By: Siege 

In my pursuit of undergraduate degrees and now a law degree, I have sat through my fair share of sensitivity lectures, diversity seminars, and presentations on emotional intelligence. Through this process, I have learned how radically different some people’s world views can be. Within the gun owning community, we have developed our own language and concepts which may not connect with those who do not share our experiences. The following are guidelines on how to present these concepts to those in the progressive community, gleaned from my time living amongst them . . .

Those who follow contemporary politics will be familiar with demographic trends and the so called “coalition of the ascendant.” Simplified, the theory is that an influx of young, minority, single, female, and LGBT voters will unite to form an electorally unassailable coalition which will then usher in the liberal utopia.  While the long run political implications of these shifts are debatable, that vocal progressivism will be a fixture of contemporary politics is not.

Until gun rights advocates are able to compete on progressive terrain, our efforts will remain a rearguard action. Any meaningful expansion of firearm freedom will require the support of at least some segment of the progressive population.

Constitutional arguments must be a fallback position, not a first line.

Gun owners recently scored two critical victories in the Supreme Court; District of Columbia v. Heller which verified the Second Amendment is an individual right for purposes including self-defense, and McDonald v. Chicago which extended Heller’s ruling nationwide. While such rulings are important steps for firearms rights, alone they are insufficient for those rights to be considered “safe.” It is possible for the Supreme Court to overrule these holdings, though that scenario is improbable until the composition of the court changes. How the Court rules on future firearms cases will likely depend on how effectively we are able to normalize firearms as part of our national culture.

Stressing private firearm ownership as a Constitutional issue is unlikely to influence most progressives. Much like quoting the Bible to an atheist, quoting the Constitution will not persuade an individual who does not accept its validity. There are many of the progressive mindset who view the Constitution as antiquated, racist, inequitable, dysfunctional, or corrupt. Trying to convince them otherwise will likely force both sides into their ideological trenches, inhibiting a meaningful debate on gun laws. There is a time and a place to defend the Constitution, but firearms ownership can be justified on its own merit. Guns can be demonstrated to have independent social utility, and this social utility argument will have a more immediate impact on progressives than a constitutional debate.

Stress Social Utility

Arguing for gun ownership on statistical grounds provides a great opportunity for us to demonstrate to the other side that we are not a rabble of mindless knuckle draggers, and that the math is on our side.  However, presentation can be just as important as content. Unless you have the (mis)fortune to engage in this debate at a coffee shop or bar, time will be limited and thus must be used efficiently. To this end, chosen statistics should be simple, provocative, and encourage further exploration.  Infographics and meme’s, such as this example and this example, provide an easily digestible medium to convey powerful information.

Positive statistics are readily found with a little research or the regular reading of TTAG. Simple math and comparisons can generate many more. Accepting that there are roughly 300 million private firearms in the U.S. and 30 thousand annual gun deaths, that means our per firearm annual casualty rate hovers at .01%. Assuming the high estimate of 600 annual deaths, long guns are responsible for as many fatalities as that other rampant killer of Americans: falling out of bed in the morning. Adverse statistics can likewise be deconstructed, like that 30 thousand figure, 2/3rds of which are suicides with the remainder including law enforcement killings, justified self-defense, and inter-gang violence.

Concrete examples are the most important. For instance, none of America’s 4 million privately owned AR-15s made the headlines today. Guns are 80x more likely to be used defensively than to take a life. We should make it our objective to ensure such statistics are common knowledge. Intangible examples of firearms benefiting society also carry weight. The private firearms industry provides tremendous economic impact, contributions to conservation, and an opportunity to promote charitable causes.

“Clays for a Cause”- demonstrating sensitivity and breast cancer awareness. 

Control the Language

A hallmark of politically active progressivism is an intense discipline on word choice. Language is chosen which presents their view point in a sympathetic or favorable light, and then repeated until it has crowded out all alternative descriptions of the subject. The origin and wide spread adoption of the term “assault weapon” to refer to semi-automatic long guns is a text book example. Preempting such maneuvers will be critical to the wide spread acceptance of firearms culture.

Those previously mentioned Supreme Court cases provide an example of how such techniques may be employed. Returning to Heller and McDonald, the most important linguistic maneuvers will be distinguishing what is “dangerous or unusual” from what is “in common use.” Language from the Court indicates the government may restrict weapons falling into the former category but not the latter. Therefore, the distinction between “dangerous” and “common” will define the boundaries of fire arm freedom in the future.

If gun control advocates have their way, “dangerous” will become synonymous with “lethal.” However, the capacity to repeatedly kill human beings is a defining characteristic of all weapons, and for that matter most motor vehicles and kitchen implements as well. Therefore, we should seize the opportunity to distinguish “dangerous” characteristics from lethality. The only weapon specifically mentioned by the Court as being particularly dangerous is the sawed-off shotgun. By stressing that the (marginally) wider shot dispersion of such a weapon is indiscriminate compared to the accurate fire of a semi-automatic rifle, we can linguistically demonstrate the sawed-off to be more dangerous. Should “dangerous” become synonymous with “indiscriminate,” a broader sphere of firearms will be protected.

“Dangerous and unusual” – the Supreme Court.

Promotion through Demographics

As a right, the 2nd Amendment has two unique characteristics which may be leveraged in its defense; it involves the possession of physical property, and it protects a highly recognizable activity. People may exercise the 1st or the 3rd without ever realizing it, but the 2nd is unmistakable. The right is also non-exclusionary, and inherently more inclusive than most “rights” upon which liberals build their coalition. Unlike marriage equality or abortion, there are no identity limitations on who may exercise the 2nd Amendment. The more people seen safely, legally, and enjoyably using firearms, the more widespread firearms culture will become.

Female shooters are the fastest growing firearm owning demographic. New products are regularly entering the market with female shooters in mind, and female only shooting and self-defense courses are becoming a common sight. Female shooters will have a profound impact on the debate surrounding the AR-15, a platform they particularly enjoy. The weapon’s light weight, low recoil, and adaptability make it a favored platform for shooters of all body types. Partnering with women’s groups to promote this message, and the broader concept of empowered self-defense, can only help our cause.

Female shooters prefer the AR-15’s light weight, low recoil, and ability to adapt to different body types.

Racial minorities present another opportunity for cultural expansion, a fact recognized by the NRA every time it claims to be the nation’s longest standing civil rights organization. The argument is often made that access to firearms has damaged primarily minority urban communities. However, this position is easily countered by stressing that such damage is a function of distribution rather than presence, in the classic “if guns are outlawed than only outlaws will have guns” sense. In most of these areas, onerous regulations prevent the most vulnerable from securing the means to their own protection, while the lawless arm at will. This exact situation led Otis McDonald to take his case for self-defense to the Supreme Court, solidifying the right of self-defense for all citizens in McDonald v. Chicago. Overall, we must avoid firearms becoming a proxy for other issues in broader discussions about race.

Millennials will likely have the most profound impact on the gun control debate. As an age group, this demographic cuts across racial, gender, and socio-economic lines. A pervasive desire to try new things and gain life experience makes this group especially eager to take their first trip to the range. More so than older demographics, millennials are highly integrated with social media. This leads to a desire for self-promotion, through which gun rights may be advanced. Taking a millennial to the range is sure to generate all manner of photos and posts. This positive publicity will be shared amongst that individuals peer group, further normalizing firearms in American culture.

Beyond the author’s creative capacity, this artistic Instagram post was taken by a new shooter on a recent range trip.

TTAG has often discussed the intersection of gamers and Gun Culture 2.0. For many who grew up playing the Call of Duty franchise, an assault rifle is not whatever amalgamation of features Diane Feinstein feels are scary that day, but simply a weapon which is larger than an SMG but smaller than a Sniper Rifle. No distinction is made based on caliber, capacity, or fire rate. This may actually be a more accurate reflection of a long gun’s capabilities than implying a pistol grip or telescoping stock somehow makes a weapon more lethal. By tapping into this basic level of understanding, a more informed debate on firearms legislation may be had.

General Techniques

Ask questions. By asking questions rather than using declarative statements, gun advocates can put their opposition on the defensive without being overtly aggressive. Anti-gun advocates love to stereotype gun owners as combative or hostile, and therefore dangerous. Avoiding this trap will help ensure we do not alienate our audience through presentation when our content is credible.

Seek out the open minded. There are some who will always view guns as the evil scary tools of evil scary men doing evil scary things. Often they are found at the front of a class room or on a ratings desperate cable news network. Anti-gun activists fall into this category, and are unlikely to be convinced, no matter how compelling the evidence. Debate with such persons is an exercise best avoided, and if it cannot be, the objective should be to seem reasonable in comparison.

Argue through logical parallels. The catch phrases favored in contemporary political discourse can easily be coopted to our cause. Broader progressive themes, such as equality, can be incorporated into the gun debate by stressing the equalizing effect a firearm gives a physically disadvantaged individual against a more powerful attacker. “A Woman’s Right to Choose” comes immediately to mind, along with any statements mentioning empowerment. Similarly, Voter ID laws are fiercely opposed by progressives, and the ensuing disenfranchisement parallels directly with firearms. The argument could even be made for a streamlined and enhanced NICS system to be used on Election Day, alleviating the need for physical ID and the fear of voter fraud simultaneously. By demonstrating parallel reasoning behind firearms freedom and progressive causes, progressives will see firearms as more compatible with their world view.

Finally, the best education takes place on the range. Actually learning to shoot is the fastest way to dispel popular myths about firearm capabilities and operation. What we consider to be simple knowledge may not be shared by those whose only previous firearms education came from late night television. Through practical application, new shooters will learn that shotguns need to be aimed. That accurately firing a hand gun is difficult. That adding a few rounds to a magazine does not convert a firearm into a magic murder machine. If you’re fortunate enough to run across a suppressor in the wild, your friends will learn that it does not make for a whisper quiet magic murder machine. Most importantly they will learn that the People of the Gun are responsible, friendly, and always eager to welcome new shooters into our ranks.

The author is currently a law student at a large Midwestern state university. He is eager to graduate and return to the Marine Corps in order to enjoy those weapons the Supreme Court would consider dangerous and unusual. The views expressed in this piece do not reflect any organization with which he is affiliated. 

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18 Responses to FNS-40 Contest Entry: A Beginner’s Guide to Guns and Progressives

  1. This would make a good Chapter 1 to a manual. More chapters delving into specifics are needed. Damn fine primer though.

  2. Machineguns and submachine guns would not be unusual if it were not for the idiotic Hughes amendment.There are already uncontrolled semi-auto versions of these weapons out and about. If someone wanted to change it to full auto I am sure they could, but it hasn’t happened and crimes are not being committed with them. Even the drug dealer who had the Sten in a TTAG story yesterday wasn’t out spraying the neighborhood.

    I can see stuff like RPGs and anti-tank missiles being considered dangerous or unusual and controlled, but not banned.

  3. Good advice. The only thing I would add is that you need to have your sources and references ready. I guarantee you that the first response you will get to any statement you make is going to be “I can’t believe that’s true” or “where in the world did you hear that?”.

    Don’t make the mistake of sending them to a rabidly conservative website, either. If the first thing they see at the top of the page is a picture of Obama with horns and a pitchfork, they’re unlikely to read any further. You also don’t want to complicate matters by sending them somewhere with prominent headlines on divisive subjects like abortion or tax resisters. Stick to the subject at hand.

    Your best bet is to search out supporting articles and comments from sources they are likely to already respect. As noted above, even the NYT occasionally prints something sensible. Look for studies supporting our position from academics, government bodies, etc. they’re out there. On reflection, that list would make a useful stickie on the blog.

    It IS possible to change people’s minds (assuming they have one – don’t waste your time on buffoons). I’ve done it. I’ll bet you’ve done it too. We CAN win this!

    Fight hard! Fight smart! Fight on!

  4. Great piece.

    This gets us so much farther than the “libs/progressives are irrational” BS. They’re as rational as we are, and for the most part, a whole lot smarter about persuasion and public messaging. We’re as emotional as they are…about totally different (arguably more important) things.

    A lot of good contest entries coming through, but this is the only one I’ve bookmarked. I’m going to go back and read it again when I have more time to take notes.

    It’s that good.

  5. And out of those “young, minority, single, female, and LGBT voters” 5% of them will be psychological deviants, some of them outright psychopats. And we’ll be back at square one.

    They only calculate technical factors and exclude the psychological ones. Some people can be that naive.

    • So what you’re saying is that the rate of psychological deviance is lower in these group than in the general population?

      I doubt the rates of “issues” for the purposes of “the gun debate” are any different than the majority of the population. There has been research on demographics and given mental disorders.

      The only questions we should be asking to begin with are is this person a citizen? If yes then we ask are they of legal age to purchase a firearm? (Generally 18-21)

      If the answer to that is yes then we would be infringing on their rights to deny them.

      Beyond a verifiable history of violent crime or some such, given a system of due process, removing someone’s rights shouldn’t happen.

      Saying “because I don’t like them” doesn’t really cut it when trying to maintain our rights in a free society.

  6. Make no mistake, this is an ideological WAR between the anti Second Amendment Progressives and the Constitutionalist Conservative/Libertarians. In any war you may occasionally turn some of the enemy to work for you or even to discover that they agree with you, but THAT will not win the war nor mostly ever even change the course of a battle. The most true statement ever made about war is that you must NEVER underestimate your enemy and so we must always keep in mind that while the rank and file may be to some degree low-information voters without a real clue, the leadership is at war with us and our ideals and destruction of the Second Amendment and our RKBA is just one of many tactics they are willing to employ to reach their Progressive goal.

    If you believe in something, STAND UP AND SAY SO! I believe that the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States, including the Bill of Rights, are the foundation on which this country was built and has managed to survive this long and are therefore worth defending against all enemies, foreign AND domestic. I believe that any Progressive or Liberal or Socialist or Communist or RINO who wants to alter the basic fabric of this country, our government, our economy, is an acknowledged ENEMY in this struggle and must be treated as such.

    I refuse to negotiate away ANY of my natural, civil and Constitutionally protected rights. I believe that I am sufficiently educated to read the documents listed above and understand not only what they say, but why they say it. I believe that Progressives, as a whole, disagree with much of the intention behind the creation of this great United States and wish to bring it to an end by whatever means they can employ and are actively engaged in that effort. I SUSPECT that any supposed “reasonable debate” on the subject of the Second Amendment and “reasonable” gun control is actually a fishing expedition to find ammunition to use against us, to find a weak spot they can exploit.

    Be always on your guard when discussing such things with hard core Progressives. Be Condition Yellow when discussing it with fence-sitting Liberals. They are the epitome of the saying, “My mind is made up, do not confuse me with facts.” And I have discovered through my 63 years and a lot of additional reading, the more wrong a person is in their conclusions and strongly held beliefs, the more angry they will get when you effectively prove them wrong.

    Some people may be less firm in their stance and THEY may be subject to conversion. Never stop trying to identify and convert those folks, but in the presence of a rock-Liberal or Progressive, never let your guard down and never be afraid to admit you will not change their minds and just walk away.

    I firmly believe that to announce a firm pro-Constitution stance in the face of Liberal/Progressive opposition is the best way to identify those people who are your sworn enemy and will never be converted, no matter how hard you try. Kind of like tossing a smoked ham into a crowded room to identify the Islamo-fascist terrorist hidden in the crowd.

  7. Good article, but let’s stop calling them “progressives.” They are regressive since they want to take us back to a totalitarian form of government.

    “Alexander the Great remarked that the people of Asia were slaves because they had not learned to pronounce the word ‘no.'” Winston Churchill, radio broadcast from London to the U.S., 16 October 1938

  8. Overall good direction, but I’d caution that statistics are generally uncompelling if you already have a fairly strong opinion.

    The reason the range is the best place to “evangelize” is because it offers a personal experience for the new shooter. That’s really the best way to argue persuasively for gun right: be personal. Be honest, straightforward and compelling, and sell gun rights; don’t push them.

    By that, I mean that the nest way for me to explain firearms in a favorable light is to offer why I see them in a positive light. They appeal to me because they’re amazingly engineered machines; they enable powerful effect at a distance that’s undeniably fun. Their “danger” is easily controlled through discipline and safe practices. And, perhaps most fascinating of all is the level of respect it shows to recognize another person’s freedom to wield a tool that can kill without fearing their intent.

    That is how you combat emotional appeal–with emotional reassurance.

    I’ll be taking an anti gun coworker to the December Crossroads gun show next week as a “cultural experience.” I’ll see if that opens up a future range trip. If nothing else it will be an eye opener to how common and popular the AR-15 platform really is, and a good backdrop against which to have future discussions with a grain of fact and experience instead of media propaganda fantasy.

  9. Yes, language is important, which is why my firearms are always called rifles, shotguns or pistols but never weapons. Since Webster’s defines weapons as something used to injure, defeat or destroy, and my firearms have never (yet) been used for such purposes, they will not be called weapons by me.

  10. I fucking hate the collectivist mindset. “sickness on OUR soul.” We don’t share a communal soul. This idiot is denying the basic fact that individuals are individuals so he can claim damages from someone else who owns a gun for tainting his/our “soul.’

  11. I like to go on Omegle with my AKs in plain sight. Sometimes after a range trip, I’ll lay out my guns and clean them in front of the camera. I get plenty of questions, and try my best to share as much information as I can. It may not make a huge difference, but if I can convert just a few people, I think it was a good day.

    I noticed people from different countries react differently as well. With Americans, it’s fairly positive.

    From the UK, some are shocked, some think it’s the coolest thing. I’ve had a few of their vets show guns of their own as well. Learned quite a bit about their laws from talking to them.

    Folks from the mid-east don’t seem bothered at all.

    And then you have the Indian guys. 75% of the time they are just jerking it. It’s a small price to pay to spread knowledge across the world.

  12. The best FNS-40 Contest entry so far, and there have been some great ones. This one is definitely the best!

    This is so good that I saved it on my computer. I will reread it several times. (I kept “By Siege” at the top, and his short bio at the bottom. So if I ever re-use it publicly, he will get the credit for writing it.)

    Robert Farago, you should try to recruit this guy to write more articles for TTAG.

  13. This is exactly why I wrote my book, “Knowing Guns.” I got tired of repeating all of the above at each and every encounter with anti-gun friends, family and acquaintances. Now I just hand them a book and say, “Here’s the answer to your question.” (Of course, I get a pretty good discount as the author — LOL!) For some reason, though, I’ve been unable to get anyone from TTAG to write me a review. 🙁

  14. Nice article! There are a few comments I would offer…

    First, be careful of the use of statistics. You need to know their context, statistical significance, accuracy, limitations and applicability. Bad stats are a sure way to get your *entire* argument tossed out the window, regardless the relevance of the rest of your case. Also, use statistics with emotional appeal. Even good stats often do not help if they are perceived as distractions or noise.

    Actually, while your debate should be based on facts, don’t be afraid of using the emotional appeal. Man is both rational and emotional. The strongest arguments satisfy both aspects.

    What the author says about controlling the language is very important. Words mean things and the person who controls what the words mean controls the debate.

    His comment about asking questions is worth noting. For those who do not recognize it, he’s presenting the Socratic method and the elenchus part of the method is a powerful apologetic tool. Keep the questions thoughtful, civil and realistic. Let him reach his own logical absurdity and reset to an alternative proposition then repeat until only the truth is left.

    Finally, assume that you will not be able to change the mind of the progressive you are debating. You won’t. Progressivism is a religious faith more than anything else. And one that requires blind faith, at that! The people you are going to reach are going to be the people watching or reading your interaction. Even if you change a progressive’s position, it won’t be the one your debating, it will be someone watching/listening and seeing the absurdity.

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