In West Palm Beach, many local families partake in a leisurely Saturday afternoon activity shooting pistols at Gator Guns and Archery Center on Okeechobee Boulevard. My experience at this huge, indoor firing range and gun shop was limited to a visit last year with my friend Chris who introduced me to the place. Chris is something of an expert with his cache of guns, pistols, and hunting rifles. My grandson Billy was here this weekend and considering my need to keep a 12-year-old busy, I asked Chris to introduce Billy to the basics of gun safety and target shooting at Gators. As anyone who reads or watches television knows, the gun control issue is an urgent matter after the many tragedies in Nashville and elsewhere, with semiautomatic weapons behind the worst of the massacres. As a responsible grandfather I believe a youngster from New York City should know more than what he reads and hears about guns in the news, and indeed a trip to Gator’s gun range was an enlightening experience for Billy. First, he saw the massive and exhaustive collection of armaments on display and for sale there, all legal under Florida law. The pistols Chris taught him to handle were small arms typically used by law enforcement. Billy was very surprised to see entire families there—mothers and fathers, grandparents, and young children –all out target shooting with their weapons. According to the rules at Gator’s, if a child is tall enough to see over the table and is accompanied by a parent, they are permitted to shoot in the range. For many of the participants it was not just a leisurely outing but a practice round to keep their skills honed for safe handling and to burnish their hunting skills. Some were there for the fun of target practice. It was clear that from an early age they are held accountable for the proper use of a gun. It is the duty of parents, especially in a gun-friendly state like Florida, to instruct their children about gun safety and when it is appropriate to use such a deadly weapon. Most people at the range on Saturday owned their guns and kept them in their homes. It makes sense that the children learn how and when to use them. There were instructors also working the range helping the newbies to the sport. Others seemed to be professionals, possibly law enforcement. This is Florida—the wild west where the right to carry a concealed weapon is allowed without a permit. It is a law that invites more gun use and gun education I suspect. Billy left Gators clutching his paper target showing near perfect hand-eye coordination. He came away from his time there with a new skill, and he was excited about wanting to go out target shooting again. More importantly, he learned to respect the power of a gun in the hand and why safety and constraints are necessary for their use.
One thought on “A Day at the Gun Range”
Wow. The thought of spending time at a gun range is not exactly top on my list. As you described it though, if there are guns in the household it makes sense for families to hone their skills and teach their young. For you to enlighten and expose Billy to first hand knowledge was a great lesson for him. With all of the polarization around gun control it is easy to forget that shooting is a sport that with proper supervision is a skill to practice, hone and enjoy.