84: How I Spent My Saturday


“If I live to be 100,” he said too many times to count, “I’ll never forget the feel of that cold, metal gun barrel against the back of my head.” Daddy didn’t live to be 100, but I have no doubt he was right: he’d have forgotten his own name before he forgot the bandit holding the gun to his head as he, an adorable little 5 year old boy, woke up and raced to the outhouse, having forgotten that the bad men were there.

Guns are a common thread running through my family history.

On the paternal side of things, I have a way-back relative who was Sheriff, and when his re-election campaign heated up with his opponent closing in, he shot and killed his competition. As you may have guessed, he lost the election.

On the maternal side, my granddaddy was a Revenue Agent and Sheriff, so guns were tools of his career. Granddaddy taught my male cousins about gun safety and how to shoot a gun while we girls were inside with Grandmother, learning to bake a cake.

My only personal experience with guns was when Larry P. and I shot tin cans off rocks, calling it a date. On another date, we shot mistletoe from treetops to use for . . . . um . . . . decorations. Yeah, that’s it: Christmas decorations.

But all this changed on Saturday when I spent eight hours learning about North Carolina’s gun laws, gun safety, and gun proficiency. There was a written test and a shooting proficiency exam. I had to shoot 10 rounds from 3 yards, 10 more rounds from 5 yards, and 10 rounds from 7 yards away from the target. I had to show that I knew how to identify the parts of a gun and demonstrate that I knew how to load, grip, and reload three or four different guns.

The course was taught by a knowledgeable and personable retired South Carolina highway patrolman, and The Engineer and I were the only ones in the class, but I don’t mind telling you that I was scared. I was scared of failing the written test, failing the gun handling demonstration, and ultimately failing the shooting proficiency exam. I was terrified of taking my ear muffs off prematurely.


But I didn’t. I breathed through the written test, muddled through the demonstration part, and once I tuned out the instructor’s talking and took matters into my own hands, heeding what my own body knew to be right for me, passed the shooting proficiency test with flying colors. I stayed in the targeted area, and some of my bullets went through holes previously made, just like on tv. (And I followed the advice of my friend, Francis Cavendar, putting my ear protectors on before getting out at the range and leaving them on till we were back in the truck headed home.)

Saturday, you see, was step one in getting my North Carolina Conceal Carry Permit, and thanks to the instructor and the required course, I know much more about guns than I did on Friday night. During the class, I remembered how, using only my voice and upper body strength, I once saved my purse and The Engineer’s car when a would-be thief attacked me in a bookstore parking lot in Atlanta one night. I hope I never have to use a gun to protect myself or others, but I am now confident that I know the legal definition of deadly force as well as when I can and cannot use it. Said another way: I now have a few rounds in the chamber.

Which may or may not be a metaphor.

1 Comment

  1. Margaret B

    I confess…I’m Canadian. Up here, we fought against a gun registry, but frankly, we use guns (well, rifles) for game hunting or protecting cattle…and we use guns when we are engaged in war (as in OVERSEAS)…except for the RCMP and Provincial (read: state) police versus a few criminals…so I don’t really understand the whole “gun culture” thing…I own an antique pearl-handled pistol (with bullets) that was designed to fit in a lady’s purse…ca. 1890-something or maybe into the ‘teens…Never have tried it out. Never had any need. Never fear for my life here in the Great White North…never hunt game…and yet our Winter Olympics athletes consistently excel at the biathlon (a sport that combines cross-country skiing and using rifles) based on (I suspect) historic behaviour and…in some parts of the country, winter necessity…so while I try to understand…I’m stymied. Love “y’all” anyway! 😉

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