Thursday, February 16, 2012

Never is Heard a Discouraging Word

Have you ever been to a firearms practice range and heard anyone heaping disparaging commentary upon another shooter? Has anyone ever seen another shooter boistrously drunk? Have you ever been asked to leave because of loud foul language or rudeness to fellow shooters? Ever pitched a fit over a missed shot?

Me neither.

I'm not saying that the occasional whispered epithet has not escaped our lips when when a shot failed to cut the 10 ring, or a clay target floated off like a great orange bird into the trap range burial ground while your cloud of number 11 shot continued to punch a hole in the sky. All of us are relatively human. We are all prone to fits of self-deprication -- but they are usually just that. Take that measuring stick to a football game, a golf course or a tennis court and run your survey. There's something about the skill of marksmanship, combining a high level of physical and mental control in an act that is so totally exposed and solo that directs rage over a bad performance inward. When we're at the range cradling that wood and metal shooting machine, we bring our party manners. This is something you teach kids like the First Tee program in golf and junior programs in tennis and some of the solo heat team sports.

Shooting is a solitary communion between the shooter and his gun, part of a tradition that is in the American Shooter DNA from the earliest man to hurl a missile and bonk a mammoth. Track and field athletes know about it. On that field of competiton they are part of a brotherhood of solo performers. A shooter is no less an athlete when he or she steps up to that firing line and plants the shooting boots. Ask a dust-streaked, sweaty, red-faced three-gun match shooter if marksmanship is physical.

And think of how you would feel if your last shot was followed by the roar of a crowd and a trip to Disneyland? If you want to put patriotism on the line, remember, we were once a nation of marksmen and women and were proud of it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kindred Spirits in Shooting Sports

When Gordon Morris Bakken was asked by my publisher to pen a short blurb for the back cover of my book, American Shooter, he instead did me the honor of going all in on a "foreward." He followed my model by making his work a review laced with patches from his own life, growing up with firearms and passing that love of the outdoors and marksmanship to his son. When he wrote for the back cover:

“An informative and enjoyable excursion, both historical and personal. Souter sets out
the problem of the polarization of public debate about guns. He seeks to separate 'myths and truth’ and ‘insights and blunders.’ This book is not about the Second Amendment
controversy. Yet Souter explores the nature of our gun culture and how deeply ingrained it is,
both personally and individually, and broadly throughout American society.”
I felt a kindred spirit. We both love the sport of firearms marksmanship for the skills required and for the camaraderie of our fellow sportsmen and women. We both started out as kids toting .22 rifles and still enjoy the crunch of trail breaking leaves under our boots and the faint scent of gun oil in the crisp fall air. It is a nice feeling to be in the company of a learned gentleman with enough alphabet soup after his name to be comfortable in any academic circle and yet he is grounded in the real world. One day, I hope we can meet in person, maybe stand side by side and drop the hammer on a few distant targets. Until then, I can only thank Gordon Morris Bakken, B.S., M.S., Ph.D, J.D.  Professor of History, California State University, Fullerton 

Firearm Owner Flagillation

Do you own a firearm? Is it buried in a drawer, hidden in a closet, camouflaged to look like an artsy lamp, or locked in a gun safe in a secure undisclosed location? Are you embarrassed that you own one or more firearms? Showing off a new set of golf clubs, a composite tennis racket, or a tricked-out mountain bike doesn't take a second thought. But taking down from its pride of place on the dining room wall rack, a custom stocked 30-06 Winchester bolt action rifle with an eight power telescopic sight, well, that's just plain creepy. When you load your cased shotguns into the trunk of your car to go to the trap range, do you notice your neighbors shooing their children inside as if you were the neighborhood designated sex offender? Have children stopped coming to your house on hallowe'en?

All of the above are common in the U.S. today because of the melding of riot and rampage, murder and mayhem that must be dealt with by the police and military, and the law-abiding ownership of firearms for the express purpose of enjoying the shooting sports. Even though approximately 200,000,000 guns are in American hands today, most people have been conditioned to fear firearms. But a gun on every hip is no solution -- it just announces the gun toter's fear, or aggession no longer veiled.

Too many kids are taught that respect comes from the barrel of a gun while a kid who learns that marksmanship skills and safe firearm handling are valued and rewarded builds self-esteem not the fear in the gut from phony street "justice." The United States was once a nation of shooters and earned respect toeing the mark. It can be that way again if the patriotic bullies and false prophets of doom take a seat, have a cold beer and let the adults get on with it.