Gun Class: On Quitting, Learning, and Repeating Mistakes
Lots of people extol the virtues of learning but they forget to mention that often learning experiences suck. Which, paradoxically, can be what makes your realize how worthwhile they are.
I was given the opportunity to take a closed class in firearms from world-class trainers. I was one of the first to sign up… and I quit after the first day.
I felt like an absolute tool.
And well I should have, right? Why waste my money and other people’s time, and take the spot from someone else, if I was going to do that? And if I started, why quit?
First let me explain why I signed up. I’ve explained how I feel about guns, but basically, I’m the most pro-gun-control person you’ll meet.
However, I dislike ignorant people with strong opinions. To avoid being one, I took an NRA Basics class in 2010. It was great desensitization therapy, education, and insight. This was to be more of the same.
I went through the first day with people I trust and like, in whose opinions I have a great deal of faith. They were relaxed and excited. Meanwhile, though, it was taking everything I had to stay calm, and I wasn’t doing well. I was upset, I was afraid, and I was angry.
I spent that night and the next morning drained, sore from being tense the whole time, and in tears, trying to convince myself that I was being stupid – but I was a wreck. Finally I gave in and admitted I couldn’t hack it; I didn’t want to go back. Instead I spent the morning on a six-mile hike to regain my equilibrium and think about what the hell my problem was.
I was a wreck because it was the wrong place for me. I eventually allowed that, if a belief matters so much to me that I physically exhaust myself trying to fight it down, then maybe I should stop fighting it. I admitted that if it matters that much to me, maybe it is not super healthy to stay quiet, as if I believe the opposite.
Even the opinions of brilliant, caring, well-intentioned people are not always the ones that fit you. When everything in your gut tells you that something is wrong, sometimes you have to listen to that. Even when you waste time and money and opportunity. And feel like an absolute tool.
So here’s what I believe. I think everyone agrees that bad guys with guns can be problematic. And I get that bad guys will get guns no matter how strict laws are. But the arms-race logic of “well then we should all have guns” is illogical to me. More bad isn’t the solution to some bad. What makes sense to me is to work harder to get as many guns as possible away from as many bad guys as possible. (Also, if you’re concerned about school shootings, those guns seem to come not from bad guys but from the “responsible gun owners” to whom the perpetrators are related, which to me is another argument for limiting availability.)
I want to be able to know how to fire and unload a gun in case I’m thrown into a situation with one. But I don’t believe it is my right to ever carry or own one. I have no business with a lot of machinery or equipment or chemicals that only professionals are allowed, and I believe the same applies here. I believe that guns are a tool for those who need to be skilled with them in their professions (police and military) – not for amateurs, hobbyists or enthusiasts.
Maybe this is my point of view because I’m afraid of them. That’s possible. But it’s also possible that my fear exists because of my point of view – that I fear guns being a part of everyday life because I take them that seriously.
Leaving the class makes me feel like an idiot and a quitter, and I hate being stupid and I hate being unsuccessful. I also hate being a disappointment and filling a spot that could have been taken by someone else who could have gotten a lot out of it. But I wasn’t honoring how I felt and I wasn’t acting in accordance with what I believe. It woke me up to how passionately I feel about this. It woke me up to the fact that I need to take action against a problem in a way that fits my beliefs.
Also, though, it woke me up to the fact that yet again I was listening to other people instead of myself. That’s probably the most maddening part. People say mistakes are good because you’ll never do the same thing wrong twice, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with me. I am tired of learning this lesson.