The other night while having dinner on our deck on a warm summer evening we heard automatic weapons fire. We live in the suburbs of Denver, about a mile as the crow flies from the Family Shooting Center in Cherry Creek State Park. We often hear the peppering of gunfire as people shoot and train with handguns and rifles. It is background noise for us, just like the planes flying over our house as they line up to land at nearby Centennial Airport. But this night was different. It sounded like we were on the front lines in Syria or Afghanistan. The shooting went on forever. Non-stop uninterrupted automatic weapons fire. I called the Sheriff’s office and they said they were getting numerous complaints. Then I called and left a message at the range, saying they were being insensitive and not being good neighbors, especially in light of the recent Aurora shooting which left so many people dead, injured and on edge.
Much to my surprise, the next evening, the proprietor of Family Shooting Center, Doug Hamilton, called me. He was very earnest and apologetic that we were disturbed. He was certain it was an unusual confluence of atmospheric conditions that carried the sound all the way to us. He told me they were having a special demonstration event for the staff that they do once a year. He said he was calling back everyone who left a number and wanted to assure me that they were good neighbors. He even told me about sound buffers they were installing. We had a good dialogue, but when I suggested to him that perhaps they do not need to fire off automatic weapons at the range, or if it was essential to have this event annually, perhaps his staff could take a field trip to the country, he went silent. He listened politely to my feelings but when we hung up I wasn’t sure he really heard them.
And therein lies the disconnect. I will be candid. I am not a gun person but in recent years my stance has softened dramatically. My car dealer has his concealed carry permit. My son’s best friend hunts. I visited the Tanner Gun Show and understood why some women felt they needed to have a handgun. I get that people want guns for recreation and protection. I have learned to respect their rights. I believe I am being very reasonable. But I cannot understand why we need to have automatic weapons in my neighborhood or in any neighborhood for that matter. When I posted my story on Facebook the jaws of my friends in Canada and Australia dropped. They couldn’t get their heads around an evening in the suburbs listening to automatic weapons fire or even the irony of a place called Family Shooting Center. They have such a different world view from ours.
Not long ago in another direction a mile away from my house a new business opened. It is a gun store, with a built in range, and the owners intend to turn the empty lot across the way into a gun club. Right across the street from my Starbucks and Einstein’s in an upscale suburb of Denver there is now a gun store. I must confess when I first saw it I had a visceral reaction. Not in my back yard. But I’ve accepted it. The only thing I wish is that since we are sharing common ground, perhaps we can reach some common ground. Can’t we all at least agree that there is no reason to have automatic weapons around here? What good comes from them except to kill people? Can’t we just leave them to those who fight wars? It seems like such an easy compromise to make and one that many reasonable people are calling for. It seems like our country and our communities would be so much safer. It would certainly keep me from losing my appetite during warm summer evening barbeques on my deck in Colorado.
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