Thursday, December 15, 2011

We Are Winning - Personal Edition

My sister has never been a gun person. She did not get a gun as a child, like I did (a Remington Fieldmaster 572 that I still have and still shoot, and will NEVER sell) and to my knowledge has never shot a gun. But she has on several occasions heard me discuss my introduction to handgun shooting and training, and my views about pro-gun rights issues. I found out earlier this year that she had been listening more closely than I thought.

My parents have moved out of California and purchased land in Oklahoma for their retirement. After this, my sister and I began semi-annual pilgrimages to visit, often together to save on expenses. During one visit my Dad mentioned a few handguns he had inherited from his half brother. Would I be interested in taking a look? Sure! So he brought out a box and there were a couple of .22 revolvers, a Ruger P89, a Taurus .38 snubbie, and a strange and shrunken 1911 in .380 from Llama, which may be a Llama V. My sister was there and she watched as my Dad and I talked about the guns and I even showed my Mom how to load, unload, and handle the .38 revolver. It turned out that she kept that one in her night stand for protection when my Dad was away. On a subsequent visit I actually took her out back to shoot the gun at least once so she would know what to expect. I mentioned that she should get a holster for it, and she looked at me as if I was crazy.

The 90 minute drive to Tulsa gave us a lot of time to talk, and on the last trip out we had a surprising conversation about guns. My brother-in-law had inherited several handguns from his father, and was interested in shooting them, but did not really know much about guns, safe gun handing, ammunition selection, and related topics. My sister thought that if they were going to have guns in the house, and if her husband was going to shoot them, it would be a good idea to get some training. Then came the real shocker: she herself was interested in learning to shoot! My pacifistic, not quite anti-gun, liberal sister wanted to learn to shoot.

I asked her why she wanted to shoot, and she said that she wanted to feel safe with guns in the house, and she realized that if she was confronted by an intruder when she was alone at home she would need to protect herself for the period of time before the police could arrive, and a gun could be a life saver in that event.

Although I had talked before about my own gun hobby and how I started, we talked a little more about it, the group that taught the NRA Basic Pistol Class I attended, Bay Area Professionals for Firearms Safety and Education, BayProfs for short, and my subsequent shooting activities and training. To say the least, this was an interesting conversation with my sister, especially when she decided to get her husband the gift of two seats in the next BayProfs Basic Pistol class, one for each of them. She said it would be a “couple bonding” activity for both of them.

A few weeks went by, and while at work I got a call from my sister: she wanted my advice on a gun-related gift for her husband. She wanted to get him some kind case or container to carry his guns to from the range. While looking at items online, she was unsure the quality and suitability of various products and wanted more information. I suggested we go to a local gun store where we could ask about the products, and get some hands-on evaluation. After a little more discussion it turned out that the the Bay Area Gun Vault in Mountain View was most convenient for her. I also preferred this store because they recently expanded, taking over the space next to them, and because it is well lighted, tidy, and ordinary looking with a helpful staff. I did not want to take her to a more hardcore gunnie man-cave like the Gun Exchange or Sportsmans Supply. Bay Area Gun Vault is also the closest gun store to her house, so she is more likely to make it her “home base” store.

I met her there on a recent afternoon, and upon walking in and seeing all the rifles in the racks, her eyes got big and the said something like “Oh, my! This is a little scary.” I distracted her by suggesting we get some help, and went over to the counter. One of the clerks, who was armed, started showing, my sister the various gun cases they had in stock, and also suggested she look at a range bags that could be locked, explaining that any locked container would satisfy California law. All the while he was keeping up a conversation, asking about her shooting experience, asking about the BayProfs classes (approving enthusiastically about getting training) and also mentioning about other things she may need like cleaning kits and supplies, eye and ear protection, etc. My sister eventually selected a Boyt range bag, thinking that it would be more versatile, and impressed with the lifetime warranty.

This was when things got weird.

I took her over to the handgun display case and pointed out my pistol, a Kimber Custom II, which the counterman immediate took out and handed over to me. I explained to my sister about indexing the trigger finger along the frame, and a little about why I bought the gun, while she handled it, getting a feel for the weight and balance. This may have been the first time my sister ever held a handgun. But it did not stop there. Even though we were not buying a gun that day, the counterman got into a conversation with my sister and asked about what she liked about the 1911, and then suggested she try out a Glock. She did not like the finger rounds on the grip, so out came a Smith & Wesson M&P, which she liked better. I liked it too. And after that came a Sig P226, and then a couple of Smith & Wesson revolvers. After a short time my sister was getting pretty comfortable with all the guns around, and even appeared to be enjoying herself.

We left after about an hour in the store and went to Peet's to get a coffee and catch up with family stuff. My sister thought the entire experience was enlightening and interesting, and she is definitely looking forward to the class. I was amazed, and a little proud of her for going outside her comfort zone. While in Peet's I mentioned that women getting into shooting and guns seems to be part of a cultural trend. She offered two explanations: first, more woman are living alone because of divorce or other life circumstances, and second, women in the baby boom generation are older and more clear sighted about security, not as naive that younger women about the possibility of becoming a victim, and more confident in their ability to do something about it. In addition, my sister thinks that gun safety should begin with knowledge and respect of firearms, not fear and ignorance.

I really admire my sister.

We parted then as it was getting on in the evening, but not before I told her that if she wanted to visit a gun range to try out my gun before the class in February to give me a call. I would be very glad to arrange a trip.

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