“Moderation,” Scott said.
“Got him!” Chanse said, his eyes still fixated on the screen, where a young enemy soldier had stumbled into view. Chanse hammered his thumb against the controller and gritted his teeth, and the rattle of machine-gun fire sounded like a rainstorm in the living room.
Far from the gun debate
The next afternoon, it was a real gun in his hand.
They had driven away from the townhouse in Scott’s truck after loading a rifle case into the back and ammo into the glove box. They traveled beyond the subdivisions and out into the country, where a friend had offered use of a 200-acre farm. They parked the truck on a frozen field and stepped out into blowing snow. Geese flew overhead. Trees lined the nearby ridge. It was empty and quiet except for the wind. Scott handed Chanse his great-grandfather’s .22. “This gun is timeless,” Scott said.
They shook up four plastic bottles of Coke and placed them in the field as targets, 25 yards away. Chanse held the rifle up to his shoulder as Scott knelt behind him, repeating the advice he had been giving for years. “Stay steady. Breathe. Relax,” he said. Chanse loaded a bullet into the chamber, shut his left eye and stared at the target through his right. He set his finger on the trigger.
“Get ’er done,” Scott said.
Beyond the ridgeline, in the rest of America, the complicated debate over gun control continued. “We need to do a better job protecting our children,” Obama was saying that day.
“We need to protect our rights,” an NRA spokesman was saying in response.
Guns were either problems or solutions; weapons or tools; a core piece of America’s identity or a threat to its future.
But here on the farm, a 9-year-old squeezed the trigger of an old rifle and experienced a reaction more basic and instinctual. The butt of the rifle jerked into his shoulder. A hot shell ejected onto the ground. A crack echoed off the ridgeline as Coke and plastic exploded into the air.
“Awesome,” Chanse said. “Let’s shoot another.”