High School students at Mason are exercising the freedom to bear arms as guaranteed to them in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, these kids are doing so with a focus on responsibility and respect for their weapon.
Gun ranges allow students to gain that respect by learning to handle a gun correctly. Junior Rebecca Kociba has been shooting for years, but said she was not comfortable until she shot her first 12-gauge.
“It’s intimidating the first time you fire a gun,” Kociba said. “That feeling didn’t go away for me until after I shot my 12-gauge. Once I could take the rebound, I felt I could handle any gun that came my way.”
Kociba became interested in shooting after her uncle mentioned including her in family hunting trips.
“My uncle is big on gun safety,” Kociba said. “His best friend is ex-police force, so I was introduced with a lot of coaching on regulations [like] being conscious of where the gun is pointed and knowing what’s around you.”
Regulations promote safety with rules like refraining from loading the gun until it’s in the stall, or requiring goggles and headphones in the range.
Guns also include new features like the “safety,” a small switch preventing it from being able to fire until flipped off. These precautions have made the activity less unpredictable.
“Remember this is a weapon,” Kociba said. “You should not jump straight to a big gun because you think it’s fun. If you respect it as a dangerous tool and not a toy, it won’t hurt you.”
Sophomore Moser has been surrounded by guns all his life, as much of his family is in the military. He said someone who works with guns must also take care of them.
“I learned how to take the slide off the pistol, take the barrel out, and break it down before cleaning it,” Moser said. “Then you have to grease it, and know your gun well enough to put it back together. That’s what’s different, because I don’t have to know how to break down and rebuild anything in other sports.”
Moser said if people saw shooting as a sport, they would be less afraid of guns.
“I tackle in football,” Moser said. “But I don’t go through the school tackling people. Just because I enjoy shooting doesn’t mean I go around shooting everything.”
Senior Ian Coombe shoots competitively, and said it requires control.
“Everything is safety, practice, and precision,” Coombe said. “Bullseye shooting, where people aim for the center of a target between 500-1,000 yards away, demands attention to detail. The people who compete in that event wait to shoot for five minutes while they adjust their aim. It takes so much skill.”
As shooters practice more often, Coombe said, their ideas regarding guns change.
“You take it more seriously, and respect it as a sport,” Coombe said. “A friend who hated guns agreed to go with me once, and I never heard another negative word. You just don’t know until you’ve fired a gun. People have this idea that only criminals or hillbilly men shoot, but any person can enjoy it.”
Kociba said she encounters that stigma when people are surprised she uses a shotgun.
“People assume a girl can’t shoot,” Kociba said. “I’ve been asked what I use before. Like they expect me to say a slingshot. When I say I shoot, that means I pull the trigger and shoot.”
Kociba said she enjoys shooting because it gives her a release.
“I get out my rage, but in a healthy way,” Kociba said. “When I fire that gun, my built up emotion releases with that bullet. It makes me feel in control.”