This one actually came in as an “Ask Foghorn,” but I think this is a question better posed to the AI as a whole. Chris writes:

I’ve gained an interest in firearms over the past few years after classifying myself as, I suppose, pro-gun control for most of my life (late 20s currently, so it ain’t that long an era, but oh well). Particularly in the last six months, I’ve been researching them a great deal online, particularly your website and Hickok45’s and Mrcolionnoir’s Youtube channels…

Starting last week, I’ve started putting research into practice by going to the local gun range, renting and trying out some guns, and signing up for a CCW class. All this is particularly notable for me considering I grew up in Northern California in a town where firearms are viewed as only slightly better than the spawn of Satan…an agnostic, non-specific, non-discriminatory Satan, open to revulsion and condemnation by any and all religions, creeds, or lack thereof. The description “damned, dirty, rotten, hippy, liberal” has also been thrown my way a couple times, usually by me. I guess when deadly trouble strikes, I just can’t get the government into my life fast enough, what with those silly cops being minutes away! …After living in the rural South for 10 years and (soon-to-be) marrying into a rural Southern family, you get a sense of humor about such things. Truth be told, I’ve also begun learning that “liberal” and “conservative” are shorthands that cover a LOT of territory, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your website. I’ve found TTAG to have a wealth of useful information for someone just getting into firearms. I also appreciate the fact that you are willing to get a wide range of perspectives, from Mr. Kraft’s rather persuasive essays on why gun control does not work to MikeB’s rather…not so persuasive (anymore) posts on why gun control is an absolute necessity. If nothing else, I appreciate the gestures towards my former opinion, although Leghorn mentioning his political leanings in a couple posts and his book (that I devoured) did get my attention. I have learned a ridiculous amount about so many aspects of firearms and their ownership from your website, and I cannot thank you enough. TTAG is on my list of sites I check multiple times a day, and I hope an increasing readership and the recent server shuffling allow TTAG to be publishing for quite a while.

One question (among many) that has been bugging me as a vaguely liberal soon-to-be-gun-owner is balancing not wanting to advertise owning firearms for reasons of security (not being a target for thieves), not violating the CCW laws in my state (carrying openly is still treated with suspicion in the state I live in), and dip shit DAs (should the worst occur) with normalizing gun ownership and showing that firearms themselves do not need to be feared, especially among my fellow libtards? I realize this may be an incredibly broad question that can probably only be answered with time, but even if you just point to some articles I’ve missed, I’d appreciate it.

TL;DR: How do we, as gun owners, make guns “normal?”

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46 Responses to Question of the Day: How Do We “Normalize” Guns?

  1. I open carry whenever I can, and retain my decency as a human being while doing so. People see that I’m not a scary person (which is helped by cultivating a clean, friendly appearance), that I’m kind and decent, and I never draw attention to the pistol on my hip. The people I know whom were somewhat bothered by the sight when I first started carrying now no longer pay it any mind. By my reckoning, I figure that means they don’t think I’m a bad person, and thus, mission accomplished, to a certain degree.

    • Yup. The ONLY effective method of normalizing firearms is to have them in the public eye on the hips of otherwise entirely normal, upstanding citizens, rather than hidden away as some sort of taboo.

      If your goal is to protect yourself and not advertise the fact that you have a firearm, CC is the way to go. If you want to change hearts and minds, OC is the only practical way to do it.

      Ironically enough, a lesson can be learned from the recent spate of firearms-based reality TV. The issue the greybeards tend to have with such shows is usually along the same vein of looking down on OC as “attention whoring” and such– those people are happy to live in their own world and, at least in action, don’t much care about changing anyone’s mind about firearms.

      Those of us who excuse certain elements of that stuff are those who actively want to change hearts and minds until Joe Citizen can walk down main street with a rifle slung, without SWAT and helicopters showing up.

      • Open carry is not legal in California! That is something for our Nothern CA author may deal with later, but let’s help him stay out of trouble.

        Depending upon the situation, I would tell your friends about stories recen news stories where fast and legal access to a firearm created a positive outcome. Legal concealed carry is a good thing.

        Welcome to the TTAG fold, Chris.

  2. I think it is going to be a combination of timing, need, legislation and positive advertisement. For certain parts of the country many people don’t see a need to own firearms, for any reason. They feel safe, because of the technology they have, the community they live in. They don’t hunt, nor do they see a reason to do so. So firearms remain this unnecessary item that doesn’t fit into their world and no amount of positive advertising or campaigning will convince them otherwise. I think that the best way to normalize firearms is to increase the recreational aspect of shooting. I enjoy shooting my target .22lr for the same reason i enjoy archery; precision shooting. I dont bow hunt, but I low to take my bow out and impale my foam deer. If you can convince those people that the sport is a neccesatity then you can broach other areas.

    • Exactly right Don. I’m a firearms enthusiast and a fairly normal guy who enjoys his hobby and discusses it regularly with my numerous fellow normal folk enthusiasts. I don’t preach, but I do find it encouraging how many non-enthusiasts want to talk.

      If firearms were not becoming normalized, our opponents would not be working so hard.

    • I agree Don….I think America for the most part is a gun culture, which is reflected in many other ways than just carrying one, whether it be OC or CC. I think of my own upbringing…watching TV shows like The Rifleman, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, and Combat!, playing with cap guns, learning to shoot a BB gun when I was probably seven years old, seeing my fathers guns in the household, my dad giving me my first firearms for home defense when I got married and moved out, having family members that hunted….the fact of the matter is some people just don’t like them, and as much as I love them I can respect that. Guns are part of America, if some people choose not to partake, it’s cool….

  3. Seems to me this question has been asked by every stereotyped and oppressed minority group at one time or another e.g. Blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Asians, Gays, etc.

    So why re-invent the wheel? What have those groups done well? Not so well?

    Hiding has never worked well and only fosters more suspicion and alienation. Whining has very narrow appeal. Education campaigns work on people inclined to reason and logic. Other people need an emotional personal touch, i.e. actually knowing one or more good ambassadors.

    So be a good ambassador and win over one “heart and mind” at a time, person by person. The effect will be exponential.

    • This. This is why I make a point of doing my best to get every friend I have that doesn’t own a gun to go shooting with me. Even if they don’t decide to buy a gun, they’re still much more pro-gun than they were before.

  4. I agree with Daniel, completely. Open carry, so long as you feel comfortable and secure doing so. Since I live in California, where it is illegal to open carry a handgun, and soon to be illegal to open carry even unloaded long guns, I can only open carry at home. Home OC is not a bad place to start to get yourself accustomed before you do it in public. Good luck!

  5. I conceal carry and don’t brag openly about guns. But when guns come up in conversation I say that I own several. That I shoot guns. I act like it is the most normal thing in the world. Nothing to get excited about. I don’t act macho, I don’t talk about tacticool or sound like a mall ninja. The tone of “I own an pistol” is the same as “I drive a Chevy”. If the person I’m talking to doesn’t care, we segue to the next subject and they are left still thinking of me as the same person I was before, except that I own a gun. If the person is interested in hearing more, I keep it academic. More “minute of angle” talk, less “permanent wound channel”, unless that’s where the convo went.

    • Agree…it’s like religion. You don’t force it, but if it comes up I’ll happily explain it. I too carry and most people I know realize that. I also really enjoy tinkering with my firearms and approach the conversation from that perspective first. Some guys like to work on cars, I like to work on guns. It’s my passion and people get that sense when it’s brought up. But, I don’t brag or wave my NRA flag with compulsion. It’s part of me and that’s normal.

  6. Best way to ‘normalize’ guns is for you, as a gun-owner, to be normal yourself.

    Be responsible. Be reasonable. Be confident & self-assured.

    If you appear nervous, dangerous, unstable, angry, intoxicated, etc. when handing firearms, you’ll only reinforce people’s negative pre-conceived ideas about gun owners.

  7. take ’em trap shooting. i’ve converted all my golf buddies and they no longer play golf. 2/3rds of them didn’t really shoot before or own firearms.

    Anyway, its about attraction, not promotion. if you’re born-again crazy pro gun guy who wears camo and karate kid bandanas, then you’re doing the gun community a dis-service. All you can really do is be a normal responsible member of society, they’ll see that, and possible come around someday.

  8. I think Chris has missed an important point: in most of the U.S., guns ARE normal.

    I learned this when I moved from Massachusetts to Texas. I met a friend of a friend who seemed to have a lot in common with me, so I asked if he was also into guns. He said, “I don’t shoot much myself anymore, but I have a few guns–you have to have them for the kids”

    A line you would never hear in Massachusetts!

  9. Be a good example to those in your life. I live in the bluest-of-the-blue, Rhode Island. Grew up in Boston. Trust me, there is NO shortage of anti-gun attitudes in my life, among both family and friends.
    I do my best, with all of them, to be honest with them about my gun ownership, and when discussing, remain
    respectful, affable, and willing to hear
    them out. In some cases, it hasn’t changed
    a thing, and we agree to disagree. In
    some others, it is working.
    Familiarity is key. When people have someone in their lives that they think of as a good, trustworthy person, combined with affection for that person, they can’t help butbe more willing to consider their side of an argument.
    Remove the opportunity to keep gun owners part of a nameless, faceless collective, and instead change the definition of gun owner to you. That noce, rational guy they like (or better yet, love).

    • +1. The two most useful tools I have for converting those “on the fence” are a 10/22 and an H&R single-shot 20 ga.

  10. be normal, take people shooting.

    I got into guns as an adult and remember how intimidating it was to go to the range or even handle a pistol for the first time. I spent way too much of my time these days in an academic setting in the middle of a city with a bunch of people who have no experience with guns and default to the liberal position on everything. Once I have a working realtionship with someone, they know I live across the river in the country and am a little bit different, but they still basically consider me normal, I start dropping hints about going shooting sometime. Have gotten a few people to bite and they’ve all left with a giant smile on their face and a whole new understanding.

  11. I probably have a warped sense of ‘normal’ because my Dad is a gunsmith, and I don’t remember a time in my childhood when the house didn’t smell like Hoppe’s #9. I personally own over 50 guns and shoot them often, but I am also blessed to live on a ranch a few miles out of town with a natural embankment for a shooting range. When Dad owned the place, he put in a timber backstop, concrete shooting bench with bolts cast in to lock down a Ransom Rest, and a permanently mounted clay target thrower. Life is pretty sweet.

    I was also privileged to grow up in a community where doors never needed locking and ‘normal’ was a gun rack in the back window of your pickup with a shotgun and a plinker with the windows left down and the doors unlocked in the parking lot at the high school. I didn’t have a pickup of my own in high school, so I had to ride in the front seat of the bus with my shotgun and leave it behind the principle’s office door if I wanted to walk home along the tracks and shoot pheasant and quail on my way home from school.

    That was the mid-70’s. Today in that same school district, ‘normal’ is a kid getting referred for a mental health evaluation if he draws a picture of a gun on his notebook at school. Gun racks are no longer proudly displayed in the back window of pickups, but bolted discretely behind the seat, and the guns, windows and doors secured.

    I think that the media histrionics about violent gun crime are the biggest culprit here. Fists kill FAR more people than guns in this country, but unless the perp is a serial killer, we will never hear about that on the news. We also never hear about the number of crimes prevented every day by the legal use of a fire arm, and the numbers of lives saved. Taken together, I don’t see how you can avoid laying the blame for the new ‘normal’ public opinions about guns and gun crime at the feet of the media. They clearly have an agenda, and it is clearly anti second amendment. Until someone high profile enough that the media cannot ignore them (like say a President or VP who is an avid hunter and shooter? Hint, hint.) takes the truth directly to the public despite the media, we will continue to have this status-quo.

    • It’s a different world, isn’t it? I remember the principal of my school coming to work with his rifle in hand, so that straight after work he (and everyone else) could role right out for some hunting. And back then, deer season was a perfectly legitimate reason to not be in school that week.
      How did we ever get “here”?

      • damned if i know. it’s like i woke up one morning in a foreign country. i keep hoping i’ll wake up and be back in america.

  12. just reverse engineer the process you went through. introduce the non gun people in your life to guns and the fun and fellowship you develope through the guns. i don’t try to convert the masses, just the individuals. i could not tell you the numbers of non gun people that i’ve introduced to the gun. i will and have gladly provided guns. ammo and range fees to newbies to get them interested. my reward has been seeing the vast majority of these newbies step into the sport and become gun owners.

  13. The question was how to appeal to people on the left of the political spectrum. I hold some views in common with them, and I know a great many leftists in academia and elsewhere. Two things won me over to gun rights: design and rights in general.

    Design:

    Guns are fascinating mechanical devices. They work. They don’t argue with me. They are ingenious in their simplicity and impressive in their capacity. (Note that in every way, they aren’t computers.) They’re also a lot of fun. I got my start with a black powder cap-and-ball revolver. I know, the advice is to begin with a .22. If you’re talking to a history buff, though, showing that person what people way back then used may do the trick. I take anyone who wants to go with me to the range and give the person a basic introduction and then some trigger time.

    Rights in general:

    Lawrence Tribe and others on the left of constitutional law scholarship observe that if we can take away one right ennumerated in the Constitution, what’s to keep us from taking away all the others? I loved the First Amendment long before I got to know the Second, and that argument hit home. You mentioned Mikeb. His side wants us to believe that rights come from consensus. We all agree on rights, and we can change the rules as time goes by. Use that point. If the Second Amendment is taken away, what’s to keep the same people who created the PATRIOIT Act from deciding that we don’t need freedom of religion any more? What’s to keep people from saying that there’s too much misinformation on the Internet, so free speech and press have to go?

    • > if we can take away one right ennumerated in the Constitution,
      > what’s to keep us from taking away all the others?

      Which explains all the alarm and outrage from the Right over recent nails-being-pounded-into-the-coffin of the Seventh Amendment.

      * sounds of crickets chirping *

      Oh that’s right, some entities find the 7th to be an inconvenience…

    • > if we can take away one right ennumerated in the Constitution,
      > what’s to keep us from taking away all the others?

      Don’t forget our un-enumerated rights.

  14. People have already covered lots of well-worn and sage ground.

    I think, though, that the most powerful thing you can do to either convert or at least get a read on a person’s intentions is to explain plainly WHY the 2A exists. It’s not for hunting, it’s not for sport shooting. It’s to keep the people empowered against threats, including oppressive government, and to ensure that people can maintain responsibility for their own well-being. This might touch a long-buried nerve with a gun-grabber and make him re-think. Or it might make him redouble his stance that us peasants aren’t meant to stand at the same height as our overlords. The former is someone we can work with. The latter is an enemy.

    Also, since the left moans with pleasure every time an opportunity to race-bait comes along, you might also bring up the racist roots of gun control, and its continued legacy of racism today. Sit back and watch heads explode.

    In practicality, taking someone shooting is good and at the very least may prove that guns aren’t these evil, dangerous objects set to go on self-induced murder sprees. And if you bring them to a busy, friendly range, they’ll feel like the outcast, being the hand-wringing doubter amongst all these normal people enjoying guns. Nothing like a shift of perspective to get the mind thinking.

  15. Well I could probably guess what city he lived in. Been there done that..
    Best advise it to take the mystery and fear away. Take em shooting!
    Been said before and I can reiterate it.
    Some just won’t like and will never do it again. Some will be life long converts. Even for those who don’t like it, it might just at minimum give them the view that guns are fine, not scary evil things, but just not for me. Nothing wrong with that, but they won’t be scared anymore.

  16. The best way to “normalize” guns is to get them into the hands of women.

    The hate campaign against guns started with politicians, but it’s now a creation of the media. The MSM loves to belittle gun owners as stupid, paranoid redneck males spoiling for a fight. Once soccer moms start carrying in great numbers, the media will turn around or lose their advertisers’ best customers.

    • “The best way to “normalize” guns is to get them into the hands of women.”
      That is probably the best way to win the battle and they actually need them most.

  17. To agree, the best way to normalize guns is for regular folk to carry in public, and openly if at all possible (your willingness and local laws permitting).

  18. I had to get to the end of the first paragraph before I realized that that was my own question. 😀 Sweet Moses, I ramble and go through tangents…

    Thanks for the responses everyone. I really appreciate it and will keep what you’ve said in mind.

  19. I spent 16 years living in a town that happened to be the location of both a state and a federal prison. All the off duty guards (a large proportion of the residents) carried daily and it never bothered me in the least. Having grown up hunting, having guns around was not terribly unusual. Not being used to seeing them every day in the grocery store, I initially did at least make note of them, but after a couple of months it was about as remarkable as seeing someone’s keys hanging from their belt.

    Carrying needs to become that “normal” everywhere. I don’t see any way other than constant exposure to desensitize the public.

  20. Some excellent advice in the comments here, y’all are a credit to the community. If I can highlight a couple things several posters have said, it would be these: Be an exemplary person. I get a lot of “but you don’t seem like the king of guy who carries a gun!”. Don’t be strident, don’t be confrontational, and most of all, don’t be a mall ninja. But too, always be friendly and willing to discuss weapons rationally. Ask questions when people evince a dislike of firearms rather than immediate offense. “Why do you think you are frightened of firearms” will get you a lot farther than “Wuss”. Take time to teach those who are interested around you. I’ve made a personal cottage industry of teaching young ladies to shoot (it’s a win/win). A lot of them were completely against guns, but a bit curious, which I then parlayed into a range session, which pretty much always lead to a change of heart regarding the guns. In small talk, when people talk about their golf game, or their softball league, I talk about my pistol team and summer trap shooting. If you treat shooting and carrying guns as a perfectly normal part of your everyday life, that will transfer to others’ opinion of you, and of guns.

    • yes,tarrou, my daughter in law was against guns when she and my son first got together. the suicide of an uncle when she was young turned her from guns. she is now accepting of my son and myselves use of guns. she has learned to use a pistol and a shotgun but more importantly she hasn’t forbade us to teach my grandson to shoot. be patient with people that fear or don’t like guns. the payoffs are good when they come.

  21. Knives! They are the “gateway drug” for guns. Once upon a time every boy carried a knife in his pocket. Now, every time I pull out the scissors on my swiss army knife, people look at me like I’m crazy. I’ve been stopped by police for having a Spyderco Delica clipped to my pocket. When the most useful tool in the universe, the grandpappy of all tools (the sharpened edge), is thought of only as a weapon and not a tool, we’ve lost. If we can make carrying a knife normal. We will be able to make the carrying of guns normal too.

  22. First, never accept the premise that guns aren’t normal. They are, and have been normal since white men got of the boat at Plymouth. The anti-gun crowd is not only denying the need for guns today, they’re denying that guns are what made this free country possible. The 2nd amendment is about the people being ready and armed to serve in the defense of the country, if needed. This concept is lost on liberals who still labor under the assumption that an enlightened society no longer has a need for armed citizens. In the entirety of man’s existence, this has never been true.
    Let’s change the premise of the conversation. The next time an anti-gun, non-gun owning lib asks you why you have a gun, answer him back with, why don’t you have one? Better yet, call them a lousy, liberal free-rider, and a lazy no-good shirker who won’t stand if called to defend this country in armed conflict. Hey, maybe that’s it right there? Do they hate guns because those who own guns show them up for the shallow, selfish, cowards that they are, and the only way to distract the public from seeing their appalling lack of character, is to demonize and marginalized people who would stand and offer the last true measure of devotion for something bigger than themselves, their country? We own guns to defend ourselves and our country if necessary, where as, liberals want to disarm us just so they can defend their failed ideology. Hmm?

  23. For me, I didn’t start to OC to normalize guns, I OCd because I didn’t need to get a license to do so: a license turns a right into a privilege; but the end result of open carrying is that people get used the sight of a gun by a law abiding citizen; I’ve had very good respone from people I’ve come into contact with over the three years that I’ve open carried.

  24. Even in states where open carry is legal police will still charge you with enciting panic. Why? The first thing to do is take this power away from the police by electing a prosecuter who will not allow it. Then replace all elected officials that have a problem with it. Your right to carry with a permit weather concealed or open should be honored the same in all states just like your drivers license. Remember the police are not your friend if you want to have a firearm.

  25. Some really good arguements here.

    My two cents: go hollywood, small budget.

    The power of television to shape hearts and minds is unparalelled. Well crafted TV shows, featuring slick characters that we like, is more effective at pushing a message than 1,000 NRA pamphlets.

    On the gay rights issue, Will and Grace and Ellen! have done more to advance same sex marriage than anything, and is an extremely short period. That’s the power of popular entertainment. The liberals get it, but a lot of conservatives don’t.

    So here’s where I’m going with this. I’ve recently started getting involved in learing how to shoot microbudget films (small time stuff), short films of about 10 minutes in length. Nothing difficult, can be done in a single afternoon if your team is well prepped.

    I’m writing several scripts of “shorts” that put a positive aspect to gun ownership. IE: A fictional scenario based on real Defensive Gun Uses, such as an Concealed Carrier stopping a mass killing or armed robbery turning violent.

    As soon as they’re shot, I’m planning to distribute these shorts across youtube to various interest groups (both gun related and non-gun related).

    In a nutshell: People learn their culture through their art. If you can learn to create a small piece of cultural art (music, short story, script, movie, etc) that features a likable character and a well crafted story, with a SUBTLE message that is pro-gun ownership, you’ll start reaching hearts and minds VERY quickly. It’ll take more effort than talking to a group of friends at work, but it’ll also reach a MUCH wider audience in a shorter period of time.

    My advice sir: Go to lynda.com, learn how to write a script, and write something that shows the positives of gun ownership and / or the negatives of gun ownership.

    Okay, DW out. 😉 Good luck to you sir.

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