The spring inside the magazine gradually resists slightly more and more with each subsequent round loaded on top of it.
“It becomes harder the more you load,” history senior Cameron Barcelona says to me, taking over loading the clip.
“Yeah, I prefer the reloading on the rental,” says Luis Galvan, Japanese senior, his friend and roommate overseeing from behind.
We’re located in one of the booths at a gun range in the heavy industrialized section of western Phoenix, firing several of the weapons that Barcelona and Galvan brought with them, during one of several monthly trips Barcelona makes to the range.
Their voices carry inverted over the heavily insulated earmuffs as Barcelona finishes loading the .40mm Smith & Wesson rounds into the 10 round magazine of his Glock 23.
Besides the difficulty of loading the bullets into the magazine, this sidearm and the others load and operate with a remarkable ease of usage.
With a click of the lever, which holds the Glock’s slide back, the slide moves smoothly back into position, and it’s ready to fire.
All four guns (the Glock, a AR-15 rifle, a Beretta 92fs and a FN five-seven, which was rented by me) are passed around the three of us during the one hour session. Little words were exchanged.
Despite any reticence of firing live ammunition, there is something not so desensitizing as “goal-oriented” about making holes into the right boxes (the heart and the head) of the paper target about 12ft down-range.
Although you won’t always hit your target, you need to make that mark.
This rationale syncs with a portion of Barcelona’s purpose during these several trips.
“I want to be good with my guns and to do that you need to practice,” Barcelona says. “It’s a great stress relief because you’re concentrating on aligning the sights and then squeezing the trigger. Once that’s over you adjust your aim and do it again after you fire.”
Barcelona grew up in a household with two non-gun owning parents.
He caught the affinity for guns at an early age, with the Boy Scouts starting him off on a .22LR bolt-action rifle, which is one of the smallest calibers and the least amount of recoil, teaching him responsibility and the basic tenants of handling a gun.
While he describes this first experience as wholly unremarkable, proved more detrimental because of the scouts’ poor maintenance of the firearms, the more he became exposed to superior weapons, it got him hooked.
As Barcelona slowly begins to reveal the extent of his leanings for gun rights, his beliefs are tempered by the usual concerns about government targeting responsible gun owners.
This is quite surprising to hear in the often dogmatic gun debate, especially in an environment where it seems only two extremes see representation on cable news.
“I’m not ‘This house doesn’t call 911’ right wing, but I’m average right-wing,” Barcelona says.
For example, while he doesn’t fully concur with the extent of NRA President Wayne LaPierre’s controversial what “stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” comments in the wake of the Newtown school shooting last year, he agrees with the general principle of a police officer posted on a campus.
“From high school on up, I’ve always had police on my school and I’d be for it but only if the school wanted it,” Barcelona says. “It just creates undue tension.”
When he mentions his hesitance of supporting the bill defeated in the Senate in April — too broad, too much of a knee-jerk reaction for him to support — he believes the issue of gun control is a manpower issue than a dearth of thoughtful legislation.
Full disclosure: It is at this point that I should mention I’m more to the left of Barcelona. I’m in favor of a national gun registry, and the other liberal suggestions, which he states isn’t a fan of.
The next question is unavoidable, “Do you think there’s a fetish in general for guns?”
Pause from me. I’m attempting not to lead with this question and subsequent anecdote.
“Because [when] I shot the Glock 23 on Friday, even though I was prickly at first with the gun, it was kind of…I don’t wanna say fun, it felt kind of…,” I trail off.
“…enjoyable?” he asks.
He then cites the typical depictions of friends on an expedition to the desert, a couple dozen miles outside society. Shooting gallon soda containers. Water jugs. Steel plates. Abstracting guns to their most un-stigmatized.
“It’s fun, I’m not gonna lie,” he says.
And it’s hard to counter with that logic; as far victims of gun violence go, neither of us have any skin in the game.
One can even argue that this is the activity gun owners want the government to preserve, even though one probably doesn’t need an assault rifle.
Just as this is one aspect of the wide gun culture, Barcelona counts the physical experience and ambiance of the gun range as another.
“There is a sense of community because you see someone shooting a gun you like or have,” Barcelona says. “Maybe someone has the same gun but has installed a certain part. It’s enjoyable to chat with some people while I reload my magazines.”
A short time later, I ask the eventual question: “Do you think we’ll ever be able put the genie back into the bottle?”
Barcelona answers “no” to the question, even when presented with the empirical evidence that gun violence and homicides are at a 20-year low.
As an example, he mentions a friend who grew up in Kentucky where indoctrination begins at an early age, a school of thought that very much is ingrained throughout that region.
The same goes for him, for even though the details don’t match. Like baseball, it’s very much a part of the national identity, an important detail in the birth of a nation, an identity that won’t recede in spite statistics stating otherwise.