Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis


Photo by Derek Powazek, ephemera.orgWhen I was 16, I became a vegetarian. Years later, I spent the summer in Alaska. When my friends and I went fishing, I decided that if I could catch one, I’d totally eat it. So that’s what I did. I figured, once you take a fish’s life with your own two hands, you’re allowed to eat it.

Last night I fired a gun for the first time. My friend Ford grew up around guns in Nevada, so they were always a normal thing. Me, growing up outside Los Angeles with semi-hippy parents, I wasn’t even allowed a cap gun.

I’ve had opinions about guns. But, just like the fish, I figure, it’s direct experience that gives you the right to have an opinion. So last night I went to the range with Ford and fired a Remington 11-87 shotgun and a Sig Sauer P229 9mm handgun.

Before last night, if someone had pointed a gun at me, I would have been scared. Now, I’m pretty sure I’d drop to my knees, lose my lunch, and pass out in my own filth. Guns, friends, are not to be trifled with.

Ever seen sex in a movie? You know how it’s not really anything like actual sex? Same goes for guns. The causal bang-bang, the slow-mo bullet dodge, the pointless shotgun theatrics … that’s just Hollywood. Guns are not like that.

Guns are loud, instant, and mean. There’s a shockwave of sound that goes in all directions you can feel in your stomach. There’s a muzzle-flash and a powerful recoil that took me by surprise. And the bullet hitting the target is instant.

Guns are sexy, no doubt. Designed to be held, your finger falls naturally on the trigger. And, of course, there’s no denying there’s something masculine about a big metal phallus that launches bullets.

I have a new appreciation for the reality of guns. I know the politics. I grew up next to LA in the 80s – I know what handguns can do to a neighborhood. I have no easy answers to the reality of guns in modern life.

But I do know this: You don’t really know what guns are until you’ve fired one.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.