When I started working on this show about guns, Inside: Secret America: Armed & Undercover, I didn’t know much about them. In fact, I had never shot a gun before. I come from a country, Portugal, where firearms are not as available or as popular as they are here. The civilian firearm possession rate in Portugal is about 8.5 (per 100 people) compared to 88.8 in the United States.
To gain a better understanding of guns and why people are so passionate about them, we knew we had to immerse ourselves in the culture. Over the course of filming, I was able to participate in a shooting competition and shoot all types of guns, including handguns, semi-automatic rifles, even a .50 caliber, which is one of the most powerful guns out there.
While shooting can be fun, I also wanted to learn about gun safety. So I enrolled in an NRA Basic Pistol Class. The class was an all-day affair, taught by a husband and wife team. First there was a lecture where they explain all the basics, the different parts of the gun, and how they work. After that, the fun begins. You go outside for an intensive hands-on session where they teach how to safely handle a gun – how to load and unload, how to clean your firearm, and of course, how to shoot.
Throughout the day, I was very impressed by the emphasis they put on safety. They continually drilled safety measures into your head so you don’t forget them, including the four main principles: Always keep your finger off the trigger. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Always keep the safety on. And always treat the gun as if it was loaded. Overall, it was a great experience and I learned quite a bit.
One of the questions that Darren and I asked each other during filming was what would we like to see happen, if anything, when it comes to gun laws in this country? And I have to say, if I could suggest one piece of gun-related legislation, it would be that everyone who wants to purchase a firearm has to take a class like the one I took. Gun laws vary by state, and while some states require safety training as a prerequisite for gun ownership, others like Arizona do not. I found it interesting that while the NRA sponsors the class I took, they actually don’t believe the classes should be required by law.
Whether you like it or not, the US is the most heavily armed nation on earth. Put aside the country’s high rate of gun violence and you still have thousands of people who are killed each year in accidents involving guns. It seems to me that sufficient safety training should be mandatory for anyone who wants to own a gun.
By Mariana van Zeller, One Nation Undercover, Inside: Secret America: Armed & Undercover