By James M.
One of the biggest issues facing gun owners today is building support amongst those neutral on (or at least not ardently clamoring for more) gun control. They are the ones we need in order to swing elections and put pressure on politicians. Those who truly believe in civilian disarmament, regardless of why they do, cannot and will not be swayed. We can talk endlessly about our rights, we can pull up as many statistics as we want about DGUs, we can offer alternatives to address crime, and none of it means a damn thing when it comes to the Feinsteins and Bradys of the world. We need to accept that and focus on the middle. What’s the best way to do that? . . .
GET THEM TO THE RANGE.
Discussions about rights and statistics are important but they’re also dry and forgettable. The experience of actually shooting for the first time? We all know damn well that isn’t. It’s a lesson that’ll stick, and it’ll help kill the myth of gun owners all being angry old men itching for a second revolution when they get to the range and see that it’s just people who want to have a good time, be capable of protecting their families, or both.
When you take someone new to the range for the first time, keep in mind that you have two goals:
- Demonstrate that gun-owners are just like everyone else – we’re not all crazy militia preppers or high-strung nutjobs. We’re a community that comes from all walks of life, and that message needs to get out there.
- Demonstrate that guns aren’t scary. An AR-15 is just an object, it is not the demon sword Drach’nyen that hungers for the blood of the innocent and turns the wielder into a monster. The “high-powered assault weapon too dangerous for civilian use” rhetoric becomes a lot less effective once someone has actually held and fired one.
That’s it. You are not trying to get them to join the NRA or write letters to their Congresscritters or hand out pamphlets. You are just showing them that, contrary to what Bloomberg says, most gun owners are safe, responsible adults enjoying a hobby.
I’ve already done this once: I converted my wife from completely unconcerned with guns to active supporter with a single trip to the range. When we first met she had never held a gun before and didn’t care strongly one way or the other about the right to bear arms – she was a bit nervous around them but content to just let firearms be my thing. I started her off slowly with just how to handle one safely.
When my friends and I were cleaning our guns after a shooting trip we showed her all the pieces and how they worked. After some gentle prodding I finally got her to agree to go with me to our local range. I brought my .22lr rifle, a 9mm pistol, and a .380 pistol. I refreshed her on the 4 rules of safety, showed her how to load the .22, and let her go. Next thing you know we’ve blown through all the ammo I brought and she’s eagerly asking when we can go again.
It wasn’t facts and figures that sold her on firearms.
It wasn’t a philosophical discussion of rights and freedom.
It was putting a gun into her hands and letting her experience it for herself. That’s how you convert people – experience.
I’d like to encourage everyone reading this to do the same. Find someone in your life – family member, friend, co-worker, whatever – who has never shot before but seems open to the idea and take them to the range. Just remember:
- Safety first. I really shouldn’t need to say this but please do go over the rules of firearm safety before letting a new shooter handle a weapon. Nothing is going to ruin the day faster (and hurt the cause more) than a negligent discharge.
- Take no for an answer. If they don’t want to go, don’t press them on it. You don’t win friends and allies by being a pushy asshole.
- Start them off easy. That means .22lr, or maybe .223/5.56 (if you’re giving them a rifle) or 9×19(if you’re giving them a pistol). You’re not being funny by handing someone a .50 BMG for their first time, you’re being a dick.
- Leave the politics at home. No lecturing, no preaching, none of that – and I don’t just mean about guns. I don’t care if Obama’s a secret Kenyan Muslim socialist lizard-person. I don’t care if the Republicans are going to disenfranchise women and put minorities back in chains. None of that is important – your only goal is to show your guest a good time at the range by being a positive example of the community.
The surest way we can protect our rights is to increase the number of people who care about them. When it comes to gun rights, the surest way we can do that is to get more people shooting.