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I wince whenever people refer to me or any of my acquaintances as a “gun nut.” But then so do a lot of collectors, hunters, dedicated sportspeople and anyone else who owns any firearm, for any purpose. I say “certain people” because many gunowners have accepted the term. In the same way that the N-word (or in my country the ‘K’-word) is regarded in some circles as a badge of honour, perhaps calling oneself a “gun nut” diffuses the malice by firearms aversive observers. As a confirmed gun nut, I’ve found it increasingly perplexing as well as highly infuriating to come to the conclusion that we, the gun nut brethren, are sometimes our own worst enemies. How does that happen?

Maybe the kind of guy who sticks up for his gun rights ends up wired a certain way. It could be a reaction to the initial feeling at some stage that gun owners are getting shafted by, well take your pick: the government, a stuffed shirt civil servant or overzealous cop.

Possibly you’ve been there yourself. A friendly looking stranger makes a casual remark about guns at the water fountain, the hot dog stand or over a social barbecue. You’re presented with a conversational opening. You simply cannot resist this apparent gift: an instant two-way dialogue allowing you to present your view on a subject dear to your heart.

Uh-oh. You’ve fallen into the trap of forgetting that this is a stranger. You have no idea of this person’s background, worldview, mindset or opinion on armed self-preservation. All you’ve established, in milliseconds, is that they ‘looked friendly’ (read innocent). This is where things can can go pear-shaped and postal.

In another lifetime, I worked as a direct sales trainer. One of the main criteria for an even half decent ‘pitch’ (apart from studying body language): never to take an opposing view. Never disagree with anything anyone else says. Never make a single contradictory statement, not during the initial exchange.

Everything you utter should come in the form of a query, either by way of a “wouldn’t-you-say?” or a “how-does-that-figure.” Use the even more subtle tactic of inflection, lifting ones tone or pitch at the end of a sentence, thereby offering a ‘conversational opening’ that many find difficult to resist.

This methodology works because there’s a certain truism about every ‘successful’ (read non-confrontational) conversation that’s been borne out over millennia: the person that asks the questions controls the conversation.

Ask yourself this; during your average daily routine, who are the most ‘enjoyable’ people you meet? The ones who ramble on about their back pains, in-growing toenails, their cost of living? Or the ones who are more interested in your day, how life’s treating you, how your job or life is going, maybe your view on a subject. What a no-brainer. Wouldn’t you think?

For many people, this is a matter—or technique rather—-that’s already established firmly in their own mind, either through personal experience, inherent insight, or professional training. Where a lot of us fall down, including myself quite often, is not remembering the dynamics of a pitch or forgetting why confrontation doesn’t work.

Although I’ve never considered myself anywhere even near an expert on any subject, in my sixty years on the planet I have learned that in every civilised interaction between individuals, at some point a “sale” is made or lost. Whether it’s who makes the coffee, who has the remote, or which house is your ‘dream’ home or car, someone has to make that pitch. Someone else has to agree it was the best choice, or not.

Taking someone by the proverbial hand and leading them to that that choice thinking it was made of their own free will is a better way than beating them over the head with a conversational baseball bat. Winning that particular ‘conversational battle’ about gun rights may end up with you—all of us eventually losing the war.

As Nelson Mandela said “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

[Martin Hedington is the Administrator for The Black Gun Owners Association of South Africa: “The fight against gun confiscation masquerading as control”]


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  1. You can’t explain anything to these trolls, they have all decided that guns are bad and that’s the end of it.

  2. I tend to agree with Joe. There’s little use in trying to change the minds of those diametrically oppossed to such a hot-button issue; you both end up further entrenched in your postion than ever.

    Where we must continue to make inroads is with the largely ambivalent middle group. This is the VAST majority of people and they already tend to come down on “our” side on more points of the issue more consistently and seem to be trending more and more in that direction. It is exactly this marginalization of the “gun grabbers” point of view and the mainstream acceptance of gun rights and shedding of the fear of guns through ignorance that have brought the victories of recent years to fruition.

  3. I’m with JOE on this. I’m tired of having to cater to the lowest common denominator types. If they’re so stupid that they fall for the wingnut propaganda, they deserve to remain stupid and they certainly don’t qualify for my companionship. I’ll leave the “education” and “diplomacy” to the NRA.

  4. Last weekend I saw the film “Sucker Punch” with some friends and the topic of guns and RKBA came up afterwards. Slowly my companions realized I was a “gun nut” and one asked me in a slow, horrified voice “are you packing now?”.

    My response was “Dude, you ride in my car. My driving is far more a risk to your safety than any firearm will ever be.” He didn’t say anything more.

    • What was the line? “Stand for something, or fall for anything?” I likey. Either way, I could give a flying rat’s ass what anyone thinks. I don’t talk, debate, advertise, anything. I have my guns, my rights, and they have their feelers. Who cares.

  5. I really enjoyed this article, and I think it’s an invaluable reminder to many of us gun owners..

    We’re not likely to change any strong anti-gunner’s mind, whether it be mikeb or the Brady Campaign. The real battle will be for those in the middle ground. It’s the same reason why presidential canditates go for moderate voters near the end of the race. Something to consider.

    My hat’s off to Martin Hedington on this one.

  6. Because guns are an emotional reaction for the hoplophobes, no amount of rational discussion will ever convince them.

    What *can* work, however, is getting them to the range. No, not as backstops, but I have known more than a few “ambivalently anti-gun” types who start drifting the other way after a fun session of plinking.

    The hardcore….well, some men you just can’t reach…..

  7. Trying to sell gun rights to wingnuts is like trying to convince Bin Laden to become a Buddhist and contemplate temple bells with the Dalai Lama. Ain’t happening. The so-called “middle of the roaders” are more concerned about the price of gasoline and Happy Meals, so if you take ’em for a ride to Mickey D’s and buy ’em a burger and fries, they’re yours. Until the next guy buys ’em a Whopper, and then they switch sides. Basically, I prefer to stick with my own.

  8. I took an ex-GF to a pistol range one day. She was not anti-gun, but definitely very intimidated by handguns. She resisted shooting one. I pressured her a bit and she reluctantly took a shot. She wanted to put it down. I insisted she try again. Her first few rounds with the Baretta were all over the map. Then I gave her a few pointers and handed her a .357 Python. Her very next shot was a bulls eye at 20 yrds. She was encouraged and kept shooting. At the end of the session, she had a whole new outlook on handguns. After a week or so, she asked me when we could go back to the range.

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