FYI, Salvation Army Doesn't Take Rifle Cartridges

A few months ago Regina the professional organizer came over and spent most of her time separating out stuff into neat donation categories. The kitchenwares and sporting goods would go to Salvation Army, the clothes to the Jewish Women's Council (they give itemized receipts, wonderful for deductions) and the buckets of paint to Habitat For Humanity. She assured me there was a place for every kind of item, even the crappy Ernst and Gallo Rieseling vintage '84 or the stacks of pink marble leftover from tiling the foyer. I then showed her the box of cartridges. 

“I have never ever seen these in a house.” This was America. How would no one else have guns? I almost felt proud that our things stumped the professional. 

She texted her organizer friends and Googled on her Blackberry on what to do, to no avail. I suggested giving them to the police since didn’t they take guns for money, pr was that just in the ‘hood? I posted them here as Mystery Object #7, hoping someone would know. Allen, the only Democrat I know who owns guns, said they were for rifles. When I offered to give to them to him he suggested that we go shoot them in the Angeles National Forest instead. 

I’m finding a kind of symmetry using the things my parents left me. It’s an act of recycling, and I don’t have to spend money. They'd be happy to know I wear my mother’s Chanel pumps and used up the stockpile of Whole Foods Napkins (per my cousin’s suggestion, they came in handy for wiping down the kitchen countertops). Doing so, it proves their collecting might have been for some end. 

My dad was really into guns. NRA member, owned rifles, shotguns, a Beretta, and a Colt 45 to name a few. He lived in his multipocket fishing vest which made him always look like he had just come from the range. He went every week with his old Chinese man friends and sometimes my mom. One time he was super excited coming home because he had seen a young girl who was a perfect shot. She was trying out for the Olympics, he said, you should come to the range too! I was 14 at the time and wasn’t into the whole violence of firearms. I wanted to be left alone to sulk to my Cure albums. 

Now I had a chance to redeem myself. I met Allen and our other friend Bradley in Pasadena and drove past the Valley. Allen are Bradley are both scientifically oriented men in the their late 30s with multiple degrees from MIT. I figured I was in good technical hands. Allen explained that what I found weren’t bullets but cartridges, as I had been saying all week. This common misnomer bothered him. Bullets were the things inside the cartridges. They contain gunpowder so when the trigger comes down on them, the powder ignites and it shoots out. I was glad to get his Guns 101 since everything I knew I had learned from video games. 

Left, Bradley. Right, Allen.
At the range we put on giant earmuffs that turned on the mute button to our voices. The shots were intensely loud. The air vibrated. I felt my bones vibrate from the inside.

We walked past five old Korean dads in multipocketed vests and fishing hats, dressed like my dad. This confirmed my belief this that the vest was the uniform of hobbyist Asian dads or all kinds, Chinese or Korean.

I started off with the WWII carbine, the sort of gun that has a slot for a bayonet. Allen showed me how to load the cartridges one by one. I just aimed for a few minutes, wondering if it was going to explode in my face. When you don’t know about guns, you think they will just blow up like Malatov cocktails and kill everyone nearby. Once I pulled the trigger, it wasn’t so bad. There was shudder, a release, and then the back of the gun pushed into the flesh under my collarbone. It felt like a force of nature even though I knew this a manmade device. It felt like I was harnessing a lightening bolt. Sort of thrilling.

I graduated to the AR-10, a minimal black metal rifle that looked straight out of Halo. I finally loaded my dad’s cartridges. Black rubber coated the outside just like on my dad’s Zeiss binoculars. It was mechanical, or dare I saw it, beautiful. I felt guilty thinking it looked cool, like I was betraying my gender and morphing into a Republican. I looked through the rifle scope and fired. Shooting it seemed was all about aiming and looking. It wasn’t about the deed. It’s the meditative state you reach after focusing so intensely that the rest of our world disappears. I could see why my dad would have wanted to do this. My mind washed clean. Of all the stuff, the house, and the past for a moment. Weirdly, it was thanks to guns. 

I tried the assassin's rifle that broke down into five parts, the Windrunner, which fit into a small backpack. I finished off the rest of my dad’s rounds, hitting the center of the plate every time. It turned out we were shooting at 100 yards with rifles meant for 500. That explained why were all awesome at it. Afterwards Allen and I walked across the sandy mounds of the range. The florescent orange skeet plastic crackled beneath our feet. We took photos with our target, a giant manhole cover on a stick. 

The three of us capped off the afternoon with glasses of Old West Whiskey. It seemed the right thing to do after shooting guns in the forest with men. I wondered if this activity made me an instant Republicans. Allen assured us that we could redeem ourselves by starting a Democrats for Responsible Gun Use club. Either way I felt guilty.

The guilt wore off with few sips of whiskey, but I was just glad to finally find the best place for my dad's cartridges.


Anonymous said...

So, did firing so many rounds give you a bruise on your shoulder? Or, leave your ears ringing?

Melissa said...

this is one of the best posts yet! i love it. I've been meaning to go to a range for years - never actually did it yet. I'm too afraid of getting bruised by the recoil! :X

Raina Lee said...

Hi Terri, I made sure to place the end of the back under my collarbone so it would back up into my flesh. But it did back up into my bone and it bruised!

Hey Melissa! Go try it, at least once! Just make sure you're holding the gun correctly and that you don't rent one with too much of a kick!

Mitchel Kennedy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Raina Lee said...

Thanks Mitch! It was fun!

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