May. 24th, 2013

alexandra_thorn: 2009, taken by Underwatercolor (Default)
A month or two ago my housemate came home and announced that he was going to be taking a Massachusetts firearm safety class. I'm not specifically interested in guns, but firing a gun has been one of those things that I'd like to do at some point in my life for a while now, and someday I'd like to learn to hunt, so I expressed interest in coming along.

It turns out that Boston Firearms ( permits guests to participate in their safety classes for free, which is what I ended up doing. If, hypothetically, I were to decide that I wanted the certificate of completion (one of the prerequisites for a Massachusetts License to Carry), I can pay them $100 later. (I did have to pay $30 to participate in their live fire session. More on that later.)

So, two weeks ago Thursday, I met with my housemate after work, and he gave me a ride to the martial arts studio in Revere where the safety class is taught. This is the first of several posts on the topic. In future posts I will talk about why I decided to take the course (now posted:, what I learned (, and other impressions.
alexandra_thorn: 2009, taken by Underwatercolor (Default)
Before I get into talking about the course (see previous post: I attended, I'd like to give a little background on where I'm coming from.

I was raised by liberal Democrats, and generally share the values of my parents. I grew up with an assumption (I don't even know whether it was a spoken assumption) that firearms should definitely be regulated and probably a lot of them should be outlawed. Somewhere along the line I picked up the view that hunting was definitely okay, at least if you're hunting for food, and that guns should be permitted for hunting.

These days I'm generally agnostic about gun rights and gun control. I've heard a lot of arguments for protecting gun rights that make sense to me. I've heard a lot of arguments as to why the arguments against gun control distort the issue. As a scientist, I don't have the impression that the empirical evidence is very clear in any particular direction. And my training in evolutionary biology leads me to believe that to whatever extent properly controlled studies have (or will) provide evidence in one direction or another, it is very difficult to draw conclusions about how well the results would translate to other contexts. I believe that we live in a dynamically changing world: for better or worse, tomorrow will inevitably be different from today, and the answer to the question of “what is best” will change accordingly.

My friends span most perspectives on the gun debate. Some of my friends have more nuanced perspectives than others. To me, the level of nuance does not seem to be particularly correlated with the conclusions drawn. Most (if not all) of the people I know who are vocally “pro gun rights” have put a lot of thought into the issue. The quality of that thought varies considerably. The “pro gun control” people seem to be more of a mixed bag. Some of them don't seem to have thought about the issue at all. Some have put a *lot* of thought in. Again, the quality of thought is quite variable.

I'd like to learn to hunt some day, and that is the only circumstance under which I think it's probable that I would want to own or regularly fire a gun. My housemate said that if I wanted to learn hunting while I was in Massachusetts, I was going to have to take this firearm safety course at some point. That was part of why I decided to come along. I don't think it was my main reason, though. What was my main reason? I think the best I can explain for why I decided to come along was “just to see.”

I've participated in a lot of friendly debates and conversations about gun control over the years. I suppose that it's an issue that interests me, even though I don't have strong opinions on most aspects of the issue. The fact that I'm not invested in a specific position probably makes it easier for me to listen to the various sides.

Prior to the course two weeks ago I had only touched guns once in my life, many years ago. They belonged to a friend of mine (in fact, this was the same housemate who brought me along to the class). He showed them to me when we were visiting his family in Pennsylvania. One handgun and one rifle. I don't really remember any details other than being startled by how heavy they were.


alexandra_thorn: 2009, taken by Underwatercolor (Default)

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