Spreading the gun rights gospel isn’t easy. In many cases, it’s the love that dare not speak its name. [Note: Chef don’t judge. Personal experience has proven that Blue State ballistic bashfulness is a survival skill.] But converting antagonists and enlisting fence straddlers is mission critical stuff. Colorado recall or no, Supreme Court intervention or no, we can not defend and extend our natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms by talking amongst ourselves. We have to find new recruits. And it all starts with a conversation. A single, polite, civilized, focused conversation between two people about guns. Here’s my favorite conversational gambit . . .
Sports, politics and religion. Three no-go areas for polite conversation. So when it comes to guns, don’t talk about politics. Don’t trot-out your knowledge of Constitutional law, Supreme Court decisions, New York’s SAFE Act or the differences between urban and rural voters’ understanding of firearms freedom. Don’t talk about the American colonists’ experience battling British gun confiscation. As Archie Bunker said, stifle yourself.
A left-leaning gun-averse or gun-neutral voter doesn’t want to hear about the tussle over gun rights or firearm ownership as a bulwark against government tyranny. It’s like pigeonholing a Catholic on the church’s coverup of pedophile priests. The discussion forces them to reconsider . . . everything. That’s scary. When people get scared they either switch off or get aggressive. Neither is particularly helpful for moving the bullet—I mean ball forward.
Luckily, the vast majority of gundecided and anti-gunners are hoplocurious. Why wouldn’t they be? No matter what their political persuasion, they’ve spent thousands of hours watching good guys “solve problems” with firearms. Chances are excellent they’ve played gun-oriented video games. And they’ve certainly heard the media demonize guns before, during and after mass shootings and other firearms-related crimes. So here’s how you tap into that . . .
Have you ever shot a gun?
Asking someone if they’ve had personal experience with firearms is apolitical (as long as you keep it that way), personal and emotional. It’s a gun guy exploring the non-gun guy’s personal encounters with firearms to see where they are on the issue of gun control experientially. Not logically. Remember logic didn’t get them into their position; it won’t get them out either.
If your conversational partner answers “no, I’ve never shot a gun” or even “no, and I would never want to” no problem. Just nod your head in an approving manner and ask . ..
If you were going to shoot a gun, what kind of gun would you like to shoot?
That’s what salesmen call an “if then close.” “If this car was cheaper would you buy it?” The question removes buying pressure from the customer even as it forces them to commit. In this case, we’re taking a slightly more circuitous route, tapping into the anti or neutral’s imagination. And adding the “would you like to shoot” bit as a subliminal suggestion to our new friend that of course they would like to shoot a gun. Duh.
Steering the conversation from this point forward is like wheeling a Mercedes CLS550 through slow moving traffic. Why a revolver? Did anyone in your family own a revolver? What kind of rifle? Hunting gun, sniper rifle or “assault weapon” (air quotes). Resist the urge to talk down to the future newbie or steer the conversation towards politics. Your friend doesn’t care whether or not the rifle they shot is a “real” assault weapon or what the NFA has to say about that or anything similar. Just talk hardware with passion and enthusiasm.
When schmoozing the complete novice your goal is clear: get them to the range. That’s where converts are made. If you can give an anti or middle-of-the-roader a positive experience with guns, if you can de-demonize firearms, then you can address the subject logically. And if a range trip doesn’t lower their barrier, fine. The conversation is over. Of course, before all that, you’ve got to ask the anti or neutral if they want to go to the range. So do it . . .
Would you like to go to the range and try shooting a BLANK?
Not a literal blank. (Wow, tough room.) If your potential recruit says “no” to your kind invitation to bust some caps then change the subject and forget it. There’s no point beating your head against the wall. It hurts your head and does nothing for the wall. If the now non-recruit won’t go hands-on with a gun, their conscious mind will remain resistant to common sense. Permanently. Or at least until they or someone they care about is a victim of a crime.
If the prospective convert answers “yes” to whether they’ve shot a gun before, delve into the details of their firearms history. Discover the who, what, when, where, why and how was it of their experiences. Again, avoid condescension at all costs. If they hated shooting a gun or guns, ask them why. Recoil? Bad safety? Noise? Create a safe conversational space for them to discuss the subject. Don’t counter or “explain away” the reasons for their discomfort. Just nod sympathetically.
Again, at some point, go for the close: ask them if they want to go to the range. No, it’s not a gay thing. (Hecklers, who needs them?) It’s a People of the Gun thing. As to how you handle the range trip part of the program, that’s a post for another day. Suffice it to say, if you get to thinking you’d rather take your worst enemy to the range than the person you’re recruiting, back off and end the conversation. Not to put too fine a point on it, we don’t need a bunch of assholes on our side.
Bottom line: while gun control is about control, deprogramming gun control advocates or recruiting fence-straddling newbies is all about the gun. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a ten-year-old to roust from her Columbus Day slumber. Gonna take her to buy a shotgun case, whether she likes it or not.