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Gun Nut

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Early in childhood, The Spike spoiled its frilly pink Easter dress by firing a double-barreled shotgun at a watermelon. The dress and The Spike landed in a large heap on the ground -- torn, muddy and decidedly unhappy about the condition of the beloved pink organza. But The Spike was still sporting a smile at the knowledge that, even as a 10-year-old in a pink dress, it could unleash that level of firepower. It was like heroin, but less girlie.

Now, The Spike just shoots its 9mm SigSauer semiautomatic pistol when it feels the need to bust a cap in a paper circle. But it is simply not something The Spike usually talks about.

Even in Arizona, there is a certain taboo about owning, firing or even understanding the use of firearms. The Spike has hidden its gun ownership and love of blowing up large fruit for years. But now, The Spike is coming clean. The Spike is a gun owner.

The Spike decided to come out of the gun closet only at the prodding of the Second Amendment Foundation. Okay, it was less like prodding and more like giddy excitement, but it was still their fault.

The occasion was an invitation to the Ben Avery Shooting Facility as a guest of the Second Amendment Foundation for an informational "media shoot." The Spike initially thought it was public target practice on journalists, which probably would have had a better turnout than the actual event (a total of four members of the media braved the range). But it turns out that the event was to educate, instruct and teach the media about models of, myths about and the operation of firearms.

We met at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel, where armed police officers were running around protecting the Tourism and Sports Authority members -- it was very top-secret, and not even The Spike could figure out what they were up to. Then, the SAF folks threw us into a Cadillac limousine equipped with bread products, soda, beer and a DVD player, and we headed to the shooting range. The Spike found it alarming that people going out to a shooting range were given unfettered access to alcohol before lunchtime, but since no one was interested in anything but diet soda, The Spike felt relatively safe.

The Spike was still a bit on edge until it got to know everyone, because gun owners come in many breeds, some of which are not the kind The Spike likes to hang with. But the folks from the SAF did not come across as stereotypical, gun-toting, antisocial types who tend to hole up in cabins in Idaho. They appeared to be just extremely well-educated safety fanatics who happen to like shooting guns. As The Spike sees it, shooting guns is like any extreme sport -- fine skill with an element of semi-orgasmic danger. The idea that something could go horribly wrong is a bit exhilarating.

After a lengthy safety presentation and introduction to the different firearms by Massad Ayoob, CEO of the New Hampshire-based Lethal Force Institute (it trains SWAT teams, cops and writers), The Spike was treated to several debates. Women and guns, men and guns, men around women with guns, and women around men with guns. This was all to instruct and educate the media (in this case, The Spike, two radio guys and a small-town newspaper reporter) on the different reasons why members of the media should be in favor of firearm ownership, even if they never plan to personally own guns.

Alan Korwin, author of the Arizona Gun Owner's Guide and one of the media participants, chalks up the media's lack of attention to Second Amendment issues to "hoplophobia," which is an irrational fear of firearms. When asked what a rational fear of firearms would be, Korwin replies, "When someone is pointing a loaded gun at you."

While munching on some superior hot wings and pizza, The Spike learned the difference between a .357 Magnum and a .38 Special, a new trigger finger position that greatly improves safety, and why a clip is not a magazine.

If nothing else, The Spike thought the rest of the Arizona media should have jumped at the chance to be there for the free food. Plus, where else can you sit around with 10 guys who can quote every gun law and subsection in the entire Arizona Civil Code like Rain Man counts toothpicks?

Then the Spike got to shoot the guns.

The Spike decided to start small, with a single-action .22 revolver. The Spike's aim was unexceptional. The cardboard prairie dog was only mortally wounded.

Having gotten the feel of loading and shooting the .22, The Spike graduated to the double-action .38 revolver. The ammunition was bigger, the recoil was stronger and The Spike's aim got progressively worse -- merely wounding the prairie dog in the leg. With the .357 Magnum shells, The Spike was just firing warning shots.

Then the glory that is The Spike was born. Turns out that, when armed with a .22 caliber long rifle, The Spike kicks some serious prairie dog ass. If the U.S. is ever invaded by cardboard prairie dogs, The Spike will save the world.

Of course, the .22 rifle was the extent of The Spike's glory. With the AR-15 military-issue assault rifle, The Spike was lucky to even hit the dirt behind the target. But accuracy wasn't a concern, as nothing makes The Spike feel like putting on pink organza like hitting a pile of dirt 100 yards away with a laser-sighted assault rifle.

Neal Knox, the former vice president of the National Rifle Association, tested a .22 semiautomatic Ruger by aiming at a metal shell casing about 40 yards away. He shot the shell, spot-on, first try. Then the battle to be the first to hit the exploding target was fought -- and won by Korwin. The Spike didn't fare so well.

Then came the ultimate challenge: the double-barreled shotgun that sent The Spike's party-dressed butt into the mud 20 years ago. Carefully guided and instructed by every member of the training team, The Spike lined up the shot, stared down the barrel of the enormous gun buried in its not-quite-big-enough shoulder, and fired a load of birdshot. A few expletives and a large bruise later (but still standing upright), The Spike decided that it was never going to touch a shotgun again.

But if anyone wants to take away the Spike's pink Easter dress, they'll have to pry it out of these cold, dead hands.

Spike us! E-mail spiked@newtimes.com or call 602-229-8451.

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