Are pacifism and trap shooting mutually exclusive? - Joel Hall

Ever since I was in college and a roommate pointed a loaded magnum at my face because he thought I was an intruder, I have advocated against gun ownership.

Most people don't need guns. Owning a gun is like owning a Nintendo Wii or a car. If I had a Wii, I would certainly play it, and I don't own my car "just in case" I need to drive it. Eventually, it will be used.

However, a recent trip to the Tom Lowe Shooting Grounds off Camp Creek Parkway shook the foundations of my pacifism.

In an effort to do more "guy stuff," my college roommate invited me to go trap shooting. For those who don't know, its where a launcher throws small clay disks, one at a time, and you shoot at them with a shotgun.

I've fired plenty of slingshots, paint guns, and even a handgun once in my life, but I have never handled anything as massive as a 12-guage shotgun. I don't like the idea of shooting animals or people, but shooting disks sounded like a lot of fun, so I went along.

On Saturdays, if you get to the shooting grounds before 10:30 a.m., (and not a minute later) a certified instructor will teach you everything you need to know about shooting a shotgun -- for free.

After going through the tutorial and paying $13 for a box of 25 shotgun shells, I was standing over a landfill and waiting to destroy tiny orange objects with my boom stick.

Everything the instructor told me about shooting a gun was similar to what every violin teacher told me about playing a violin. Hold the gun securely on your shoulder, bring the gun to your chin rather than your chin to the gun, and keep your line of sight straight.

If my violin shot bullets, I could have easily switched out the two.

My friend got a one-barrel, semi-automatic hunting rifle. I got a Beretta, two-barrel, over-under, 12-guage shotgun.

I couldn't help but notice the superior quality of the gun. It was straight out of the scene from American Gangster, where Denzel Washington was skeet shooting with an Italian mafia boss.

When I finally learned how to hold the gun, I was uncomfortably comfortable with it. While realizing I could easily blow off my toes, or end a life, the gun felt like an extension of my body.

The snow started falling heavily and my senses were heightened. I felt like I was an Inuit hunting an arctic fox. When it was my turn to hit the first disk, I destroyed it from 16 yards away.

I thought to myself, what a lucky shot. Before that day, the closest I had come to shooting a shotgun was playing Silent Scope at Dave and Buster's. However, I soon started to realize that I was really good at destroying things.

While the three other people in my party broke no more than three disks (we were all first-time shooters), I broke 15 out of 25 moving targets. The instructor made a bet that I wouldn't hit my final target, but I destroyed it with the final shell in my pocket.

Firing shotguns in the middle of a snow storm was the most fun I've had in a while. I really enjoyed finding something new that I was good at. However, I later began to question whether my actions conflicted with my morals.

I still feel like the Second Amendment needs to be updated. We're no longer under the constant threat of British imperialism, the West has been won, and we have the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and local police to protect us.

Regardless of that, however, I still want to go back out there and break things. Perhaps pacifists and hard-core gun advocates can find a happy medium, if people begin to treat guns more like cars.

A car is a deadly, killing machine in the hands of someone reckless. Creating a Department of Motor Vehicles for gun users and making them get trained and licensed could be a way of decreasing gun-related violence, without taking people's guns away.

If people could learn to respect a gun like they would the rules of the world, perhaps America would be better off.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at jhall@news-daily.com.