Jess L, Liberal, Northern CA

On October 19, 2016

Full disclosure, as a left leaning, community developing, social activist I have issue with our gun culture. The inadequate purchasing systems. High capacity magazines. Desensitization of our youth. Orlando was my tipping point. Another mass shooting; more needless death. Another asshole with a gun mowing down innocent people.

But you see, I was also raised in the country. Where everyone, and I mean EVERYONE owns a gun. So I know, without a fiber of a doubt, that disarming this nation is a preposterous and even dangerous idea/agenda.

We are born with two innate fears; loud noises and falling. As we grow older life experience teaches us that there is so much more in this world to be fearful of. Strangers, change, discomfort, shame, rattlesnakes. Some of these fears serve us, but in my case, this fear of firearms had moved beyond rational trepidation and into resentment and terror; my fear was no longer keeping me safe. Firearms and rattlesnakes had become very, very similar beasts in my book.

So what do I do with all of these strong emotions?

Well, Rumi said “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

I have the pleasure of knowing Dan for a couple years and for two people who perhaps stand on opposite sides of the political spectrum, we genuinely get along really, REALLY well. I find him to be competent, thoughtful, kind and genuine. A person of great integrity and action. So when he reached out to me (after a particular strongly worded Facebook post concerning gun safety), and suggested that perhaps I take his Introductions To Pistols class, my knee jerk reaction was not “NO CHANCE IN HELL!”

I like to think that I am not so arrogant and stubborn as to not be willing to acknowledge my own failings and short comings. My relationship with firearms had become toxic; and I was given a golden opportunity to redefine it. Up to this point I had been perfectly content having never held or fired a firearm, but that moment had passed. I couldn’t in good faith spew my opinion about an object I knew so very little about. I could no longer sit obstinately in my ivory tower while our neighbors and families become more and more divided over this issue. I had, what some would call, a moment of clarity. Am I not a person who stands for community cultivation? For greater understanding and peace? If not me than who? if not now then when? And I couldn’t imagine a better person to guide me on this journey.

So lets get down to brass tacks.

Thank god I opened myself up to the experience- pushing myself far, far beyond my comfort zone. As I am better for it.

Right out of the gate, I shared my misgivings surrounding firearms, and furthermore where they stem from. Dan listened thoughtfully, and even validated some of my fears. He promised by the end of the course we will have demystified the pistol. That I would feel empowered and less frantic, and he was right.

Dan has created a beautifully comprehensive course which builds upon a thorough explication on how a pistol operates. Piece by piece, part by part we dissected the machine like one would a frog in high school biology. We candidly discussed the true purpose of a firearm, and what you need to be prepared to do (or not do) as a gun owner/wielder. Absorbing information from this course was akin to trying to drink from firehose; it is tailored towards the inquisitive and I loved that. For three hours we covered gun safety, ownership, storage, handling, etc. And at some undefinable point a subtle shift happened where I was no longer looking at/handling an instrument of death, but rather a complex machine. Finally, we worked on “sight alignment” and “sight picture”, grip and other shooting fundamentals that a beginner like myself knew little to nothing about. Handling the multitude of firearms that Dan brought along for the training and utilizing a modified soft air pistol and a simulator.

In less than three hours I went from shaking hands to a firm grip. To scared and angry to calm and thoughtful. The course was an absolute success and a joy.

Now it may seem that the actual “review” part of this diatribe is brief. And that’s for good reason. If you took more than two minutes to read about Dan’s experience and expertise, you know damn well that he provides an incredible service. That he is basically the baddest ass you have and will probably ever meet. If guns are YOUR THING, this is going to be exactly what you’re looking for.

But what if firearms aren’t “your thing?” Well, Dan is still the man to help you better understand a dominate culture in American Society. This too is still exactly what you are looking for. Yes- these two truths can exist in the same space.

So what now? Well, I have yet to actually fire a gun.

Baby steps.

I will get there.

I know it will be the Coup de grâce to my fear of firearms, and I don’t need that experience in this moment; evolution happens slowly for a reason.

However, what I am now capable of is identifying, handling, loading and unloading single, double and single/double action pistols (holy cow!). As an added bonus, I have proven to myself and perhaps others, that two people with differing opinions can come to a table and find common ground, truth and appreciation for the other. That we are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people, we are one nation.

Thank you Dan, For this opportunity. For sharing your invaluable knowledge and kind heart. It truly is moments like these that give me hope for our country.

Jess L


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