Disassembling the Unknown

I never liked guns. I still don’t - they never interested me.  As a child, I always associated any type gun with destruction, explosions and ultimately death.  Not only did I grow up in an area known for drive by shootings, the media would saturate the news with these happenings, school shootings, suicides and accidents in the home - all involving guns. For me, any situation relating to a firearm only represented one thing - a bad outcome. Even the argument of self-defense was not convincing enough for me to be near one, but not everyone feels this way. People I know, who I am close with, even my business partners own guns or use them for recreational purposes.

I am aware my friends venture out to the gun range from time to time and even though I didn’t understand it, I was curious as to why they would enjoy firing such a dangerous weapon. So, when the chance arose to join them at Winchester Canyon Gun Range with Paratus Training, I took it. Next thing you know, I’m cruising up the mountains on a beautiful day and wondering why I committed to this, was I crazy?! Knowing fear was upon me, there was a reason I took that first step towards conquering it, so I took a deep breath and made my next step onto the range.

Greeted by three men, two that were in military gear, we gathered under a tent with a table full of gun cases. At that point, my preconceived notions were certain this was going to be “one of those” lessons by these macho “hurrah” guys who are probably overly excited about guns. Well, to my surprise, I was wrong. Rob, Neal and Ralph were amazing, friendly, respectful, funny, and super passionate about guns and more importantly gun safety. I trusted them immediately and it turned out that they became the best guides ever.

Now, just because I trusted the instructors, didn’t necessarily mean it was smooth sailing from there. Now that the mental steps were taken, the physical portion of my journey began. My hands didn’t stop shaking while loading my ammunition, my holster, and then actually holding the gun. As I started to realize the reality of standing behind this thing, tears started to well up. The instructor’s words became distant and muffled and I knew I was still treading through the emotions of fear.  

I never thought I would be here, standing on a gun range with a full set of ammo, a Glock (G19) that shot 9mm rounds in my hand. Startling me, friends all around were firing shots at targets and here I am faced with the opportunity to actually fire this weapon I feared so much. As my world came into one of those slow motion scenes from a movie, I began to pull the trigger and then I hear a click, but nothing fired! Oh no! My mind raced with questions - what was that? What did I do? Is it going to backfire into me? Is it going to explode? Do I drop it? What happened?

Thankfully, surrounded by highly credentialed gun professionals, the fix was not a problem. It turns out my tiny hands weren’t the right fit for a G19. Now, back to the target I go with the proper fit and a professional by my side. Feeling less confident than before, Rob and Neal in their soft demeanor walked me through the motions, and then it happened - I shot my first gun.

Flooding my veins with mixed emotions…the recoil was unreal, the sound was alarming, and the power was unbelievable. Cautiously, I continued firing and as I absorbed more information on how to handle the weapon, the more control I had. I now understood that I was in control of the outcome of the fire versus it controlling me. I was able to manage my aim better, my hands, my breathing and my movement. Right then, I began to look at the weapon differently. I actually thought this weapon of destruction, when handled properly, was now considered safe in my eyes. Thinking back, the instructor’s analogy comes to mind:

“When we get in a car accident, do we give the responsibility to the car? Do we say the car killed the person? Or do we say the person behind the car did it?”  It was the person driving recklessly. And likewise, it was the person using the gun recklessly.

I have to say, in life you are presented with a choice. To evolve or remain. I am so fortunate that I made the choice to evolve and to go for it. I had to give it a chance and give myself a chance to learn the facts and how to handle guns. I learned that the majority of gun owners do not have the proper education and have not even taken a gun safety or a gun-handling course. I learned that guns are the one thing that people give responsibility to being dangerous and that guns kill people. I believed it too, prior to this course.

Through the tears, shaky hands, nervous smiles, accelerated heartbeats, I got to conquer one of my biggest fears that day and I learned that I was judging something I knew nothing about. In this situation, I was biased and I was actually more closed-minded than I thought. Guns are not what caused the drive-by shootings, the shootings in schools, the accidental shootings in the homes. It, unfortunately, is the user. The lack of education, training and respect for the weapon is when it’s reckless.

So, through this adventure I have realized a couple things.

1.     When things are unknown, that’s when fear creeps in. The more one is informed, then the more one can have educated opinions and decisions. Knowledge is power.

2.     Not to be so hard on myself for judging something I knew nothing about, that is part of being human.

3.     Not only is knowledge power, but a supportive community is power too.

On the last point, I needed to have trusting, passionate and knowledgeable people present. I needed a supportive group of friends who were encouraging, and at the same time, those that could relate to being scared of guns or didn’t know much about them either. I needed that safe space to grow through my fear and to gain confidence in myself.

I am not sure I will be a gun owner, but I can tell you - this little girl inside of me was genuinely smiling by the end of the course because she faced her fear. The Inner Warrior in me grew a little more that day. And then curiosity took over, “what other fears are holding me back?” If someone is afraid of something, do as Dale Carnegie says, “If you want to conquer a fear, don’t sit at home and think about it. Go do it and get busy!” And, yes, I did and I will!  Boom! (no pun!;)

- an Inner Warrior story by Karina Muñoz-Benalcazar