Category Archive 'Girls'

25 Jan 2012

Girl Meets Gun

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Amanda Fortini

It’s a common journalistic meme: young and pretty urban female fashionista, for one reason or another, winds up visiting the real America, picks up a gun, tries firing at a target, discovers that shooting a gun is really fun, and then puzzles over the meaning and moral ramifications of it all.

Yet, these are nearly always interesting to read, especially since the gun-owning reader knows better than Amanda Fortini does that she has begun the process of conversion from deluded ignorance to realism.

My first thought is, I can’t believe how loud that was. I’m wearing earplugs, but you don’t just hear the firecracker noise in your ears; you feel it with your whole body. Even if, like me, you’ve never handled a gun, they figure so heavily in the entertainment we watch—from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to Sarah Palin’s reality show to movie trailers and video game commercials—that firing one for the first time is a weird combination of startling and banal. Guns are (pardon the pun) loaded with so much cultural baggage that you think you know what to expect. You don’t. TV gunshots sound and act no more like real gunshots than construction-paper snowflakes resemble real snowflakes.

My next thought is, I want to do that again! I have an immediate, exhilarated reaction. Partly it’s that what I’ve just done initially frightened me, so there’s a sense of a limit overcome. For many people I know, guns remain unreal—the accessories of fictional characters, or at least of the Other, not you and yours. Yet to fire a gun is to realize you can do it: You can operate one, understand how it works. Shooting gives me a rush that comes from a feeling of (admittedly incomplete) mastery.

Plus, the sensory experience of target shooting—readying your stance, controlling your breath, focusing on the target—is so absorbing that I can’t indulge my free-floating worries. I can’t have a self-conscious intellectual reaction when firing a gun. It’s almost meditative. At one point I glimpse a woman in her sixties dressed in a white polo, creased khakis, and pristine white sneakers—attire for a day of golf at the country club; she’s brandishing a Glock. I have to stop myself from laughing with delight.

As I shoot, I again experience the strange, paradoxical sense of an act that’s familiar and unfamiliar at once. I’ve seen Clint do this; I’ve seen Arnold do this; I’ve seen Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton do it. Shooting a gun is like smoking a cigarette or drinking espresso in a café in Paris or having sex on a Caribbean beach: You’ve watched it so many times on-screen that you experience your own actions as an echo. It’s impossible not to feel like a cliché.


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