How I Got Into Guns

I wasn't born with an H&K in my cradle.

For those of you who are just tuning in to RGG, first of all I want to thank you for doing so - 2020 is looking good for my humble blog thus far.

By way of introduction, I wasn’t always into guns, as it were. I definitely wasn’t born with an AR in my cradle and I wasn’t shooting .308 by the time I was five years old. I certainly wasn’t kicking down doors as a pre-teen and dragging around a Ma Deuce

I’m just a regular guy who got into guns. I’ve never served in our nation’s military, and I haven’t held any employment in a law enforcement capacity - but I respect those who have done so, and respect our Constitution. So, how the hell did some guy who shot silver halide, and later zeroes and ones, get into guns? It’s a little convoluted, so bear with me…

My Firearms Education Did Start Young

I spent my formative years in Upstate New York. The real upstate, not Westchester County. The Adirondacks basically. Culturally it’s as far removed from New York City as rural Georgia is. Other than the accent, the region shares a lot in common with other rural areas throughout the US. This was the 1980s, prior to the draconian measures imposed by Cuomo the Elder and subesequent administrations, and people openly owned guns, mainly for sport, but also defense of self and the home. Gunracks weren’t uncommon. People owned pistols, and the father of one acquaitance of mine had a Beretta 92 (he was former LE) and several others had wheelguns in various calibers. I don’t remember anyone with an AR, but this was before the Assault Weapons Ban years and the craze hadn’t taken hold. I knew what the Second Amendment was, and my scant education in it basically involved the true purpose of it - we had the right to keep and bear arms to defend ourselves from tyranny, whether it be the government, or more mundane threats. I think my fourth grade teacher took about ten minutes to explain it. He did a good job if you think about it.

My immediate family wasn’t pro-gun or anti-gun, but my uncle was definitely into it for hunting and for sport. He owned a few shotguns and a rifle or two. I do remember that my family took custody of his guns when he shipped off for his first tour of duty in the Navy. Ironically such a transfer would be patently illegal in New York State today. The guns were stored in a closet, unloaded, but otherwise relatively accessible. I was told not to touch them unless I asked an adult, and that was that. The trick is not demonizing guns, it seems. I knew they were there, and I actually never asked about them. My main concern was Super Mario Brothers and going outside to play.

However, one day my uncle came home for leave, and he was tasked with watching me for the day while my parents were at work. He asked my mom if he could take me shooting. I don’t even remember if it was an “OMG” moment. Suddenly I was off on my first “range trip”.

Next thing you know we were off to a random stretch of woods in the foothills of the Adirondacks, .22 LR rifle in hand. I was 8 or 9. That day I learned the four rules, and we managed to perforate some soda cans and my uncle bagged a squirrel. No ear protection even. .22LR and outdoors, it wasn’t too bad really.

It made for some bragging rights in elementary school - and no one said a word. The police weren’t called, the media wasn’t dispatched, and the Huffington Post wasn’t demonizing my parents or anything. And this was in New York State under a governor who prided himself on being “liberal”. A lot of the other kids recounted stories of their own of shooting and going out hunting. Firearms use and education was, and still is, a common thing in Upstate. You can’t stamp it out, Andrew.

For the rest of my time in Upstate, guns didn’t factor in too much - my main concerns were doing normal kid/teenager stuff and doing well in school. I knew guns were there, but I didn’t know the specifics really besides the safety aspect. Boy Scout stuff, but without the Boy Scouts. I remember hearing on the news about the Assault Weapons Ban, aka the AWB, waiting periods, and so on in the 90s. I (erroneously) thought that so-called “assault weapons” were machine guns. That was a deliberate move on the part of the gun-control movement to conflate AR-15s with M16s, but I didn’t know that. If you showed me a picture of an AR, I would have thought - “machine gun”.

Fast forward a few years and I ended up in Florida, the Gunshine State. Miami Vice, Scarface (even though it was mostly filmed in Los Angeles), 2 Live Crew, and more.

The Regular Guy Goes 305

Coincidentally enough, I moved to Florida right around the time of the Versace murder. Days after Andrew Cunanan murdered the famed fahsionista on the steps of his Ocean Drive home, I’m settling in with a few boxes of my worldly possessions into university life. I knew by reputation that Miami was an armed camp, but it didn’t factor into my worldview too much. Guns were things people owned, and had every right to own, from where I sat. I just didn’t have one. However, even in a university setting, I ran into people who owned guns, and weren’t afraid to talk about it or admit it. This was the 90s and the AWB had kicked in, but I do remember seeing friends with all manner of evil black rifles that certainly had standard-capacity magazines and other spooky features like bayonet mounts. I guess if the Kaiser attacked Coral Gables, they were ready for some trench warfare. Again, thought nothing of it - they had every right to own those guns - I was old enough to know gun control was something anti-American. I was already a liberty-minded obnoxious sort, so if asked, I held that it was important for the population to be armed. It didn’t come up much though. Things like passing my classes and wondering how to get to South Beach without a car were more important.

After graduation, I got thrust into the real world - and Miami is certainly real enough at street level. My defensive inventory still only included a good pair of shoes so I could run like hell and maybe some basic knowledge of kicking someone where it hurts. I worked in the hospitality and entertainment industry, a career which subsequently spanned nearly 20 years of my life, and while the prime movers were mostly anti-gun types by political affiliation, the actual people who made things run, i.e. the people who worked for a living, were definitely pro-2A and most often owned a fair assortment of guns. Just from conversations, I got a basic education in the intracacies of firearms and firearms law.

Til that point, I still conflated AR-15s with M16s, even though the AWB had sinc expired, and I actually thought private transfers were illegal. I figured there was an aboveboard registry since there were computerized background checks and all, and if the cops caught you with a gun “not in your name”, you were screwed. People offered to sell me weapons since I worked weird hours, and one enterprising gent who had so many guns he had to do “inventory” flat out wanted to gift me one. I didn’t explicitly say so, but my reason for declining was a misconception that if caught with said gun, I would be up to my neck in it.

I kept that little nugget in my head, and did decide to research the ins and outs of getting a gun at that point, though it would be many years before I purchased one.

Getting Around To Purchasing My First Gun

A few months after the offer of a “gift gun”, I actually bothered to look up the laws and intricacies governing firearms in the State of Florida. To my surprise I saw that all those people offering to sell and even give me a gun were doing something perfectly legal. Prior to that, I didn’t morally object to the idea - hey, it’s their property and they have every right to dispose of it as they wish - I just didn’t want something “hot” in my possession.

Education cleared up my misconceptions. By then I knew private transfers were legit in Florida. I knew an AR-15 was a “crippled” M16, and I certainly didn’t see the logic in all the convoluted laws and regulations surrounding guns. Even unarmed, I knew I had every right to buy a fully functional battleship if I had the funding for it. The Unarmed Liberty Fanatic, I guess.

A few factors finally cemented my decision to go forth and arm myself. One personal, and one political.

One fine morning, a great friend of mine was dining at a fast-food restaurant in my neighborhood. I knew said friend from my work and travels in the Miami entertainment scene and we had worked together on a few things. I knew he was into guns and survival strategies, and I didn’t think any less of him for it. Being armed that day turned out to be one of the best decisions of his life.

While dining, the restaurant was beset upon by two men who weren’t there for the lunch special. Their prime objective was to rob the place and dispatch anyone they felt could prove to be a problem. Guns drawn, they came in to the restaurant, threatening everyone therein. It was at that point my friend chose to act. He stood, drew his sidearm from concealment, and demanded they cease their actions. They responded by opening fire. My friend was hit, close to being critical, and issued his own response by shooting back, neutralizing the threat. Had he failed to take action, even while wounded, the aggressors would have undoubtedly “finished the job”. He’s still with us to day because he was armed and acted decisively in a moment of crisis. Like me, he’s just a regular guy with a gun - who knew how to use it. I’m glad he was armed, and I can’t thank him enough for the continuing support and tidbits of knowledge he drops to this day.

Education is key!

The other factor was more mundane in comparison - after some incidents of notoriety in the news concerning guns, and with an election year looming, the usual litany of politicians started yammering for “reauthorizing” the AWB, along with more draconian measures. By that point I knew enough that if those were to pass, it would only be the beginning. Those who seek to restrict our rights are never satisfied, they always circle back for more. Fearing the worst, I finally started my purchase quest in earnest.

Much like anything, I researched the hell out of the process and the options available. I took some training classes where I re-learned the fundamentals, along with the important philosophy of “even if you shoot someone in self-defense, a little bit of yourself leaves the barrel of the gun that day“. I actually got my Florida Concealed Weapons and Firearms License before I even owned a gun. Which actually made the purchase process easier. Politics of the CWFL aside, it’s kind of a VIP card for gun owners in Florida, as you can take your pistol home the same day rather than have to wait a few days.

After much research and a little bit of contrarianism, I finally settled on my first personally-owned firearm, a Beretta Px4 Storm 9mm subcompact, acquired through my local Shoot Straight outlet. I say “contrarianism” because even though I liked the GLOCKs, I saw that everyone owned one and I just had to be different, ha ha. A few boxes of ammo downrange later, and I was hooked, leading to the obnoxious Second Amendment Radical you all know and hopefully love.

Now, you’re probably asking why a liberty-minded individual such as myself went through the process of a 4473 and a gun shop rather than a private sale? I simply weighed the pros and cons, and I really just wanted the extra assurance of a new firearm rather than one whose history I didn’t know about. I trusted my armed friends offering to sell me a gun, but I didn’t want to take the chance on getting one with more mileage than they estimated, so to speak.

It’s All About The Education

We live in a world where we have supercomputers in our pockets and cheap/free access to the sum of human knowledge. In seconds, we can look up just about anything. I didn’t grow up with guns as much as a lot of others in the scene did. I didn’t serve in a military or law enforcement capacity. I knew about and respected the intent and purpose of the Second Amendment through education and research.

I became familiar with the basic safe operation of all manner of firearms through education and research. Whether it was the generosity of a relative or friend willing to square me away on things, or my own self-propelled quest for knowledge, I overcame my misconceptions and trepidations through getting out there and figuring it out.

And I’m always more than willing to pay it forward to anyone out there who is genuinely interested in learning about the true spirit of the right to keep and bear arms, and just having the most effective means of defense at their disposal. It’s the best way I can think of to honor and respect those who took the time to convey their knowledge to me.

You guys and gals know who you are - thank you!

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