So You Want To Own a Gun

PJ Media actually hit me with a pretty tall order with what appeared to be a simple suggestion for an article: a step-by-step process for those who know absolutely nada about guns yet want to arm themselves.

My immediate response -- "Sure, I'll get right on it" -- was tempered roughly .00093 nanoseconds later by the realization of the task ahead of me.

Getting a gun -- especially the first one -- is a pretty big deal.

For those of us who grow up in "gun cultures" where firearms are merely another tool and fact of life, getting your first gun may consist of getting a pint-sized .22-caliber single shot rifle almost as long as you are tall when you are a child. It is a simple and expected rite of passage that is a mark of growing expectations, trust, and new-found maturity.

We're generally accompanied by an experienced and patient relative -- a father, grandfather, aunt, or older sibling -- and the time we spend with those first firearms fills us with nostalgia in later years. The adventures spent afield plinking at cans and paper targets or hunting is remembered as much or more for the bonding and the fellowship as it is for the experience of shooting a gun itself.

Over time, if we have good and patient instructors, we learn and apply the rules of gun safety religiously, develop an appreciation for the joy of marksmanship, and find a reverence and respect for nature that those who choose to remove themselves from the circle of life will never know. It is the sort of upbringing I experienced with my father. It is similar to the stories captured by fellow North Carolinian Robert Ruark in The Old Man and the Boy, his much-loved classic.

For those of us who come into knowing firearms this way, guns are pleasant touchstones connecting the past, present, and future. Many others have found similar if more transient first impressions about guns at summer camps or with scouting or similar youth groups, and they either chose to pursue their passion later in life or to hold the experiences as a fond memory.

Unfortunately, as our culture urbanizes and suburbanizes, and woodlands and fields fall prey to mall sprawl and McMansions, the first impressions many of us get of firearms don't come with gentle guidance. All too often, it comes through the crime reports on the evening news, the bloodied visages of victims of a tyrant's military oppression, or the heart-rending stories of suicides, murders, and accidents. This is compounded by ever-more-bloody Hollywood entertainment and video games that promote the most shocking and puerile use of weapons imaginable. We've become acculturated to view guns as malevolent occupying entities that have the power to thrust bloodlust upon us simply by picking them up, or as booby traps that will go off unexpectedly at the slightest touch. As a result of this cultural brainwashing, it is sometimes more difficult to get adults to act rationally around guns than children.

Despite these manufactured fears, gun ownership in the U.S. is now at its highest level in history. Obviously, even the saturated biases of media aren't all influencing.

So you're interested in getting your first gun. Where should you start? First, you need to know what you plan to do with it.