By: Tim U.
If one were to listen to the gun-grabbing politicians, one would think that all gun owners are far-right wing extremists bent on opposing everything and everyone opposed to the mainstream Republican agenda. Obviously, as the armed community knows, this is not the case. But, could someone from outside the firearm community tell this? Probably not. In the past, when elections were close and there was less polarization and division, the issue didn’t matter. In today’s political climate . . .
…with the all-time highs of polarization of right versus left, Democrat versus Republican, combined with years of racial voting “blocs”, we begin to see a demographic shift. While more people are becoming gun owners, we also have more people shifting to the center or even to the left of most political issues.
These people are all too willing to let gun owners be regulated out of existence if their elected officials are providing the answers they want for other issues our nation is facing. Regardless of if you are more right or left leaning, if the Second Amendment is to survive the next generation, we need to focus on making the Second Amendment and firearms ownership a universal issue, not a right wing issue.
1. Reduce Name Calling
How often have terms such as “libtard” turned up in firearm forums or in the comments of a blogger? It’s pretty common, and because the majority of the the active firearm community disagrees with the stereotypical “gun-grabbing Democrats,” nobody notices or cares to respond to it. Today, I will.
Ask yourself, will this comment polarize people? Will we push away potential supporters by making this statement? If the answer is yes, don’t do it. Our freedoms could be at stake, and we do not want to let the Second Amendment disappear because we couldn’t get along with people about immigration or gay marriage.
Not only should you personally avoid name calling that can cut off prospective Second Amendment supporters, but you should stand up for them in the firearm community if you find someone else making inappropriate comments. Show people that our community is not one that is made up of solely right wing bigots the way those who oppose our rights try to portray us as. That we are from a wide range of backgrounds, and will accept anyone who stands with us on the Second Amendment.
I may not always agree with you, but as long as you support the Second Amendment we can meet on that which we have in common. I will fully support your right to argue differently than me in politics, regardless of your political party affiliation.
2. Invite Diverse People to the Range
We all have friends, family, coworkers, or acquaintances that are not already in the shooting sports or interested in firearms. Many may even oppose firearm rights or know absolutely nothing about firearms. Focus on inviting people to the range, to show them what it really is all about.
If you take the time to talk to these people you know about firearms, you will discover that odds are they are only fearful or against them because of the fear of the unknown. By gradually removing the mystery in conversation, they can begin to change and even be willing to take you up on that range invite.
And when you do get them to the range invite, only focus on safety and fun. Don’t correct them when they say “clip” or use other jargon that is not technically correct. As long as they have a safe, fun time, you have created the potential for a new shooter to be born, or at least someone not hostile to our rights. Someone who understands that firearm ownership is not a right versus left issue.
3. Be Patient
When my wife and I first started dating, it came out that she was afraid of firearms. She was noticeably uncomfortable if she knew I was carrying on a date. I started slowly by covering the basics: that it’s just a last resort for self-defense. She began to understand, even if she didn’t agree or fully understand my viewpoint.
Over time, she was gradually exposed to firearms in conversation. Then, a big day came when she got to see my M1 Garand. I had purposefully picked this rifle to be her introduction to firearms because of her interest in history, especially World War II and Nazi Europe. She began to understand that firearms can carry on a unique history to enthusiasts, and that they really are just simple machines. By explaining how that Garand operated, I took away the “mystery” I referred to earlier.
Time passed, and eventually she worked up the desire to try shooting. I started her on a SIG Mosquito. To this day, she calls it “her” Mosquito. She has expressed an interest in obtaining her permit to carry, and in finding a suitable carry gun. She buys me ammunition if she finds it before I do. And she absolutely respects and supports the Second Amendment.
My point in this story is that, like many things, it takes time. You won’t convert an anti-gunner or even someone who is indifferent overnight. Don’t rush them or force them into it. Make it a positive learning experience.
The Second Amendment is not an issue that must be exclusive to Republicans or Libertarians. It should be a freedom that members of all parties, with all types of views, should be able to agree upon. When we inject our political views into discussion about it, we run the risk of alienating other would-be supporters. The firearms community as a whole needs to stop this and begin to realize the fact that the Second Amendment has the potential to be upheld by all parties…as long as the people voting for them support it, too. Begin winning hearts and minds, and begin welcoming Democrats, gays, minorities, and everyone else to the gun community. We need them, now more than ever.