I’ve had a loaded gun pointed at me once. It was New Year’s going into 1998. Roy and Jerome were involved in the gang lifestyle in Chicago. They moved to Nashville to get away from all of that. Roy’s Mom and her boyfriend were visiting. We were as trashed as we could be. Jerome had just fired the pistol in the air. He indiscriminately waved the pistol in my general direction. I was too trashed to object.
My first time shooting a firearm was when my brother from Texas came to visit and brought his rifle. I only got to shoot it once, at a target. On two consecutive New Year’s, I fired a shotgun into the rural air. One Summer, I got to shoot skeet. I nailed one on the second shot. Witnessing the clay pigeon explode into tiny pieces is a rare thrill.
When I lived in Tennessee, I would visit the family in Virginia every so often. My nephew, Tommy, and I were best friends when we got together. I met him as an infant, now he’s in his twenties.
Some people collect stamps, some people collect coins, Tommy collects guns, it’s what he’s into. I know that stamps and coins aren’t designed to kill, but many of Tommy’s guns are antiques, only kept for display. The crown jewel is a pistol that was manufactured over a century ago.
But, yes, he does enjoy shooting firearms. He’s never been into hunting, he just likes firing at targets. There was this show called “Gunny Time,” hosted by R. Lee Ermy. They would talk about a gun then fire the gun. It looked like super fun. Tommy lived close to my Mom, and I could hear gunshots sometimes. One day, I walked over, and Tommy and his roommate were shooting. I asked Tommy if I could fire one of his guns.
It took him a moment to get the assault rifle set up. He had me put on the headphones, showed me how to hold it, flipped a switch, and said, “You’re live.”
It was like some sort of release. All of my pent-up negative emotions disappeared. I felt like it was something that I’d needed to do for a long time. There wasn’t a target, I just fired into the woods. It was a semiautomatic. I felt powerful as I tugged the trigger. My body vibrated with each bullet that passed through the barrel. Adrenalin was off the chart. It was just fun.
I don’t know how many rounds were in the magazine—but it was plenty. The right side of my head rang for two days.
Later, I was thinking about how the idea of doing violence with a gun is, obviously, a terrible thought to have. Then, I thought about these first person shooter games—they really could desensitize angry teenage minds.