Princess: Shooting yourself in the foot

Ali Margo
The Aspen Princess

“Hell yeah, I got a Glock; you want to shoot it?” the instructor at the gun club said, his Southern drawl suitable for the occasion.

It was ladies night at the firing range in Steamboat, and I’d gone with a bunch of friends for a girls night out. I guess in ranch country, happy hour and guns go together like steak and eggs.

It was my first real experience with a gun, at least one that I can remember. I know we had riflery at the day camp I went to when I was a kid. Now that I think about it, it’s pretty crazy that they put guns in the hands of young kids, even if we shot balloons with BB guns. But still.

Let’s just say it had been awhile since I’d handled a gun. I hadn’t grown up around them; my dad was a Jewish intellectual who was a bit of a hazard as soon as he picked up a tool, never mind a bona fide weapon. He was the guy who hit his thumb with the hammer, sliced his finger open with a knife and dropped the heavy crescent wrench on his foot. There was no way we were going to let him anywhere near a gun, not that he would ever do anything with it anyway. Once, we ran into some hunters coming out of the woods who had an elk in the back of their truck, and rather than congratulate them, my dad acted like it was a funeral procession and almost started to cry.

My brother has a handgun. He bought it when he was living in Alma with all the crazy, oxygen-deprived stoners who prided themselves on living in “the highest town in America” and the fact that their ZIP code was 80420. His friends liked to shoot beer cans and stuff for sport, though don’t ask me why they needed such a powerful weapon to do it.

So I was trying to get into the spirit of the whole ladies-night-at-the-gun-club thing, pretending the target was the head of the last boy who broke my heart. I got the whole feeling of power and the release that comes after the explosion of the bullet out of the barrel, sexual innuendo notwithstanding.

By the way, did you know that the word “nonplussed” actually means surprised or startled, basically the exact opposite of what you think it means? I learned that yesterday.

Anyhoo, what I’m getting at is the role of guns in our society and my personal experience with them. We have a gun in our house; a rifle Ryan uses to go hunting every fall. It’s in a giant case in our storage closet and only comes out in October. Ryan’s brother collects guns and has a fancy gun closet in his basement that is locked at all times, and he’s the most harmless guy in the world. He goes hunting every fall with his buddies in Minnesota but has no intention of actually killing anything. What he really likes is cooking for everyone and having an excuse to drink cans of Bud Light until his bladder explodes.

Hell, the sound of gunshots is part of daily life up the Fryingpan, like when the coyotes get too close to Kevin’s horse barn or when one of the neighbors is trying to scare the bears off from eating out of the garbage bins at the bottom of the street, which happened Tuesday.

Guns have always been part of life in the mountains, further evidenced by Colorado’s “make my day” law, which was passed in 1985 and allows residents of our beautiful state to use deadly force when protecting their property. I worry about this every time I hear about someone who tries to find the Seven Castles hike, because I’ve heard that the guy at the top of the street will fire his gun to scare people who tromp through his yard looking for the nonexistent trailhead.

But what is going on in this country when it comes to guns is beyond scary.

I’m just wondering when someone is going to bring up the fact that the Constitution is kind of dated and that the “right to bear arms” was written in the context of a time and place so far in the past that it can’t possibly be the basis for legislation today.

I’m wondering when people are going to realize we no longer live in a democracy but in a corporate economy, a capitalist society where money buys the laws. It’s the lobbyists, not the members of Congress, who make the rules. So as long as the National Rifle Association is around writing checks, we’re pretty much hosed.

That day at the firing range, I thought I should learn how to shoot the Glock because my brother left his at my parents’ house when he moved back to Costa Rica and no one knew how to use it. The instructor guy was so excited when I asked him that his pupils swelled and glinted, black as metal. He got so excited, you would’ve thought I said something like, “Should I shoot this next round topless?”

The Glock was surprisingly light and small and easy to hold. I aimed it and pulled the trigger. The kickback was so powerful it almost knocked me off my feet. The gun flew above my head as I struggled to control it. The instructor practically full-body tackle-slammed me to the ground, screaming, “We’ve got a live one!” as if I was holding a bomb or a hand grenade. And in some ways, I guess I was.

The whole experience did nothing to quell my fear of guns. These are weapons of destruction designed to kill. It’s as simple as that.

The Princess was attempting to write about something besides the baby and is not so sure if it worked out. Email your love to