By Eric J.
As a firearms advocate, one of the most difficult challenges I face isn’t taking an anti-gun person on in a full-on debate, but rather dealing with the gun-shy folks in my day-to day-life. On the one hand I want to convert the doubters, but on the other, I can’t always be successful, and is it worth endangering a friendship? Recently a good friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend. I’ve come to be a friend to both and the break-up was (thank goodness) actually fairly amicable (well, as far as break-ups can be). I found myself with her at a coffee shop and she began pouring her heart out about the break-up . . .
She mentioned that a source of tension in the relationship was her ex-boyfriend’s recent discovery of and enjoyment of firearms. She asked me, how could anyone like such evil devices? I paused, then told her that I enjoy firearms and advocate gun rights. (I didn’t bother telling her that I’m the one who introduced her ex to firearms in the first place!). She was taken aback. She couldn’t reconcile her perception of me as a good friend and rational person with her anti-gun stance– surely I couldn’t be both an intelligent, morally upright person and like guns!
Sensing that it was an all-or-nothing moment, I quietly asked her if she would like to go shooting with me, to find out what it is like. She initially objected, but I persuaded her on the grounds that she, as an enlightened and rational person, could not fairly judge firearms if she wasn’t open-minded enough to try shooting and listen to guns-rights arguments with an open mind. She acquiesced, likely more out of emotional fatigue than anything, and the following Saturday saw us in my pickup headed into the sage steppe for some shooting.
On the way we reviewed safety rules and when we arrived I quizzed her on them before ever opening the gun case. She passed with flying colors, and seemed happy that I wasn’t about to crack open some booze and wildly fire in all directions (or something such stereotype like that).
The first gun to come out was my Remington 510 (bolt action, single shot, .22 s, .22 l, .22 lr). I figured the gentlest possible start would be the best. I showed her the manual of arms, loaded a round, and fired. I handed the discharged gun to her and let her acquaint herself with the sights. I then took it, loaded it, and handed it back. She gingerly disabled the safety, then took up a peculiar stance, leaning back as if she were afraid of the gun and reluctant to even touch it. I thought about correcting her, but decided to let her touch a round off and discover on her own that it didn’t bite.
The moment of truth came and she squeezed the trigger, sending a mellow Remington subsonic hollow point downrange. After firing, she stared downrange for a couple seconds. I had held my breath from the time she mounted the 510 to her shoulder. What would she think? Was this whole endeavor about to backfire? When she finally turned it as apparent she was trying to suppress a smile. I let my breath out and thanked Providence that her first shot was as pleasurable as mine had been. I simply said “Another?” and held a cartridge up between my thumb and forefinger. She finally let her smile break, and responded with “Please!”
After she was doing reasonably well with the 510 I brought out my Ruger SR22P. The SR22 is my all time favorite gun. It is now hers as well. For awhile I did nothing but load magazines for her while she shot. She did far better in her marksmanship for her first attempt at pistol shooting than I did! I nicknamed her Dead-Eye Cate to her feigned annoyance. We eventually had some friendly competitions at hitting a piece of scrap steel pipe that I had brought along. it is cut at a strange angle and rings like a bell. She demonstrated a befuddling combination of inaccuracy at close range and precision at ~30 yes with the pistol. Women. I’ll never understand them!
The finale of the shooting session was my new Savage Axis in .30-06 Springfield. I warned her several times that, unlike the Remington, this rifle would have significant recoil. I fired a couple rounds to let her see that it pushed my shoulder back; she is a thin-as-a-twig distance runner and would certainly be pushed around more by recoiling shoulder-weapons. I finally loaded a single cartridge into rifle and handed it over, helping her set up in a sitting position. She touched off the round (150 gr Core Lokt), immediately turning to me and yelping in delight then rubbing her shoulder a bit. She popped out the magazine and commanded “Load it!” “Do it yourself,” I said, and she greedily snatched up the four cartridges I offered. Four shots later I found myself wondering if she was going to strain a grinning muscle. Apparently this gun-control advocated was a latent recoil junky.
Having demonstrated to her that shooting is a very enjoyable pastime, I decided it was time for politics and philosophy on the drive back to town while she was still in the afterglow of discovering a marvelous new activity. After some awkward discussion, she was the one who cut to bone of the issue and challenged me to explain why Second Amendment advocates are so dedicated to words penned so long ago. How is such a thing still relevant? Is not ‘gun violence’ reason enough to heavily restrict the ownership and use of firearms, enjoyment notwithstanding?
After the usual statistical arguments (Wouldn’t we be better off banning bicycles and fists to save lives? They take more live, after all.) I tried a different tack. During the ‘Arab Spring’ she was very enamored of the romantic thought of people rising up and casting off a tyrant, especially the fall of Gadafi in Libya (the long-term consequences being a separate issue). I gently inquired how the Libyans were able to overthrow the man. I gently steered her into recognizing that they were able to do so because they had armed themselves.
Unarmed demonstrations can be put down. Armed revolutionaries are an entirely different matter. I likened this to the American Revolution. She understood the analogy easily enough, but was unwilling to make the intellectual leap to recognizing that the maintenance of an armed American populace is ultimately a safeguard against tyranny. After all, she inquired, isn’t America past that? Too civilized? I asked her, what makes us all that different from those folks across the Atlantic. Isn’t human nature universal and more or less uniform?
She started to more-or-less say that we are ‘better’ than them, but bit off her words, unwilling to assert racial or cultural superiority, per her other beliefs. Neither of us spoke a word for several minutes. I finally gently inquired that if firearms are the ultimate safeguard against government gone wrong, what’s so bad about their insignificant statistical cost? She didn’t reply, but her brow was furrowed with the struggle of reconciling that argument with her pro-gun control beliefs. When the conversation resumed, it turned to other issues, and I didn’t press further, deciding I may have pushed my luck a bit much for one day.
After parting ways, I began to wonder: would she come around? Would she at least want to go shooting again? Or would she turn back to old ways and hold against me my pro-gun beliefs in the same way as she done to her ex? A full turnaround of her beliefs was simply to much to hope for. I decided I would settle for some small of sign of her relenting.
Three days later, she left me a voicemail:
“Hey, sorry to disturb, I was just wondering if you’d maybe want to take me shooting again. I, uh, tried to find some of that .22 rifle ammunition, but I couldn’t, so I got a box of .30-06 instead at Walmart. Hope that’s okay. Anyway, give me a call either way.”
I wonder what’ll happen when she discovers that guns come in pink and purple.