Katie Windish's friend Arden Monroe suggested I come out to a shooting range to sketch. It was a crisp clear fall morning. I arrived at the East Orange Shooting Sports (7210 Gardner Street, Winter Park) perhaps fifteen minutes early since there was no traffic on the East West Expressway. Entering the parking lot my heart started pounding. I have never touched a gun in my life. The parking lot was almost full with perhaps twenty vehicles. When I killed the engine I suddenly heard the distant popping of the guns being fired. There was a bench next to the entrance and I sat next to a man wearing a Magic jersey. His exposed deltoid, biceps and triceps had a New Zealand style sharp spiraling tattoo that snaked down his arm. The American flag waved in the cool breeze beside me.
Toby Monroe walked up with a rifle case and several other smaller cases with hand guns. All the windows were barred. Hand guns and rifles decorated the walls behind the register.We all had to fill out release forms. Questions such as, "Have you ever been arrested? and, Are you an American Citizen?", I quickly checked "No." One question read, "Have you ever been depressed?" caused me to pause. Who hasn't been depressed at some point? I decided to lie and checked "No." We were given a quick five minute lesson on how to handle the guns on the range. The most important point being to keep the barrel of the gun always facing into the range. Katie and I got ear phones and protective goggles. When we entered the range the noise was deafening and constant. Katie was the first to fire and Toby showed her how to hold the handgun. I quickly blocked in the sketch. Her first shot was so loud that other shooters looked around with gun envy. The Luger spit out the empty bullet shell which ricocheted off the side barricade and flew back hitting me in the shoulder. I jumped and the line I was drawing swerved.
When it was my turn, Toby explained how to use the safety and how to hold the gun. Toby works for Kel-Tech designing and testing rifles and handguns. Many of the weapons we were shooting were new designs. I fired the Luger and was blinded and surprised by the muzzle flash and kickback. Araden let me shoot her grandfathers Sears revolver. I emptied the spent shells and reloaded. This gun had less of a kick and I felt a bit more confident with my aim. When we pulled back the target, clothes line style, I could see how I did. Arden said I had a good grouping most of my shots were in the area of the right lung. She said having a tight grouping is more important than hitting the bulls eye. I took comfort in that. I was glad I had even hit the target. I returned to the sketch adding color washes.
Toby pulled out the rifle which unfolded neatly. I had to take off the headphones and goggles to use this weapon in order to press my cheek up against the stock looking through the cross hairs. I emptied the entire clip into the target with spent shells arching to the floor all around me. Over lunch after, Toby said that countries that require all citizens to own a gun had less crime than any other country. Apparently there is a town in Texas that also insists that everyone must own a gun. For me, shooting guns at a range is a bit more exciting than bowling. Since I never bowl, I will probably never shoot.
Bullets cannot be recalled. They cannot be uninvented. But they can be taken out of the gun.
- Martin Amis