This past weekend, I took a newbie shooting. He’s a nice, young member of the tribe and had expressed an interest in shooting so I took him along to one of the public ranges in the mountains near L.A. Everybody who shoots with some frequency comes to the public range with their guns in cases, supplies in boxes and target frames (rented or home-built). People who own a gun and want to “shoot it once or so”, stand out a mile away. So, immediately, when two guys (one short, shaved head, tattoos, baggy clothing and the other taller, more muscular with more tasteful arm tattoos and one of those buzzed-on-the-sides-long-and-heavily-gelled-on-top hairdos that I associate with guys who race their tricked out Acuras for pink slips) walked up in between lane breaks, they stuck out like sore thumbs . . .
These guys walked up with an uncased AR with an Eotech and no sling. The guy whose gun it appeared to be held it by the pistol grip the way you hold a bucket: dangling from his hand at his side, the muzzle pointing at the ground (sometimes sweeping his own foot). In his other hand, he had two polymer 30-round magazines with windows.
There was something in the demeanor and body language that tickled my Spidey senses which said: “This guy is not a frequent shooter who diligently practices the Four Cardinal Rules.”
They walked up to the Range Safety Officer and I could catch the bigger guy asking if he could shoot his select/full auto fire weapon at this public range. A couple of times, he made an almost affected point to say he was “law enforcement.”
Just after I finished processing all my red flags (raised by the guy’s overall demeanor, the fact that several PDs and SWAT teams have their gear in trailers at one of the private lanes where they routinely practice and the fact that the range has a PoPo-Only kill house) I overheard Mr. “Law Enforcement” say he’s with ICE.
Aaaaahhhhhh…..One of those… Like the Border Patrol guy I met there a few months back whose standard capacity magazines seemed to be causing feeding problems with his AR.
They finally got in at a station and started shooting, drawing attention, annoyed grumbling and the appearance of smart phone cameras. They were not careless and dangerous, per se, but you’re not supposed to have ground strikes under 100 yards on this range and they were coming short of the 50 yard line.
They were fairly cordial, but increasingly self-conscious. Aware of the attention they drew, they even let the newbie I brought with me shoot a couple of bursts. From a double drum. “Aurora Special” I believe it was…
70 or 80+ rounds gone in just a few minutes, the RSO’s radio broke the relative silence with the Range Manager’s cursing about “why the hell is there full auto fire down there” and “can’t those guys just get a private lane”, etc… Knowing they were pushing it and likely having expended most of what likely was their entire ammo supply, our two visitors sauntered off. AR held by the grip. Still pointing down. Still dangling.
. . .
Shortly after the Newtown tragedy, Natalie Barden – a sister of one of the child victims of the shooting wrote a letter to President Obama telling him “that only police officers and the military should get guns.” I empathize with the Barden family as I also have lost a small child to unexpected (and, arguably, preventable) circumstances. So blame it on my cynical, brooding sense of irony that I want to ask: “Dear Natalie; is this what you meant?”
I recall Natalie’s letter when I see SWAT teams going door to door in Boston or guys of specious “law enforcement” credentials getting select fire weapons and standard and extended capacity feeding devices when all three are denied me for no legitimate reason.
But I don’t really resent these guys. Even if they were mere Immigration & Naturalization bus drivers or TSA supervisors who on a technicality qualified for the law enforcement carve out.
The newbie I took with me had a chance to shoot a representative selection of calibers from my collection and he got a very nice unexpected bonus in the form of shooting a few bursts out of the other rifle. On our way home we discussed the differences of the AR I own and the AR the ICE guys brought.
The newbie got the arbitrary nature of the law and found that to be ridiculous. So, I guess you don’t have to be an absolutist (chauvinistic, sexist, misogynistic, racist, and anti-Semitic) “gun nut” to feel that way…