hunting, and through military service. Today, people enter Gun Culture 2.0 largely through personal defense concerns and concealed carry. Compared to Gun Culture 1.0, Gun Culture 2.0 is younger and more female, is more price sensitive and attracted to smaller caliber firearms (making the Ruger LCR and LCP .380 runaway bestsellers), and is more involved in formal gun training.
Hearing Bane made me realize that what I thought was a unique personal experience of getting into guns was actually part of a broader social and cultural movement of getting into Gun Culture 2.0.
At that moment I knew I had to write a book called Gun Culture 2.0. The exact scope and dimensions of the book are still being worked out, but I intend for this blog to be my venue for thinking about (and hopefully getting feedback on) Gun Culture 2.0.