Gun Number One

Or, Why I Don’t Own A Gun Anymore.

I bought my first handgun when I was in my mid-twenties.  Here’s what happened.

I was living on the top floor of a quadruplex in midtown Memphis.  It was a “shotgun” arrangement.  Bedroom in the front, bathroom, dining room, living room, kitchen, all lined up in a straight line from front to back.  For some reason I can’t recall, I decided to sleep in the “dining room”.

It was a pretty neat place.  On the other side of the top floor was a young married couple, the woman was named Claudia.  Claudia and I had much in common, and became friends.  We had balconies outside our “bedrooms” which were accessed by a set of floor-to-ceiling windows rather than a door.  We filled our balconies with houseplants from spring through fall.  We also loved flowers, and spent many Saturdays going together to junk stores, searching for flower vases and decorative “frogs”–the things you put in the bottom of vases to separate flower stems. Then we would go to a sort of flea market, have barbecue, and buy fresh flowers for the week.

Claudia also loved cats, as did I.  She had two Burmese cats, the youngest of which we referred to as the watchcat.  If you knocked on her door, the watchcat would proceed to howl in that strangely human way they have, like Siamese cats do.  He was also an attack cat.  Once the door was opened, he would attack your ankles in spite of the fact that you were being welcomed into the apartment by his owners.

I too had a cat, and one day she had kittens.  Sometimes I would put them on the bed and play with them before putting them back in the closet where they were born.  Then one day, I was sitting out on the balcony, and a guy next door, who lived in an identical building, on the side next to mine, said, How are the kittens?

I said, How do you know I have kittens?  He said, I’ve seen you through the window, playing with them on your bed.  Oh. My. God.  So I bought a gun.

First I sought advice from an ex-military acquaintance.  His first question was, Can you kill somebody? Because if you can’t, there’s no point in you buying a gun.  And don’t answer now.  Go home and think about it.  We’ll talk later.

After many sleepless nights, I went back and said, Yes.  I would hate it.  I might have nightmares for the rest of my life.  But if it was down to me or them, I would always want it to be them.

He said, then you’re ready, and gave me advice on what to buy.  I bought a snubnose .38 Smith and Wesson.  The advice was, buy something light enough for you to handle, but something with stopping power.  No girl guns.  I bought it at a gun shop called American Firearms or something like that.  I had to undergo a background check and wait 15 days to get the gun.

My acquaintance, whose name I have sadly forgotten, promised to show me how to use it.

Lesson Number One:  Dry-firing.  Unloaded, point the gun at things and pretend to shoot them.  You will get the feel of the gun and its trigger, and lose your fear of the gun.

I did not grow up around guns.  When I was a small child, my father used to hunt, so he must have had a shotgun. One day I came across him and his hunting partner gutting and cleaning a squirrel they had killed.  I was horrified.  I burst into tears and ran back into the house.  My father never hunted again.

Once I got the gun, my Saturday flower-hunting was replaced by Saturdays at the shooting range.  (In addition to the feel, you have to get used to the noise, which is startling.)  My acquaintance/teacher taught me gun basics.  Don’t ever point it at anyone unless you intend to shoot.  Don’t ever shoot unless you intend to kill, because you are never going to be good enough to aim to wound.  Aim for the central mass of the person.

Slowly I absorbed these lessons, and it became about accuracy.  My gun did not have much of a range, so my targets would be like 25 feet or closer, and my acquaintance/teacher’s targets would be like 50 or 100 feet.  He said I didn’t need anything closer than that range, because if I ever had to use the gun, it would be when somebody was already in my apartment.

Next post:  So whatever happened to that gun?

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