When premium pistol purveyor Coonan announced that they’d allied themselves with Evolve, another group that had sprung up in the aftermath of Newtown, we used our considerable Google skillz to try to find out what the then-new-to-us operation was all about. And what we turned up didn’t look good. Based on their Facebook page and website, Evolve appeared to be your standard anti-gun rights operation thinly masking a disarmament agenda behind a poorly articulated message of preventing gun violence. Since then, however, we’ve spent a fair amount of time talking with Rebecca Bond, Evolve’s co-founder, about her reasons for starting the operation and what she hopes to accomplish with it . . .
She’s made a pretty strong case that their original roll-out (handled by people no longer associated with Evolve) wasn’t really all they’d hoped. That they’d jumped into a the middle of a hot gun rights debate a little prematurely, before they’d done all of their homework. That her only goal for Evolve is to make safe, responsible gun ownership a topic of conversation among people who own guns as well as those who don’t. And that Evolve has no agenda for or interest in legislative restrictions on anyone’s gun rights.
So now they’ve hit the re-set button. Bond and her husband Jon have just re-launched Evolve with a new website including what they think is a much clearer, more representative message. And, inspired by the four rules of firearms handling safety, they’ve created what they call The Code, a gun owner’s safety manifesto, as it were.
And as a part of their re-launch, Rebecca has written the following for TTAG’s readership:
Evolve was founded after the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Most people were heartbroken and outraged that such a senseless tragedy could happen here in our own country. Who could have predicted what a galvanizing and polarizing event this would become in the debate surrounding gun rights and gun ownership in America?
Evolve exists to create neutral ground, where a new dialog can take place. Our goal is to reduce gun violence by promoting gun safety and responsibility as a personal choice. This is no small task given the great divide between both sides of the debate. To achieve any real movement towards this middle, both sides need to spend some time walking in each other’s shoes. We’ve found that whether you are a gun owner or not, concerns about gun safety touch us all.
Any time someone makes a poor decision regarding a potentially lethal situation, be that driving a car, drinking, or using firearms, innocent people often pay the price. Gun owners have choices. They have the power to make decisions about how guns are stored, how they are used, who they would sell a gun to, and granting accessibility to guns by those unqualified, or mentally unstable. These individual powers are not dictated by rights, but instead make it incumbent on the individual to make responsible choices. People without the guns don’t have the luxury of making these choices, so they are left to live with trusting a community to make the best choices.
Unfortunately, the term “Gun Safety” has been politicized. The dialog has become so stigmatized that most attempts to create anything new around the idea of gun safety are met with resistance and skepticism, under the assumption that it is a cover for gun control legislation. To make progress towards an America truly safer from gun accidents and violence – letting all people who care about this area specifically have a role in working together — it is critical that the term “Gun Safety” move back to an apolitical position, where it means a reduction in needless tragedy.
Since we began deliberately seeking out gun owners and gun industry professionals for their input, we have not encountered a single individual who is opposed to the concept of promoting more gun safety in the truest sense of the word: to reduce everyday accidents and violence related to choices people make with their guns. How actual behaviors are adopted is where it gets complicated, but we have to be willing to have some of these conversations in order to bridge this divide.
Tragedies such as Newtown can serve as powerful motivators to revisit very polarizing and painful issues. Evolve is not a political or “hidden agenda” initiative. Its purpose is to create a mass communication campaign for responsible gun behavior the way ‘friends don’t let friends drive drunk’ impacted auto fatalities. We believe it begins with conversations in your home, at your kitchen table, and in your community. We believe that the firearms industry could do more to be ambassadors for gun safety, such as advocating among their various segments of owners to consistently make the best personal choices, much like the alcohol industry has done during the past two decades. We support individual rights, and what we are talking about here are individual choices made voluntarily, not prescribed via legislation. Even the staunchest adversaries should be able to agree on making more people safe, and having fewer people get killed.
We know this is not going to be easy. We have spent many months talking to all ‘sides’, learning as much as we can and walking in other people’s shoes whenever possible. In order to be as neutral as we can be, all of our efforts related to Evolve’s work have been through in-kind creative services or self-funded. We talk to organizations and companies on all sides, but we have no affiliations. We know that many of you may be a bit skeptical, if not downright cynical that a real conversation could ever happen. We hope you will have an open mind, if not now, then eventually. For those of you who are interested in considering new ideas around gun safety and violence reduction, we hope to be as open, respectful and honest as possible, and would love to hear from you.