Realtors And Guns

The next time you go to an open house for a house for sale, bear this in mind:  that chatty, hyper-friendly realtor who encourages you to take an information sheet about the home might just be packing a sidearm under their blazer.

Woman Pulls A Gun From Her Swanky Purse. Conceal Carry Weapon FoA recent survey by the National Association of Realtors found that 1 in 6 realtors state that they carry a gun on the job.  Why?  Because being a realtor has become an increasingly dangerous job in our increasingly dangerous world.  Non-realtors like me don’t focus on the risks, but they’re pretty apparent when you think about what realtors do.  They typically work alone.  They make appointments and meet with potential clients who are total strangers that might potentially want to rob them or otherwise do them harm.  And they regularly go into darkened, empty houses where an unknown home invader might be lurking.  In short, being a realtor doesn’t just require a gift of gab and sales skills, it also requires a considerable bit of intestinal fortitude, too.  Not many of us have jobs that require us to regularly go alone into strange houses where we might encounter unknown people with unknown intentions.

The statistics bear out the risks that realtors face.  A 2018 NAR study found that 33 percent of the realtors surveyed had experienced a situation that made them fear for their safety, and five percent responded that they had been the victim of a crime a work.  And, as the article linked above shows, in some cases realtors have been the victims of assaults, armed robberies, and even abduction, kidnapping, and murder.  That’s one reason why the NAR has stepped up education and training efforts to try to help realtors deal with the risks.  And it’s why an increasing number of realtors have decided that, for their own safety, it makes sense to bring along a weapon when they are going on the job.

I think being a realtor would be a tough gig for a lot of reasons.  You’re going to be dealing with a lot of people who really aren’t serious buyers and ultimately are just wasting your time, and you’ve got to be enthusiastic and pleasant whenever you’re with a client, which must be exhausting.  The personal safety risk just makes the realtor role more difficult.  If I had a job where I thought I needed to cary a gun to be safe, I think I’d look for another job.  But I also think this:  I’ll never again wonder about whether realtors really earn that commission when a house is bought and sold.

Mechanized Slaughter

The shooting Sunday night in Las Vegas is the worst mass killing in modern American history, with a single gunman killing 59 people and injuring hundreds as he fired shots into a country music festival crowd — but it’s different only in degree, and not really in kind.  Accused gunman Stephen Paddock was a little older than the norm, but he was just another lone gunman who was inexplicably motivated to indiscriminately slaughter random people for no readily apparent reason.  We’ve heard this story before.

reported-shooting-at-mandalay-bay-in-las-vegas-crop-promo-xlarge2Police officials will tell you that there is no viable way to stop “lone wolf” lunatics from launching their deadly attacks if they manage to avoid creating a criminal record, as Paddock did, and that’s the scary thing for the rest of us.  Equally scary is the lethal arsenal that Paddock accumulated and then took to his killing room on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas casino hotel.  Paddock had 23 firearms in his hotel room.  (Paddock had another 19 firearms, and explosives, at his home.)  And while the investigation isn’t concluded yet, indications are that Paddock may have used an automatic weapon and modified other weapons to convert them from semi-automatic to automatic, allowing him to fire more rounds of ammunition in shorter time periods.  The devices found in the hotel room also included a stand and a scope that allowed Paddock improve his aim and better carry out his murderous intentions.

We may never truly know what set Stephen Paddock on the path to cold-blooded mass murder, and we may never be able to identify and thwart the impulses of other lone wolf killers — but it seems like we should be able to do something about the ability of a single person to amass a trove of automatic and semi-automatic weapons that could kill and injure hundreds of innocent people if that person happens to run off the mental rails.  I can understand people wanting a handgun for personal security, and hunters needing a rifle for hunting.  But there is a big difference between owning one or two firearms and owning dozens of guns that could be modified to fire dozens of rounds a minute and allow an unknown 64-year-old to turn himself into a ruthless killing machine.  We’ve got to figure out a way to prevent this kind of mechanized slaughter in the future.

Shootout At The OK Library

I got a disturbing email from the Columbus Metropolitan Library system this afternoon.  It wasn’t about fines, or overdue books, or anything like that.  Instead, it reported on a shooting that occurred at the Main Library yesterday afternoon.

columbus20main20library20shootingAccording to the Columbus Dispatch, there was a dispute between two guys in the study area on the second floor of the Main Library.  The second floor is a very nice space that is one of the recently refurbished areas that I reported on last summer.  The article reports that the two guys exchanged words, then one guy pulled out a gun and started shooting.  The other man was shot in the ankle and limped away, being chased by the shooter, until the shooter surrendered to library security.  He eventually was taken away by police.

A shooting, in a library?  How sad, and also disturbing, too.  Main Library is my nearby library branch of choice, because it has the greatest selection of books on the shelves, and I enjoy browsing and seeing whether anything strikes my fancy.  Main has always been a bit gritty, with more than its share of apparent homeless folks hanging around inside and outside, but a shooting?  That raises grittiness issues to a whole new level.

This is the kind of thing that many of us find unnerving about the prevalence of guns in our culture.  Two guys are sitting in a library, they start to argue, and suddenly things escalate out of control — and because one guy had a gun, he skipped the physical brawl step and just started shooting.  Weapons are barred in the library, but obviously that didn’t make a difference.  Fortunately, none of the other people who were in the library at the time got hit.  And I can’t help but think that, if Russell and Emily weren’t around, I might have been walking past the area where the confrontation occurred at the moment things spiraled into chaos.

I’ll continue to use Main — at least, I’m pretty sure I will — but I’m not going be able to enjoy the same kind of leisurely strolls through the shelves that I have enjoyed before.  I’ll keep a wary eye on everybody, and I’ll be looking to get in and out quickly.  Who knows whether that guy reading Sports Illustrated over there might be packing, and have a short fuse, to boot?

Armed Travelers In An Armed Nation

In 2016 the Transportation Security Administration found 3,391 guns being carried by passengers going through airport security checkpoints.  That’s a new record, and represents a 30 percent increase over the number of guns found in 2015.

Oh, yeah . . . and 83 percent of the guns found at checkpoints were loaded.

art-tsa-checkpoint-afp-giOf course, as a percentage of the millions of people taking flights from United States airports — the TSA screened 738 million passengers last year — 3,391 obviously isn’t a big number.  Still, it’s a surprising statistic, and disconcerting to those of us who travel frequently for business and pleasure.

Since airport checkpoints became ubiquitous after 9/11, any cognizant person has got to know that you can’t carry guns and ammunitions onto planes.  Can thousands of people really be unaware of this rule, or are those people just testing to see whether it’s actually enforced?  The story linked above suggests that at least some of the apprehended travelers claim that they did not intend to carry the guns found at checkpoints — that they simply grabbed a piece of carry-on luggage without checking to see whether it included a gun.  That seems wildly implausible to me.  Can people actually not be acutely aware of where they are storing loaded firearms in their homes, would they really not hear or feel a gun rattling around when they retrieved a suitcase from the closet, and wouldn’t they find the gun during the process of packing?

The recent shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport baggage claim area by a guy who apparently had a gun in his checked-in luggage is scary precisely because airports are, by definition, impersonal public places where you’re surrounded by total strangers whose intentions are completely unknown to you.  It’s bad enough to think that the person next to you at the luggage carousel might pull out a Glock and start blasting, but in some ways it’s even worse to think that thousands of fellow travelers are so stupid or careless that they are trying to bring loaded guns through the TSA checkpoints.

How Divided Are We, Really?

Another week with really bad news.  Two African American men in two different states are killed in encounters with police that inexplicably escalated into fatal shootings, followed by five Dallas police officers shot down by a sniper at a protest of those police actions.

It’s the kind of grim, bloody ugliness that causes people to question whether the social fabric of the country is being ripped apart, and whether the common threads linking us all as Americans are snapping, one by one.

Police Shootings ProtestAnd yet, I don’t think there is an irreparable divide — at least, not yet.  No one I know, regardless of their race or political views, thinks that police should be shooting African Americans who are stopped simply for driving with a broken taillight.  No one I know, from any point on the political spectrum, thinks that police officers who are doing their duty at a peaceful protest should be assassinated.  There may be tiny fringe elements of disturbed people who believe such actions are appropriate; America has always had its share of lunatic loners.  But I’m quite confident that the vast majority of Americans unequivocally reject what we have seen in Louisiana, and Minnesota, and Dallas this week.  In that, at least, Americans can stand united.

So why, then, are people feeling a gnawing sense of despair about where the country is, and where it is headed?  I think it’s because we’ve seen these same scenarios before . . . and nothing gets done.  We feel disturbed because we don’t think our political leaders, or even our political culture generally, is capable of addressing the problem in a meaningful, effective way. We don’t understand how we can have gotten to the point where police shootings have become so commonplace, or where a military veteran can become so disaffected that he takes a rifle and starts indiscriminately killing police officers and shooting others at a protest — but we have a nagging fear that these incidents, too, will produce no answers.  We expect that we’ll see Facebook memes, and we’ll see people of different political views retreat to their corners, and we’ll see talking heads vigorously disagree about whether the problem is racism, or guns, or poorly trained police, or a general sense of hopelessness, but we fear that ultimately nothing will change, ever.

It’s another example of how the citizenry is being ill-served by the political classes.  I honestly don’t think the American people are deeply divided on these incredibly basic, core issues.  We know that what we are seeing in Dallas and Minnesota is flat-out wrong and can’t be countenanced.  We just don’t think that the people who are charged with trying to deal with the problems are up to the task.  We don’t think they’re willing to cast aside their knee-jerk reactions and pointless bromides and actually sit down to talk honestly and work out a possible solution — and we’re probably right.

That’s why so many people are walking around today, feeling an immense sense of sadness and discouragement about our country.  We feel like we’ve seen this before, and before, and before, and we know exactly how it will play out this time, too.

The Never-Ending Surge In Gun Sales

The American economy isn’t going gangbusters, but at least one area — gun sales — is an apparent exception to the overall economic malaise.

According to data released by the FBI, firearm background check requests, which are a kind of rough proxy for gun sales, keep setting records.  December, 2015 was the first month ever where more than 3 million background checks were performed, and for the year 2015 more than 23 million checks were performed.  Guns seem to be a popular holiday gift, because every year background checks spike during the holiday period — but this year the surge is continuing past the holidays.  The FBI reported doing more than 2.5 million background checks in January, 2016, which is the ninth month in a row that background checks have set a monthly record.

somervilleguns-thumb-520x292-81559It’s not clear why people are buying so many guns, but one theory is that gun owners fear that President Obama will take unilateral action to hurt their gun rights.  There’s statistical support for that notion, because President Obama’s years in office have been record-breaking for firearms entering the market according to statistics maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Whereas 40 million new guns entered the markets during the 8-year presidencies of President Clinton and President George W. Bush, 68 million guns entered the market during the first five years of the Obama Administration.  The key test for whether the “Obama effect” is the real motivator of gun sales will come, of course, when the President leaves office in a few months and a new President moves into the Oval Office.

Who is buying the guns?  Surveys indicate that the number of households that own firearms is either flat or trending downward, and that the surge is coming from existing gun owners who are simply buying more guns.  According to those surveys, the average number of firearms in households owning guns increased from 4.1 guns in 1994 to 8.1 guns in 2013.  And, because that number is an average, that means there are a lot of American households that own more than eight guns.

In short, we live in a country where many of our neighbors have assembled large arsenals and seemingly are always ready to buy more guns.  I’d say our citizenry is ready for the Zombie Apocalypse or an attempted invasion by the Russkies, but it doesn’t exactly make me feel more safe walking around on an average day among a population where some people are armed to the teeth.

Gun Poses

When I graduated from high school in 1975, senior photos were pretty rote.  Guys had laughable and elaborate coiffures and wore loud jackets, girls had hair that was long, straight, and parted in the middle, and that was about it.  The only breakout photo that I remember was of a friend who was a photographer for the yearbook and had his photo taken with his camera cradled in his hand.

In Nebraska, the approach to boring senior class photos is a little bit different these days.

Apparently Nebraska kids want to be photographed with guns.  So one school district had to come up with some rules about whether gun photos would be considered appropriate, and how they might be regulated.  It concluded that gun photos would be permitted if they were “tasteful and appropriate,” didn’t feature students pointing guns at the camera, and also didn’t include an animal in “obvious distress.”

I’m glad they added that last condition to the rule.  Who would want to open their high school yearbook and see poor blasted Bambi or a partially skinned squirrel on the page?  After all, the acne issues and the hair styles are bound to be ugly enough.

Chicago Gangland

What would it be like to live in an American city where shootings and gun violence are so frequent they have become routine?  You can get your answer, apparently, by asking someone who lives in Chicago.

The statistics about shootings in the Chicago area are breathtaking and frightening.  The Chicago Tribune reports that, in 2013, there were 2,185 shooting victims in Chicago, and 595 shooting victims so far in 2014.  Over this past weekend, 4 people were killed and another 24 were injured in Chicago-area shootings.  Just between last night and this morning, another eight people were shot in Chicago and one of them was killed.

There is a terrible randomness about the incidents, and drive-by shootings are commonplace.  People are outside in the early morning hours, a car drives by, the driver flashes gang symbols, and the shooting starts.  Two men get into a fight on a public street and one is shot multiple times.  A man is sitting in his car, is robbed at gunpoint, and is shot in the head.

The stories about the shootings linked above indicate that many of the shootings are gang-related, and the Tribune piece, which identifies where the shootings occurred, depicts a clear geographic pattern.  I’m sure many Chicagoans rationalize the amount of violence by saying that the gunplay is a South Side or West Side gang problem that can be avoided simply by avoiding the dangerous neighborhoods.  But when gang members and criminals are so emboldened that they shoot dozens of people on public streets over a weekend, how can anyone in Chicago truly feel safe, even on downtown streets?

There’s a certain cavalier and wrong-headed dismissiveness in that attitude, too.  Not everyone who lives on Chicago’s South Side or West Side is a gang member.  People who are trying to work and raise families live there, too.  What must it be like to live in a neighborhood where you regularly hear shoots ring out and then reflexively look for your children, hoping they didn’t happen to be outside when the latest drive-by shooting occurred?  How can kids possibly grow up in such hyper-violent environments without being forever twisted by the experience?

Are the authorities in Chicago losing control?

Impulse Buying And Gun Sale Billboards

Highway billboards are the prototypical form of impulse purchase advertising. You’re traveling down the road, you see a billboard for a restaurant at the next exit, and you decide in a split-second that it’s time to pull off to get a cheeseburger.

IMG_1902That’s why it’s jarring and unnerving to see gun sale billboards sprouting up on the stretch of I-71 between Columbus to Cincinnati. Are drivers really making spur of the moment decisions to buy firearms when they see a brightly colored “Guns” billboard? Unlike the vast majority of highway billboards, which advertise the availability of fast food, gasoline, or a place for the weary traveler to stay for the night, guns don’t seem to have any connection to the routine needs of a highway driver — unless the guns sales are motivated by the aggressive driving of their fellow motorists. If that’s the case, I need to be a lot more worried about the jerk who has been tailgating me for the last five miles.

According to statistics maintained by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which give you a rough sense of gun ownership in American states, Ohio isn’t one of the biggest gun purchasing states in the country. In 2012, there were 45.65 NICS checks for every 1000 Ohio residents; the highest NICS check state, Kentucky, had 535.78 (!) checks for every 1000 people. Still, I’d like to think that Ohioans who are buying firearms are being thoughtful about what seems like a very significant decision, and not impulsively buying a gun because a passing billboard put the idea in their head.

Why Are Gun Sales Surging?

By all accounts, Americans are buying guns in record numbers.  Why?

Bloomberg says that gun sales are increasing by significant amounts.  Gun purchases increased 54 percent from 2008 to 2012, and publicly traded gun manufacturers are reporting more than 40 percent increases in sales in 2013.  Demand is so great that manufacturers are competing for market share in the expanding gun market by introducing new products, which is driving a sharp increase in gun-related patents.  The Washington Post reports that Virginia set a record for Black Friday gun sales.  Isn’t it curious that people would think of buying weapons on the day after Thanksgiving?

Many of the new gun purchasers are women and the elderly; gun ownership in both demographics is rising.  Indeed, one report estimates that 25 percent of all women own a gun.

Why this sudden surge in gun sales?  In recent years, some people have speculated that the increases were due to concerns that governmental entities would restrict gun ownership and a desire to load up before any limitations take effect — but that rationale doesn’t make much sense now, with no meaningful effort underway to regulate gun ownership at the federal level and many states loosening their restrictions on carrying firearms.  The normal reason to buy a gun would be to feel more personally secure, but there hasn’t been any apparent, noticeable increase in criminal activity that would motivate people to buy a gun now, as opposed to last year or five years ago.  So why the sudden burst of gun-buying activity?

It’s a bit unsettling that so many people in this country feel the need to be amply armed, in their homes and in their daily lives.  It’s as if they are expecting a breakdown in law and order and envisioning a dog-eat-dog world.  It’s strange to live in a world where so many people apparently think we are on the brink of apocalypse.

 

The Effect Of Concealed Carry On Crime

Ohio has had a concealed carry law for years.  More than 250,000 Ohioans have concealed carry permits, and the number of people applying for permits to carry firearms continues to rise.  The logical question is:  how has the law worked?

DSC04115The answer to that question is surprisingly unclear.  It’s hard to find any studies about the effect of Ohio’s concealed carry laws on the commission of violent crimes.  If you simply look at crime statistics since 2004, when Ohio first passed a concealed carry law, the number of violent crimes increased during the first few years and then declined; in 2012 there were about 4,000 fewer violent crimes than in 2004.  But is there any cause-and-effect relationship between thousands of Ohioans walking around with guns and violent crimes?  Gun proponents believe the numbers are connected, but how do you determine whether a drop in crime is attributable to gun laws, or more effective police work, or increased use of security systems, or other ongoing efforts to combat crime?  Much of the debate seems to be based on anecdotal evidence of incidents where a person with a gun foiled a robbery or an abduction, and simple but-for causation arguments that reason that criminals must be thinking twice before committing crimes in the midst of an armed citizenry.

On the other hand, opponents of concealed carry raised public safety concerns about shootouts on public streets and innocent passersby being cut down in hails of bullets launched by quick-draw vigilantes.  After nearly 10 years, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of that, either.  Ohioans who want to carry guns have gotten their training and their permits and seem to be complying with all legal requirements.  They’re apparently comforted by their ability to carry guns.  Some business owners even advertise that they’ve got a gun behind the counter, as shown in the above sign I saw last year in the front window of an establishment in Vermilion, Ohio.  If you believe that criminals will avoid confrontations with guns, why not advertise that you have one to maximize the likelihood of that anticipated effect — even if it might scare off a few skittish patrons?

Ohio’s concealed carry law was, and still is, a big political issue.  Isn’t it about time some neutral body did a study to try to determine how the statute has actually worked, and whether it has had the effects that proponents and opponents forecast?

Nuts With Guns

Another day, another massacre.

Well, it’s not quite an everyday occurrence, but it happens often enough to be profoundly disturbing.  A nut with guns enters a workplace, simmering about some perceived slight or other grievance, and opens fire for no apparent reason.  Innocent people are slaughtered, and the authorities are left scratching their heads about what could have caused the nut to go off in the first place.

Today, it happened at the Washington Navy Yard, where at least 12 people were killed before the suspected shooter, who was armed with an assault rifle, a handgun, and perhaps other weaponry, was finally killed himself.  The FBI identified the suspected shooter as Aaron Alexis, a former member of the Naval Reserve who apparently worked as a military contractor.  The Washington Post story linked above quotes witnesses who describe a scene of terror and chaos, where workers might turn down a familiar workplace hallway and find it converted into a shooting gallery by a gun-wielding lunatic.

How do we stop this?  Gun control advocates say that we must restrict the availability of guns, but it’s hard to believe that a deranged person bent on committing murder would hesitate to obtain illegal firearms with which to carry out his mad plan.  Supporters of gun rights argue that if more people were armed they would be able to defend themselves against the nutjobs and stop the slaughters before police arrive, but I’m leery of workplaces where everyone is toting a weapon and ready to launch a fusillade whenever an alarm bell sounds.

This seems to be a problem with no good solution.  In the meantime, those of us who work in large buildings wonder whether someday the fickle finger of fate will point at our workplace, and the nut with guns will show up at our front door.

Richard On The Business Beat

Only his second day on the job, and already Richard has a clip under his belt.

It’s an interesting piece about Gander Mountain, the outdoor and firearms retailer, opening a big new store in the San Antonio area, and more broadly about the increasing demand for guns and ammo in San Antonio and across the country.  I knew that many Americans are arming themselves to the hilt and packing heat as they walk the streets thanks to concealed carry laws, but I had no idea that female-only shooting clubs were a new trend.

The San Antonio Express-News has a very user-friendly website if you want to keep track of Richard’s work on the business beat this summer.  Well done, Richard!

Guns, Guns, Guns . . . And Distraction

Your daily newspaper and your favorite news websites have been dominated recently by news about guns and gun control.  Since the awful shootings at the Sandy Hook elementary school, where a heavily armed lunatic murdered more than two dozen children and adults, our political leaders have been talking a lot about firearms and what we can do to prevent another horrible massacre.

In an odd way, the opportunity to talk about guns must be a kind of welcome relief for our politicians, because the gun control debate lets each party retreat to safe, time-honored positions that appeal to their bases.  Democrats understand that most of their voters will support attempts to license gun owners, register all weapons, and restrict or even ban ownership of “assault weapons” or other firearms.  Republicans, on the other hand, know that their supporters will cheer vigorous defenses of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and stalwart opposition to overly zealous attempts to regulate gun ownership.

I suspect that all of the talk, talk, talk about guns is, in part, a means of distracting voters from other pressing issues.  Members of Congress and the Obama Administration would rather stay snugly in their gun debate comfort zones than deal with the spending, tax, and budget deficit issues that have far more long-term significance for our country.  With all the talk about guns, how much discussion of those core economic issues have you heard recently?  When those issues are in the forefront, and feet are being held to the fire, there are no easy, pat answers and no rote appeals to political bases.

As terrible as the Sandy Hook shootings were, we shouldn’t let our political leaders divert our attention from the federal debt time bomb and other issues that are restraining our economy.  Yesterday we received an unpleasant reminder of these problems when it was announced that gross domestic product dropped in the fourth quarter of last year.  Imagine:  our economy actually shrank during the hottest shopping season of the year.  It’s time we remind Congress and the President of the paramount need to focus on the hard budget and economic issues, before our economy plunges into another recession.

At The New Albany Shooting Range

In my 54 years, I had never fired a gun — until yesterday, when my good friend Chuck invited me to join him at the AimHi Shooting Range on Route 62, just north of New Albany.  AimHi is a combination rifle range/pistol range/retail store that sells safes, guns, ammunition, targets, and other security-related items.  It also offers gun training and the classes that must be completed to get a concealed carry weapon license under Ohio law.

For a newbie like me, the first step is to sign in, give up your drivers license, and then watch a 10-minute safety videotape about the rules that must be followed when you are in the range — things like when firearms can be loaded, where and how loaded firearms must be placed, where to stand, and where not to go.  Believe me, the thought of actually handling a loaded firearm made me pay close attention!  Then, I donned my safety glasses and my ear coverings and we went out onto the range, where Chuck gave some additional instruction on how to load the guns, how to hold them, and how to aim and fire.

The range looks like what you’ve probably seen on TV shows and movies with police themes.  You stand in a little open booth — there were six on the rifle range, where we went — unpack your gear, and put the guns on shelves at the front of the booth, with the muzzles pointed down the range.  You bring your own paper targets, attach them to clips on the target holders and use a keypad to program the distance, and the machine moves the target to the point you’ve requested.  (Nazi zombies seem to be a popular target choice, incidentally.)  Then you load the guns in the booth, take your stance, and begin firing.

It was loud — I mean loud! — in there.  If you’ve only seen guns fired on TV and in the movies, you don’t realize how much noise they make in a closed space.  For some of the guns, hot bullet casings come springing out with each shot and litter the floor with bright, shiny metal, and firing the guns produces a distinct smell, too.  And, of course, when you are shooting you feel the kick from the gun, and you are focused intensely on handling the gun correctly and trying to hit the center of the target.  In short, going to a shooting range is an adrenalin-filled, sensory-rich experience.

We shot .22s, .45s, .357s, 9 millimeters pistols, and a kind of assault rifle.  One of the guns had a laser sighting, which was a little embarrassing, because it shows all too visibly how unsteady my aim is.  As we experimented with the feel and accuracy of the different guns, I couldn’t help but notice the other folks on the range.  If you think about it, you are placing a lot of trust in your fellow range-users, who could just step back and plant a slug in your gut.  But the people on the range were careful and serious, and all were darned good shots.  One appeared to be a policeman engaging in some target practice, another was ex-Navy, and a third was a marksman shooting what looked like a long sniper rifle and putting shot after shot into a hole on the target that was about the size of a quarter.

I chatted briefly with the ex-Navy guy, told him it was my first time firing a gun, and complimented him on his marksmanship.  He grinned and said he thought shooting was “therapeutic” — and I knew just what he meant.