Friday, 14 September 2007

Shooting & Salvation

New Firearm & Weapons legislation in South Africa dictates that everyone in possession of a previously issued firearm license must re-apply. The criteria for issuing firearm licenses has become extremely stringent in terms of this legislation. From now on everyone with existing firearm licences need to re-apply every 5 years. New applicants must complete practical and theoretical training with an approved agency. Renewals only have to do the theoretical training & exam. Once issued with a firearm training certificate and armed with a heap of forms completed in triplicate as well as certified copies of a myriad of other documents, one can now go to the nearest Police station for fingerprinting and handing in of the application. True to nature I waited till the very last moment. On the day before the cut-off date for handing in applications I contacted a Firearm training centre. I was lucky to get the last slot for the evening training session. I also had to do a portfolio of evidence (fancy name for assignment) on the Firearms Act before attending the session. Now I must make this clear, I am not a firearm fanatic. I am however in possession of a .38 Colt revolver (which I have never fired – it has been locked in my safe forever) and I have some sentimental value attached to the thing. When working in the Police as social worker I volunteered for SWAT training, to get more insight into the work and lives of policemen – so I can handle firearms quite well. In fact, the safety precautions drilled into me during training saved the life of a child. Without going into detail, had I not made TRIPLE sure that a particular firearm was safe a child may have died. I am veering off of the topic however. The story is actually about the training I underwent for the purpose of renewing my license. Having left the whole issue that late, I could only find one training agency who could still help me at this late hour. It was one of the strangest experiences I ever had. The training agency is a family run business. The main trainer is the Mom. Quite a formidable woman. Trophies and Medals covered every available wall and surface in the training room. These were from competitions won by this little family of marksmen and markswomen, or shall I be politically correct and call them markspeople. The Mom and Daughter seemed to be superior shots, while the Dad and Son did not do bad themselves. Where the was no medals, trophies or certificates - notices adorned the training centre. Firearm safety posters were interspersed with Bible text quotes and Bible based slogans, motivations and admonitions. I hope I do not sound callous if I report this in a humorous manner. As a Christian believer I do not wish to come over as blasphemous. I am exceptionally tolerant of other people’s beliefs, however, not so tolerant if their beliefs infringe on those of others. Their appearance (bearded Dad), dress (conservative), manner of speech (passionate, emotional and full of one-sided beliefs) made me suspect that they are borderline right-wing fundamentalists. Greed however allowed them to take Black people into their training programme. I actually felt quite sorry for the few Black people attending the session. They must have felt quite intimidated. It was quite clear to me that their civilness and friendliness toward the Black people were a thin veneer concealing something different inside. The training session started with the Mom introducing themselves and informing the class that God placed her there to teach us about firearms and that it is her God-given task to ask us if we know God and if not, to lead us to him. She then proceeded with the course content and delivered it in a style typical of the military and armed forces. I call it the “Shout-the-question-and-ridicule-the-answer-method”. It starts with the instructor shouting a question and then keeping quiet, till some idiot cannot stand the tension any longer and blurts out an answer. Invariably the answer would be ridiculed before the textbook definition is recited. For example: Question “What do you load a firearm with?” Answer “Bullets” Instructor reply “Bullets! BULLETS! A BULLET IS SOMETHING YOU BITE! People you must learn the correct TERMINOLOGY! You load a firearm with CARTRIDGES or ROUNDS if you must! A….Bullet….is….only….the….PROJECTILE….part….of….the….cartridge.” (When the Dad interrupted her rantings for the umpteenth time a little later, she became irritated with him and told him to shove off and make himself useful by making some bullets for the shooting practice the following day. Had I not been scared of her, I would have asked her if her husband shouldn’t rather be filling cartridges…) The training session ended with a written exam and an altar call. I nearly became converted for a second time, fearing she would fail all those who do not give their hearts to Jesus. I stayed in my seat however and miraculously passed.

1 comment:

Betty said...

Great story. I love it. I wish I was there.