Bang! My target shatters into a mere puff of dust. I smile as I eject the discharged shell from General Paton, my trusty red, white and blue BT-100. My competitor shakes my hand, congratulating me for winning another shoot-off.
I shot for my school’s trapshooting team all four years of high school. For me, the world of guns was pleasantly liberating; I was never strong enough, fast enough or coordinated enough to compete in any sport that involved a ball or some athletic ability past middle school. But with a gun in my hands, I could compete with anybody of any age, gender or size. With guns, everyone was equal and there was no shame in “losing to a girl” or “beating an old man”. Our talent in the sport was based only on our ability to focus on the target.
The atmosphere of trap meets was friendly and welcoming. You came, you shot, you ate and socialized among family and friends, you shot some more and then you shot off against an opponent if a tie-breaker was needed to determine a winner. Hundreds of high schoolers milled about, each with their own shotguns, either sitting on gun racks or slung over their shoulders, while the shooters sauntered to their shooting stations. Guns were everywhere, attended and unattended. One who is unfamiliar with the trapshooting culture may cringe at the thought, but it never concerned us enough to worry.
And there was no reason that it should have.
After all, we all held gun safety certifications. Safety rules were strictly enforced, and getting shot at a trap meet was virtually unheard of. While ambulances and policemen are common sights at football games or track meets, there was never even a single ambulance or police officer to be seen near a trap meet. And they were never needed.
The term “shooter” therefore has very different connotations for me than for most people. I think of the responsible gun owners who use their guns as sports equipment for the sake of fun; the kind of people who are genuinely fascinated by them and treat them with utmost respect and care.
Everyone else thinks of a crazed maniac who shoots up a school with some illegally obtained assault rifle; the kind of person who cares nothing about the gun except that he can use it to kill humans. That is certainly not who we as trap shooters are, or wish to be.
When the country is in an uproar after some mass shooting, however, we “shooters” are treated with suspicion. The combination of fear, anger and ignorance breeds cries for tougher gun laws, which unnecessarily limit us without achieving any peace.
For example, many gun clubs have had to ban the use of shotguns or rifles with pistol grips because so many uninformed people thought they looked like large ammunition clips. A pistol grip is just a handle that juts downward from the stock, which some shooters find more comfortable than a regular grip. Gun control advocates jumped at their chance to ban what they thought was a huge clip of ammunition that could be used to mow down a crowd; all they were fighting was a solid piece of plastic.
I’m amazed by some of the questions that people ask me personally about guns. They’ll refer to my shotgun as a rifle, and when I correct them, they express confusion because they’d assumed the terms “shotgun” and “rifle” were synonymous. I was once asked if I could kill anybody with my trap gun. I replied, sure- if I hit them point-blank in the right spot. If I had any infernal desire to hurt another person with my trap gun, I’d be just as well off bludgeoning them with the stock. Comparing an assault rifle to a shotgun is like comparing a Scottish claymore to a butter knife. The two aren’t even on the same plane in terms of deadliness, yet I meet people with strong pro-gun control sentiments who don’t understand that there’s a significant difference between a shotgun and an assault rifle, let alone a regular rifle and assault rifle.
I fully recognize that this country has a serious problem with gun violence that must be addressed. However, waiting until mass shootings occur to hastily pass laws which inhibit a responsible gun owner’s access to guns, without limiting the criminal’s ability to obtain them illegally, will not solve the problem. If we are going to consider any new gun laws, we should at least know a thing or two about the guns we are limiting and the people who use them.