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Siegle’s gun shop, Oakland, California, c. 1974. Many members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, including Camilla Hall, bought their guns from Siegle’s. I believe this is an Associated Press photo.

I took a gun safety class over the weekend. I knew a few people who were doing it and I’m always willing to learn new things. So why not?

When the opportunity was presented to me, my first thought was that this could count toward research. Maybe it could help me better stand in Camilla’s shoes. Through my years of research on Camilla, I was constantly trying to see the world from her perspective, and still am.

At the end of the class we had to handle and shoot a gun. I have never in my life done this before. I’m pretty sure Camilla hadn’t shot a gun, either, before deciding to join the Symbionese Liberation Army.

I waited my turn to shoot on Saturday, standing outside in the damp November chill with the other people in the class. We were talking and laughing, the atmosphere casual and light. I felt camaraderie, experiencing something new with others going through the same thing. But as we were chatting, I thought of Camilla.

She bought a gun by herself and she trained by herself, going to the Chabot gun club just outside of Oakland, California. By the time she got her gun, she was far behind the others in the SLA. They had been practicing for months, often together. But no one offered to go with her, which I always find a little sad. Here was a young blond woman, at a gun range by herself, surrounded by others, mostly men, a lot of them off-duty cops. What did they think of Camilla? By looks alone, she certainly didn’t appear to be a typical gun enthusiast.

I wonder what she thought, going there alone. Was she excited? Did she have doubts about what she had signed up for? My gun instructor said you if you carry a gun, you carry the responsibility of possibly having to shoot it. Surely Camilla knew that she might be called upon to shoot a fellow human being. Though I understand a lot of Camilla’s motivation up to a certain point, that’s the part that hangs me up. You get a gun, you have to be willing to shoot it and understand the consequences that go along with that — murder, prison, great bodily harm, etc. ¬†

I’m glad I took the class because it did help me understand the gravity that’s involved once you hold a gun. Camilla must have known that, too, but she chose to buy the gun and shoot it. I wonder how many people are making similar decisions to the ones Camilla made, after a year in which we’ve seen widespread protests and a chaotic political climate. At what point are you willing to take on that great responsibility and the consequences?