It was pretty exciting for an 11 year old to get to do something so "adult". Did that for three more summers or so, but had no guns in our home. I never found it "relaxing", except in the sense of the afterglow from the adrenaline of handling and shooting dangerous weapons. Much like I was soon to discover after I first masturbated. My uncle wanted to give me a hunting rifle when I was 16, but my father said no.
My uncle was a big collector of the octagonal barrel Winchesters. He had over 150 of them, as well as other various oddities (a Spanish blunderbuss?). He woke up one morning to find his well secured and alarmed arms room in the attached barn cleaned out, while he, his wife, and their German Shepherd were asleep. None of the guns ever surfaced that I know of, so we assumed it was a contract job by organized crime for another collector. My uncle was really crushed at losing his life's work collecting those guns. It didn't help that they left his wife's colored glass collection.
In Army basic training, I had a Vietnam era M-16, made by Frigidaire. It was a real piece of shit training weapon, and misfired every third round, so I got a lot of practice clearing it, and always had "two in and one out" during marksmanship training. Then, when we qualified, I shot Expert and won the high score, thereby befuddling my drill sergeants, who had to give me a big plastic trophy when we graduated. (That trophy was such a pain in the ass to drag through the Atlanta airport along with my duffel bag when I went home on leave. )
In the army, I spent most of my time telling artillery crews (105 and 155mm) where to shoot safely during live fire training (all peacetime), and then in the Guard spent time as a mortar section leader with 60mm mortars, and range spotted some for our snipers. I also got to train with the Alpini in Italy for a month and familiarize with their Beretta assault rifle, which everyone liked better than the M-16.
After I got off active duty, I got my hunting licence, after attending an state mandated NRA Safe Hunter course. I went out with a friend, borrowing a single shot rifle and shotgun, for deer and birds. Never shot at any game, and really just liked getting out in the Maine woods.
Inherited one antique long gun, which I sold. Owned no guns for decades, until I rented a place for a couple years in the French Quarter in New Orleans, on an extended work assignment after Katrina. A woman was murdered by a 13 year old on the sidewalk around the block from me while I was cooking dinner. With an unsecured second floor balcony off the main bedroom over the sidewalk, home invasion was an existential threat. I picked up a .380 pistol to keep in the house. I test fired the gun, and put it in a safe by the bed.
I sold that gun to a neighbor (retired AF) after I moved to Colorado. Don't need one. My neighbors do, though. We are surrounded by hay fields, and the only ways to control the prairie dogs are shooting, or gas. I was just out walking the dog across the fields this morning, after the first cut last week. They gassed this spring for the first time, and I saw dozens of heads popping up out of burrows, so I expect to hear a lot of gunfire when their hired man comes back from vacation in a few days. My dog hates gunfire. No more walks, until the grass grows too high to see prairie dogs again.
Guns are a tool. A tool for the military, LEO's, homeowners, and working people of all kinds. It's no coincidence that the rise of the AR-15 platform's popularity, and the NRA's conversion from an ethical sponsor of gun safety to a lobbying branch for gun manufacturers, were together.
AR-15's are good for two things - high volume of fire, and high profits. They are lousy for home defense or hunting, but great for dominating a firefight. They took rifles from being a handmade item of wood and metal requiring skilled craftsmen, to a mass produced bunch of cheap plastic parts any yahoo could throw together for his own custom gun. And boy could they sell them! It was about the same time that the NRA became an advocate of absolute 2A rights, that the movies Rambo and Scarface came out. There was Al Pacino with his M203 (why can't we have those?) And Sly Stallone, eventually upgrading to his M60 machine gun ( made in Maine! - seems reasonable to me) winning their wars of oppression against authority, or something, all sexy as hell. The movies created a generation of wannabe's that missed Vietnam, but got to relive it through Platoon, The Deer Hunter, and Apocalypse Now. Right along side the introduction of the extremely profitable civilianized AR-15 platform to the general public.
And there was the NRA, the respected gun safety group, to legitimize and normalize their use and ownership to the American public. And here we are today, awash in guns in America, with every publicized mass shooting creating an infinite feedback loop of demand for more guns, and more and more guns in inappropriate hands.
I don't know what to do about all the guns out there today. That horse has pretty well left the barn. But I would support some regulations prohibiting the civilian sale of any new long guns that have external magazines larger than five rounds, or shells for shotguns. They aren't needed for work, hunting, or self defense, and target sports are irrelevant - any gun can be used for that.
I'm open minded about other ideas for gun control, short of bans. We need to do something, and we need should start by making these AR platforms less profitable for manufacturers and retailers. Nothing in the 2A says all guns have to be cheap and profitable.