By Jeff S.
One label I’ve never embraced — but am willing to own up to now — is that of “gun nut.” It’s been long and winding road getting to this point, though. I grew up male, middle class, and white, rockin’ the suburbs. Never really exposed to guns, and having a mom who enforced an all-out household ban, I just assumed guns weren’t something that were really needed . . .
In high school, my best friend and his father were avid hunters. Killing animals never really appealed to me, though. I can get a burger at McDonald’s for about a dollar. Why would I need to hunt for food, right? I remember having conversations with my friend’s dad about concealed carry. Nothing he said made sense to me at the time. I remember saying something like, “You’re going to pull a gun on a dude? Really?”
As far as I could see then, he was just a right-wing-paranoid-hillbilly-nutter. Actually he’s the physical embodiment of Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation.” Right down to the mustache and the hair he’s the spitting image. While his logic was solid, his presentation wasn’t so much, and I wasn’t ready to hear it back then.
Fast forward to college where I joined a fraternity and hung out with a bunch of dudes, some of whom were so irresponsible, they made Lindsey Lohan look like a model citizen. Some of the worst of them had guns and would wave them around to prove how cool they were. Honestly, these were just white guys rolling around in their tricked out cars, bumping rap music, smoking weed and none of them carried a GPA north of 1.0. Not all of them were like this, but the few who owned guns seemed to be pretty much that way.
With all of that, I cruised through life thinking there really wasn’t a point to owning guns. I had felt safe most of my life and had met some pretty irresponsible gun owners which turned me off to firearms. But while I was in college, I was also gradually becoming more aware of politics, corruption (both in corporations and the government), and the fact that the world is a much more dangerous place than I’d thought (this was post 9/11). At the same time I landed an internship with a company that manufactures rifle scopes.
I didn’t think much of it, and mostly figured it would be an “interesting” experience for me. I almost laughed at the idea of me working with a bunch of gun nuts. But it turned out to be a great experience. Not only did I get some hands-on time as an IT professional, I got to go shooting for the first time in my life.
My first time shooting, I went with a few co-workers. One of them worked in tech support (his job was to talk about firearms all day) and was one of the most knowledgeable and responsible firearm owners I have ever met, He’s also ridiculously fast and accurate with revolvers, but I didn’t learn that until much later.
He taught me the rules of firearm safety, taught me how each firearm functioned. He even explained the history of each firearm as we shot them. My fears were, well, blasted away with each shot (and I shot a lot). All of this was at no cost to me or the rest of the group. Little did I know how generous that was at the time because he didn’t fire a single shot himself that day, yet provided all the firearms and ammunition.
After completing school, I returned to that company and worked there another four and a half years. It was during that time I finally started learning for myself about firearms. I loved the positive experience I had that first time shooting, and each day I was learning more reasons why carrying a firearm might not be such a bad idea.
Eventually I bought my first firearm with guidance from the guys in Tech Support (and partly based on a TTAG review). I bought a Ruger SP101 3″ and to this day it’s one of the firearms I carry most, as it’s so reliable and easy to shoot. The guys in tech support helped me figure out which firearm to buy and where to get holsters and all the necessary tools and safety equipment.
I no longer work for that company as I have since moved on in my career. But my knowledge and interest in firearms continues to grow. I’ve even taken a few first timers shooting myself, trying my best to provide the same safe, positive and fun experience as I had my first time. Now I can proudly say, I’m a gun nut — ahem — I mean a member of the Armed Intelligentsia.