We were a motley group gathered in the basement of church: a teacher, a realtor, a machinist, a nursing home administrator and a college student.
The other side of the room had a young stay-at-home mom, a nurse, a farmer, a retiree twisted with arthritis, a secretary and a deliveryman. We all quickly found our seats, distancing from each other while angling for a good view of the instructor.
There wasn’t much talking, just quietly flipping through our books and some side eye glances as we tried to figure out whom our classmates were.
The instructor had enormous cases behind him, flipped open revealing his teaching “props”, each one slightly different, but all lethal. He cleared his throat, pushed a button and an image of a handgun popped up on the wall with the words; “Welcome to Concealed Carry”.
Our little group, 16 people in all, had signed up to learn proper safety techniques for handling personal firearms to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Reasons varied: living in isolated areas, working in rough neighborhoods, personal safety, protecting loved ones, but, in general, it was the desire to be able to ensure the wellbeing of ourselves and people we love, or to at least try.
The curriculum covered the parts of the weapon, safety measures, stances for shooting, safe storage, transport and carry. Discussion of ammunition differences, the need for practice and again, safe storage. Explanations of the difference between sporting weapons and weapons for self-defense. Misfire, hang-fire and squib load was explained and information on what to do regarding to each situation. Aiming, targets, shooting ranges, cleaning and again, safe storage was discussed. The class was over six hours, allowing time for questions and demonstrations.
He then went to demonstrate safe techniques for shooting. How to place your hands and fingers to maintain control, deep breathing to calm yourself, correct stance to maintain balance, where to point your gun when not firing. We took our written tests then left for the range.
Once there, we had to demonstrate we knew how to load our clips, prepare our weapon for discharge and be able to hit the target consistently, if not with 100 percent accuracy. We had to demonstrate gun safety covered in class.
The sun was sweltering as we awaited our turn to shoot, we each helped load the clips of other students, to speed up the process. Bang! Bang! Bang! The ear protection muffled the noise, but you could feel the vibrations around you somehow. We watched each person as they went to the line; their stance, their hands, how they held their head, we were trying to figure what would work best for each of us.
I was using a .22 handgun for this portion of the test; the shells are a lot less expensive and easier to come by than some of the other sizes. As I approached the line, sweat ran down my face and my mask caused the safety glasses to fog. Once, I was ready to discharge the weapon, I looked at the target, trying to think about a situation that would inspire me to aim at another human being. Purse being stolen? Meh. Protestors? Probably not. I flashed through a dozen scenarios, none of them really causing a reaction. It wasn’t until I thought of Sparky, and the possibility of someone trying to hurt or snatch him away from us; I raised the gun and pulled the trigger. Bang! Low and to the left. Bang! 7:00 on the target. Bang! Within the 10 — the sweet spot on the target.
I thought of other scenarios, someone breaking into our home looking to steal from or to harm us. Bang! Consideration of the amount of drive time for law enforcement to arrive. Bang! The lack of neighbors who would hear cries for help. Bang! I pictured the face of the man who had hurt me years ago. Bang! The monster who had raped and killed my college friend. Bang! On and on it went for 50 rounds.
When I was done, my arms were trembling a bit, I was breathing hard and my teeth were clenched. I just stood there looking at the target. All the purple-rimmed holes punched into that paper. I exhaled a deep breath and could feel something heavy and burdensome leave me. A weight I did not know was there.
I collected my certificate, stowed the weapon and started collecting the brass scattered in the grass. Nearly a thousand casings littered the grass.
Would I ever be able to pull a weapon in defense? I have no idea. With God’s blessing, I will never need to find out, but if something happens, at least I know I can be the first line of defense for myself and mine. While I have always had the right to do so, now I will also have the license to carry the necessary tools.
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.