As a California resident, I’ve spent the last several weeks never more than a few yards from a cheerful yellow and blue “Protect Marriage” campaign sign. Our seaside state was awash in them; my life online and off, at church, at home and at school, was blanketed in the pro and con arguments for Prop 8. It was in the midst of this marriage-protecting fervor that I came to the conclusion that I had a personal and urgent calling to preserve my marriage by taking up arms. Yes, firearms.
A month ago, my husband floated the idea of purchasing a gun for protection of our household. He explained that he had always envisioned keeping a gun in the home, and saw it as part of his role as a protector of the family. I, on the other hand, was raised with the idea that gun ownership is profoundly unwise, at best. It was hard for me to even picture a gun in our home. At times the thought made me feel ill. Machinery designed to cause death seemed rather out of harmony with building a home full of love. Fundamental assumptions vs deep-rooted upbringing; and thus we have a classic setup for marital conflict.
I tried pointing dear husband to statistics showing that having a gun in the home makes one less safe. I tried to stall until his attention moved on to some other hobby or interest. Mostly, I tried emotional pleas about just how wrong it was. But it was no use. His gun shopping continued apace.
We were at an impasse. It’s been quite some time since we’ve disagreed about something so strongly and (seemingly) incurably. Enter a wise friend with a compromise plan: I would agree to try to warm up to the idea of owning a gun by agreeing to go on a date with my husband to the shooting range. In exchange, dear husband would agree to ditch all immediate plans for a purchase. I pitched the idea to dear husband and it was a winner. (Oh, and part of the deal was that he has to arrange the sitter.)
Friday night the compromise was put to the test. After taking me out to a nice dinner, we headed off to Iron Sights indoor shooting range. It’s still hard for me to fathom that places like this exist. With little more than a few check marks claiming that I am not a felon and don’t have mental health problems, plus $7, I could pick any of a hundred or so guns nicely lined up behind the counter, and go shoot it. The staff were superlatively precise and responsible, but the clientele? They were a bunch of disgruntled-looking kids, milling about with guns as if they were carrying drinks around at a cocktail party. I thought that if I could only run fast enough to my private booth, then I’ll be out of danger from these yahoos. To my dismay, the assigned booths weren’t private at all. They were hardly more separated and protected from each other than a row of bowling lanes. Can this be real? It seems completely insane! Do most people survive shooting ranges? I’m skeptical.
I was still involuntarily jumping each time the guy a few booths down fired. But so far, so good. I was starting to adjust to the notion of a place where everybody is just a few degrees’ angle from killing each other. Dear husband had wisely selected a user-friendly .22 for me. Paper target in position, check. Never point somewhere you wouldn’t want to shoot, check. Squeeze the trigger very slowly, try not to anticipate the kickback, check.
I instinctively drew on an unlikely source of strength–the self-relaxation and breathing techniques I learned for childbirth. Relax the jaw, relax the neck, very deep breath in, then slowly exhale, squeezing the trigger. In an unexpected but thoroughly relaxed moment after the last bit of breath was exhaled, my first shot fired.
It wasn’t so bad, both in terms of not being too frightening, and also in aim. I hit just outside the outer circle of the small center target I was aiming for (it’s about 6″ across, one of 5 targets on the sheet). My next shot was in the black. Here’s the whole first grouping:
Turns out, I’m a pretty good shot. Dear husband took a turn while I rested. I noticed he wasn’t doing as well as I had, though he was using a .40, which he said is more difficult to handle. After another turn on the .22, I gave his a try, also with good results. I shared with him my breathing trick, and his aim immediately improved.
I don’t know if or when I’ll be comfortable getting a gun for our home. But in terms of reminding us how much fun we have together and how much we both can still learn from each other–even after 8 years of marriage–it was the best date we’ve been on. As we left, the clerk called after us, “Tuesday is Ladies’ Night!” and I made a note of it.