Sunday, November 21, 2004


I do understand that there is nothing unusual about owning firearms. Surveys show almost half of American households have them. But I live in the District of Columbia, which has one of the nation's toughest gun laws. Residents are not allowed to own handguns, and if one of us feels a need to discharge a weapon, we are supposed to file a request with the chief of police asking for permission. (He must spend all his time answering yes, as D.C. has one of the country's highest murder rates.)

So anathema are guns among my friends that when one learned I was doing this piece, he opened his wallet, silently pulled out an NRA membership card, then (after I recovered from the sight) asked me not to spread it around lest his son be kicked out of nursery school. My entire experience with guns consisted of a riflery class at summer camp back when Millard Fillmore was president, and an afternoon 20 years ago shooting at tin cans with a friend....

I located Ricardo Royal from his listing on the NRA Web site. He is an African-American, a D.C. native, and a retired paramedic who learned to shoot as a teenager through a local marksmanship club. He's frustrated that such sporting clubs have been replaced in his city by a culture that glamorizes guns as illegal weapons. (At our first meeting, I realized how difficult it would be to separate guns from politics when Ricardo tried to enlist me to help lobby Congress to overturn D.C.'s gun law.)

Ricardo had me watch a short film as part of my gun-safety training, and in it the narrator explained that guns are simply machines. Machines can't hurt you, he said; the danger lies in the person operating the machine. OK, I thought, but if I am inept in the handling of my blow-dryer, I am unlikely to vaporize anyone's kidney. As he went through his safety lectures, Ricardo emphasized which firearms would be best for my "personal protection," even though as a District resident this was virtually out of the question, and even though I assured him that no one was after me. Undeterred, his top recommendation was a pump-action shotgun. "Nothing else makes that sound," he said, and even I could conjure up that ka-chung. "Hearing that sound alone can negate the need to fire. It makes such a sweet song."

Ricardo met me across the border in Maryland, at the Prince George's County Trap and Skeet Center, where he rented a shotgun for me. The plan was to shoot one box of ammunition (25 shells). I hoped I would avoid utter humiliation and hit one target, if just by accident. As we stood in the dusk, the quiet interrupted by the pop-pop-pop of gunfire from the neighboring stations, making me think how lucky I was that it wasn't the sound of insurgents, a family of deer emerged to calmly regard us. I read in their look the knowledge that the lady with the Volvo was no threat.

The ammo itself made me uneasy, as if it could explode on contact, and I fumbled as I tried to load the shotgun. The first few shots didn't go well. I could hear my blood pumping in my ears, and I realized that when you close both eyes as you pull the trigger, your clay target will fall to the ground intact. I slowed my breath, forced myself to keep one eye opened, and miraculously hit the thing. In the end I blasted 11 out of 25. Ricardo was thrilled and so was I. I felt even better about myself when, after I made Ricardo shoot a box of ammo, he hit only two more targets than I did.

It's not unusual for a woman to quickly shoot well, he said. "She tends to listen to detail more precisely, and she has no preconceived notion she knows what to do."

Before I slinked back to my now-embarrassing Volvo, I stopped to watch two men shooting. They were fast and fluid and the targets shattered one after another. I am happily married, but I found myself thinking these two -- whose faces I couldn't even make out -- were awfully attractive. It brought to mind a newspaper article from a few years back. After the death of Hugh Culverhouse Sr., the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his various entanglements caused his widow to sue his estate. During the court proceedings, it was revealed that Culverhouse had an affair with the wife of a now-deceased television anchor. Culverhouse's son testified that the caretaker of his father's ranch told him that the caretaker would escort the anchor's wife and Culverhouse "into the woods and they would shoot guns and basically have sex." I thought the article was hilarious at the time. Now I understood.....

More here

U.K. Councillor advocates use of lethal force towards burglars: "North Cornwall prospective parliamentary candidate Mark Formosa has controversially called for householders to be allowed to use lethal force against burglars. Newquay councillor Mark Formosa is campaigning for Government to introduce stronger rights for householders when their homes are invaded. He believes the current law is inadequate and that householders should have the 'right to fight back.' Mr Formosa says the change should go up to and include the use of lethal force. The Government is currently reviewing its law on the issue. Mr Formosa said: 'The present law allows intruders to sue the householder for any injuries suffered while they are robbing our homes.'"

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