Discover more from Ordinary Collisions: Intersections of Nature & Culture
Collisions of Intent & Impact
On recreational shooting
On July 29th, 2022, the House passed a ban on semi-automatic guns after an 18-year lapse. Normally I’m not big on writing about politically charged happenings (though we can, of course, argue that everything is political, including eating and breathing, two of the most widely practiced activities of all living things on planet Earth, if we really wanted to) but I’m glad for this ban. Not everyone I know is glad for this ban. I come from a family of farmers and fishers and married into a family of hunters, so I recognize the usefulness of firearms in certain situations. (Deer eat crops, so farmers often eat deer.) I appreciate the venison my father in law and neighbors bring home and share each year, most of which is acquired with the use of shotguns or hunting rifles. I recognize the occasional need to bare arms and the right people have to defend themselves by the means they feel is necessary. Hand guns are a hard pass when it comes to something I want in my house. And automatic weapons have no place in everyday life.
Here’s a short and true story from a little while ago.
I look up from the dishes as my husband walks in with a weird look on his face saying, “I’ll be right back, don’t go in the front yard or out by the driveway.” Our daughter wasn’t at home that afternoon. He grabs the keys to the big truck, jogs to the garage and is driving down the road before I can really compute what’s happening.
(I could hear shooting in the distance, which is fairly normal around this rural area given all the hunting that goes on. People like to practice with their targets. People generally do it very responsibly.)
He was home about fifteen minutes later and joined me on the back deck. He sank into a deck chair and cracked open a can.
“Well?” I said.
I looked over at him, eyebrows raised, and waited for the explanation.
“I was out working in the garage and I heard some shots, which is nothing out of the ordinary, right? But then I heard a whoosh and a plunk, and I’m pretty sure a bullet hit something close to the garage.”
At this point I can feel my eyes getting rounder and my body shrinking closer toward the house, even though we’re in the backyard, well away from the garage.
“So I thought I can either call the police and wait for them to get here, which would probably take a while and be more chaos than we really want to invite into this situation, or get in the truck and drive down to where I think they’re shooting from and let them know what happened.”
Turns out there was a small group of guys who’d set up a target on a large tract of raw land about a ¼ mile away from the house. They thought they’d placed the target (at which they were shooting at with mostly handguns and one AR-15) well out of range of any roads, but they’d calculated the distance wrong. Every once in a while their shots were going across two rural roads, and one shot got close enough to our garage that my husband heard it hit something.
“I rolled down the dirt track pretty slow, parked by their trucks and walked over with my hands up. You know, the I don’t want any trouble, I come in peace posture. When they heard me out after taking off their ear protection, I could tell they were freaked out by what had happened. They promptly moved the target and apologized.”
Clearly, this freaked us out, too. Nothing tragic happened that day, but it could have. It makes me wonder, again, about why weapons become recreational equipment. In my opinion, something that has a sole purpose to steal lives, especially multiple lives at once, has no place in recreation. Even if it is fun for people when they do with no malice intended. They hadn’t intended any harm on anyone. But that didn’t stop the impact.
Here ends my TEDx talk on the recreational use of weapons. But seriously–imagine with me a world in which no assault rifles exist, maybe even no handguns if we’re really dreaming big, or at least a world in which the ones that do exist are in some sort of “let’s never do this again” museum. It’s a world of bird song over bullet shots, a world of abundant gratitude for life over abundant lament for needless life lost, a world of choosing peace over choosing war. It’s a more beautiful world, and it’s one that’s out there somewhere. Let’s keep our eyes firmly on what peace truly looks like–even if you like to shoot for fun. What else is possible?