By Samantha Lujan
The smell of gunpowder and the echo of shots being fired at the Medford shooting range seemed exciting at first. Twenty minutes went by, and the noise became vexing.
As my super-girly friend Gina and I walked into the basement, I began to notice the misogynist aroma of the place. Once we entered the main room, the look that was given to us by a tall balding man made me realize that perhaps the men standing there were a little taken back by our chestnut-colored Uggs, Brightly colored scarves and flower-scented perfumes. As we began to talk and express what we were there to do, we were presented with a .22 Caliber Rifle, 100 rounds of 22 Golden Bullet Hp’s and a huge target at which to shoot.
“You must wear earmuffs and eye protection at all times,” said four signs posted around the shooting area. As I shot the first round, I thought to myself,’ the sound is not so bad.’ Once I loaded the second round and the third and fourth it got easier. It became a routine— load, rack, aim, shoot…load, rack, aim, shoot, – over and over again. The sound of the shots fired by the rifle began to get overwhelming; it was loud even with earmuffs on. That is when I began to think about how Christopher Stewart (My husband, a rifleman in the Marine Corps currently stationed in North Carolina) does it? How does he put up with the noise? And chances are he has more than one weapon being shot at a time. Along with the noise, the smell of gunpowder began to make us nauseous.
“You get used to it after a while. You begin to ignore the sounds and you just push them out. The smell begins to become normal and familiar just like when you smell food,” Stewart said describing how he deals with gunshot sounds and the smell of gunpowder.
After it sunk in, I realized that it was not just about the smell or the noise; it was also about how powerful a weapon is, and perhaps the most fascinating and scariest thing about the idea of him carrying a weapon, is the fact that in his hands he possesses the decision to terminate someone’s life. Though it is not his choice, he is taught to protect himself and others around him.
Once deployments come around, I know that I am replaced and not by a breathing, walking human being but perhaps by an M-16,M-4, M-9,M-249 Gulf, Shotgun, or a .50 Cal or any other weapon that it is assigned to him by the Marine Corps. One of these weapons becomes his best friend, his companion through the lonely and cold nights.
Many like me wonder how is it that soldiers have the courage to carry something that can either harm them or save them. I even wonder how they feel the first time they have to use a gun.
“I’m scared. A gun, a rifle can do so much. He is not used to it, so I am scared how he will take it. ” said Paola Campos a student of the College concerned about her husband who has recently enlisted in the USMC.
“You feel powerful. You have an equalizer. You feel like you are unstoppable,” said Stewart when asked how he felt the first time he shot a weapon.
Laws regarding guns and any type of weapon that is out there are on the books to protect us. The two most important ones that control firearms in the civilian population are the National Firearms ACT of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. The act of 1934 states the rigid registration requirements and a transfer tax on machine guns as well as short-barreled long guns. The 1968 act prohibits mail-order sales and the interstate sales of firearms, prohibits the sale or transfer to minors, and penalties and licensing requirements for manufacturers, importers as well as dealers.
Despite these laws, gun violence has evolved into a serious problem. According to the National Institute of Justice, “In 2006, firearms were used in 68 percent of murders, 42 percent of robbery offenses, and 22 percent of aggravated assaults nationwide.”
In New York, you do not need a permit to purchase rifles and shotguns. You do not need to register them. No license is required for the owner and as scary as it sounds, you do not need a permit to carry them, except in New York City where all these laws apply.
In essence, New York’s view toward guns is split between the whole populations. Some are pro-gun; others just simply oppose it completely. Consequently, many incidents have occurred involving a weapon. In data provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we learn that weapons used in crimes in schools have only increased since 2000.
I understand that perhaps a .22 cal. rifle is not even nearly as strong as an M-16 or any other gun. Now I have an idea of the feeling you get once you pull the trigger and that bullet comes out so fast you lose sight of it.
“Once you pull the trigger, that’s it. You know…you have to be a 100 percent sure why you are pulling it,” Stewart stated.
There is no set data on guns on college campus, but in the recent data provided by the FBI, in 2004 there were 25,050 offenses committed in schools with the use of a personal weapon, 497 offenses committed with handguns, 146 done with other firearms, 37 done with rifles and 24 done with shotguns.