Fall Break has been over for two weeks, and many of us still don't seem to feel as relaxed as we'd like to. Some of us have personal problems, and some of us have too much work to do, but regardless of what our unique situations are, the results are always the same: Pure, unadulterated STRESS. But how does an Oberlin student escape stress, relieve anxiety and circumvent depression? The answer is simple: go and shoot a handgun.
The idea came to me while vacationing at my home in Washington D.C. I went to see American Beauty with my family and suddenly I was inspired to shoot a handgun. I won't explain the connection between the movie and my sudden interest in handguns here, but I will admit that I spent the rest of the week wondering what it would be like to line up those cold iron sights, pull the trigger and feel the energy of the recoil.
When I got back from break I was swamped with work and other responsibilities, and my dreams of gun smoke and flying shells, sadly enough, were put on the back burner. It wasn't until the next weekend that I caught a History Channel documentary on the handgun, which triggered all those same feelings I had felt before, rushing back to me like a lover from the past. I picked up my Lorain County Yellow Pages and looked up "Guns."
I found a brightly colored quarter page ad that read: "On Target: Indoor shooting range, learn to shoot, test your skills, rock bottom pricing and layaway available." What could be better than an indoor shooting range that let you rent really large handguns at low rates and didn't require any experience or training? Then I kept reading and saw that they were located only 10 minutes from Oberlin up on Route 57. It must have been fate.
I convinced my roommate to join me for an evening at the range. When we arrived, I noticed that it was located right next to a public library (what a great concept: Read books, then shoot stuff). The facade of the range was made to resemble an old western saloon or general store. It reeked of class and dignity. As we entered we were confronted with rows of empty gun racks and glass display cases that contain one or two pistols. We made our way to the register where a man stood with a large handgun strapped to his hip. In a surly voice he asked what he could do for us. Neither of us had ever shot a handgun before and hadn't a clue of what to ask for. He pointed down at the display case and told us that those were the rental guns.
We chose a 9mm 15 round semi-automatic Ruger, much like the guns that most law enforcement officers carry. He handed us the 9mm, two targets, 100 rounds, two pairs of these headphone-like things and a pair of safety goggles. He then directed us to stall three. We both stood there looking at the gun and eventually told the clerk that we had never shot a handgun before. He gave us a puzzled look, paused, and said, "Never point that at anyone. This is where the bullets go, and this is the trigger that makes the gun shoot. Any other questions?" We said "no" and went into the range area.
I entered the stall, attached my target to the target mount, loaded the gun and stared at the gun I held in my hands. Memories of cops and robbers when I was eight rushed to me as the smell of gun powder permeated the air. I flinched every time someone in an adjoining stall fired their weapon. I raised the gun, lined up the iron sights, and squeezed the trigger. The muzzle flashed and the gun recoiled with such a force that my hand and arm immediately felt sore. But in that one fraction of a second I felt things that I had never felt before. It wasn't a feeling of power or invincibility, but something much different. I felt an energy surge through me like a lightning bolt, and a sense of extreme freedom fell over me. To put the experience into words would only bastardize it. All I can say is that for one beautiful hour, nothing else seemed to matter.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not some redneck gun freak. I feel very strongly about guns and believe that they have no place in the home. They are extremely dangerous and in no way a toy, regardless of whether or not they are used in a controled environment, such as a shooting range. I suppose what I am trying to say by sharing my experience with you is that I found an escape from the "Oberlin bubble." I simply wanted to escape the Oberlin way and felt that shooting a gun was a pretty damn un-Oberlin thing to do. I guess I'll end this with a dare - and directions to the shooting range. I dare all of you to take a chance and do something you never thought yourself capable of doing. If that thing is shooting a gun, then you should mosey on over to On Target, three miles past Interstate 90 on Route 57. If you don't have as good a time as I did, remember that it is often better to regret something you have done than never to have done it at all.
Danny's got a gun: Senior Daniel Romano enjoys his nine-millie-o at On Target, a local shooting range. (photo by Amanda Huhn)
Copyright © 1999, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 128, Number 8, November 5, 1999
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