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By Matthew S.

It is an unfortunate sign of the times that universities are no longer considered forums of free speech and exchange of ideas. With conservative commencement speakers being cancelled and faculties wailing at the thought of student carry, it would seem that an American college campus would be a good candidate for the least hospitable place for the People of the Gun. Enter my roommate and me…

We spent the last year in a cramped 10’ x 16’ room in a fraternity house that is not technically associated with a certain Big Ten university in Madison. Our room boasted all the hallmarks of college students – lofted beds, futon, beer cans, liquor bottles, video games, and even the occasional textbook. The Gadsden flag next to my desk is (surprisingly) not the only one I’ve seen on campus, but the real distinguishing feature about our room is the ten different firearms secured in two separate gun safes.

Even to the uninitiated, our room bears clues to the contents of the black, featureless safes tucked away in the closet. Shell casings are displayed above our desks, reminders of unusual calibers or good days at the range. His best 300-yard SKS paper target is taped to the wall next to my 8 1/2 “ x 11” printout of a Joffrey Baratheon target sporting a single .30 caliber hole in his forehead. If one were to walk in on the right Sunday afternoon, one would have been assaulted by the smell of Hoppe’s No. 9 and a cold draft as we tried to balance the Wisconsin winter chill and venting solvent fumes.

The first reaction that most of my fellow students had is eminently predictable – “Why do you need so many guns?” Every time someone asked that question, I had to contain a smile. It’s almost impossible to engage left-leaning college students in a truly meaningful dialogue about guns, as their only idea of a “meaningful dialogue” is the same anti-gun propaganda that the big names have been pushing for years. But when those same students bring the issue to the table of their own volition, the conversation is just that – a conversation. They ask a question and I answer.

“I don’t need all of them. I just like having them. Wanna see ‘em?” An immediate appeal to natural human curiosity. Even the most anti-gun visitors cannot resist a peek behind the black metal doors, and so the tour starts. I take out my key ring, clipped to a lanyard that’s attached to my belt loop. I open the handgun safe on my shelf and take out the large, medieval-looking key for the long-gun safe. The mechanism makes a loud, metallic thunk as the locking rods withdraw, and I reveal the first firearm that many of them have ever seen in reality.

“This one’s a Mosin-Nagant M44, built by the Soviets in World War Two. You can even see the hammer and sickle on the proof mark, right here on the receiver. And there’s the year of production – 1944.”

The curiosity takes over completely. “So this one fought in World War Two?”

“Maybe. Either way, it’s a cool piece of history.”

“Does it still, uh… shoot?”

“Absolutely. Kicks like a mule, too.”

I always start them with the M44. At the risk of stereotyping a rather vocal group, I’ve found college liberals to be a sucker for history. But some of them are better classified as yuppies-in-training, more interested in technology than history. Everyone who dismisses the Mosin is intrigued by the modern composite aesthetics of the AR-15 and absolutely amazed by the EOTech holo sight on top. By this time, any prior anti-gun bias is reduced to a tiny voice in the back of their head as they ask question after question.

The questions that are inevitably asked are the point of the exercise. I can educate these otherwise brainwashed individuals on the world of firearms and the laws that govern them without coming off as preachy or unapproachable. Usually, their ignorance is more a product of Hollywood than Washington. They’re almost always surprised to learn that none of my guns are “registered,” but I’m able to teach them that a general firearm registry doesn’t exist. When I express my desire to buy a threaded barrel and suppressor for my FNX-45, these educated people are equally surprised to learn that silencers are legal, too.

By the time my guests leave, they’ve been given an entirely different perspective on firearms. I certainly haven’t converted all of them to proud Second Amendment supporters, but the civil discourse about these misunderstood tools has changed the way they look at guns and gun owners. Two perfectly normal college kids can own what the mainstream media would undoubtedly label an “arsenal” and not be psychotic killers or Duck Dynasty-lookalike hillbillies.

Some of them have never seen a gun anywhere but on the screen and certainly haven’t spent any time learning about gun laws. A twenty-minute tour of my small college room taught them more about guns, gun laws, and gun owners than a lifetime of reading HuffPo could.

While most of the gun community does not have the ready access to college liberals that I (dubiously) enjoy, I think that there are still lessons to be learned from this approach. Open carry demonstrations and in-your-face protests, more often than not, just give Shannon Watts and Michael Bloomberg fodder for slanted press releases once an institution “requests that guns be left at home.” The best way to make our point is to take a seat, offer them a beer, and show them a world they’ve never seen.

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  1. BAM! This one gets my vote. Killin’ them with kindness.

    Wait… that might not be the best pun to use here…

    • Why? Have you ever killed someone with kindness? …people usually end up being very much alive. I’ve tried killing people with kindness…. but those people JUST. WON’T. DIE! 😉

      Elsewhere in the US, a patrol car stumble’s upon a gruesome scene:

      ” *crackle* Dispatch, we have a body here… looks like the man was killed with kindness…. those sick bastards!*crackle”

  2. The problem is getting them to that point. It is not that easy to lure young college kids back one’s house…
    I mean, uh… that’s what I’ve heard! Not that I’ve tried to or anything!

        • I am also a Cheezer, but don’t drink beer. Tell me there’s guns and I’m there. And you can drink your beer after the guns are put away.

  3. I’ve only caught a few episodes of Duck Dynasty.
    I have no need to defend the Robertsons, but they are not hillbillies. Religious beliefs aside, they are savvy about image.
    Everything on that show is staged and contrived.
    You don’t get to live in a house like Willie does by being an ignorant and aimless yokel….

    • The Duck Dynasty guys love it when people underestimate smart men. They have MBA’s and built a multi-million dollar business. Pretty smart hillbillies.

      • And yet most of the population judges them based solely on their beards and camo clothes. Its surprising slow people are, all across the board.

    • It’s redneck, not hillbilly. I know that to the uninitiated the terms may be synonymous, but spend a few years in the south and you’re as likely to get called out as an internet commentor that calls a magazine a clip.

  4. I like that, and it’s a method I’m fond of using whenever we have guests. I also now introduce them to Yankee Marshall to get them started.

  5. A welcome approach to introducing those of the antigun proclivities to the normalness that is owning and possessing firearms. You definitely have the right tact IMHO as opposed to the in-your-face at all costs crowd that just fuel the muttering muppet moms demanding some action types. Keep up the great work of educating up in Madison! And great read!

  6. College campuses are not longer places where students are taught HOW to think. They are indoctrination centers dictating WHAT to think.

  7. Well done, as a student at a different Big 10 university I had several similar experiences. You’re doing it right. I usually ended my tours with an invitation out to the range. Hook, line, and sinker 🙂

  8. So I voted once for the Door Gunner story, and once for this, great story. Since there are two Sigs that’s how it works right?

  9. Great post and bravo!

    Reminds me of an interaction with a teenager a few years back, a friend of a cousin who saw me unloading my AR out of the back of my SUV. He recognized it for what it was but his first question was ‘is it registered?’ I explained that there really wasn’t any way too register it except the warranty card. Then he asked the other ‘big question’; ‘what do you need it for?’ I handed it to him, all dressed up in optics and lights and lasers and said, ‘I don’t, but it sure is cool!’ That brought a grin and instant agreement.

    Sometimes I, like many others, are guilty of being too serious. Sometimes the answer is just the answer. I carry a pistol for personal defense, I have a tricked out AR because it’s fun. I think there are a lot of people on the fence in their minds who aren’t sure if it’s ok for a gun to be cool or fun. If you show them that it can be both, sometimes that’s all it takes to get them to climb down on our side.

    • Absolutely spot on Ardent, and well-said! Sometimes life and its challenges can be simple response.

  10. Good on you!

    When I was an undergrad, my roommate and I were looking for a place to shoot other than the ROTC indoor rifle range, since it was limited to .22 and we wanted to shoot .38SPL and .357. We finally asked the town cops, and they directed us to the dump, which is where they went to shoot. Go on a weekend, nobody around, and plenty of stuff to shoot. Nobody cared.

    If you asked most college town cops now, you’d probably be frogmarched straight to a cell to wait while your room was torn apart.

    • That sure reminded me! I did exactly the same thing oh-so-many years ago when I went to college. Went down to the police station and asked where to go shooting. And the answer? City dump southwest of town!

      As an aside. Until recently I had not attended college since 1993, but this I can absolutely tell you for certain. Everybody, and I do mean EVERYBODY, had a gun in their room. Me, my roommates, my neighbors, their neighbors. There just weren’t any exceptions I was aware of. If I had to guess, even now I’m reasonably sure that a lot of students (the conservative ones at least, and I’m sure there are still a few left in Arkansas) still have guns, and more likely than not keep them in their cars if nothing else.

      Good article, and good job of educating people. Maybe there is some hope after all.


    • Well, you can’t sift through the dump for treasures any more, either. Everything is about liability today, and society is ruled by the threat of litigation.

  11. So you should have a Mosin and an AR? So as to appeal to the people who like history and to those who like modern technology.

    • Well to be fair, I only bought a Mosin because it was eighty bucks two years ago.

      • You don’t have to explain your reason for buying a Mosin. Everybody should have at least one. Fortunately, the Russians made enough to go around.

  12. I typically read about 20% of the posts on TTAG word-for-word. I read this one twice word-for-word. Well done!

  13. Nice work, Matthew. Keep those grades up and I suspect you will go far with this practical approach to educating your peers.

    My vote for best article, btw. Old school works.

  14. Go Bucky! You would think in a state where almost 700,000 deer licences are sold each year (there are only about 5.5 million folks in Wisco), the folks on campus would be more comfortable with firearm ownership. Unfortunately, this young chap’s experience was very similar to mine, even though it was separated by over a decade. It was even worse at the Law School, where I did my second Bucky stint (lifer through and through). Keep up the good work fellow Sconnie!

  15. This is great. This is exactly how we beat them. Incorporate them into us.

    “They’re almost always surprised to learn that none of my guns are “registered,”
    I have to agree, I have also heard this as we so many times.
    “These are registered?”
    “No. Theres no such thing as gun registration.” (at least in the vast majority of the Us obviously)
    “What, what do you mean?”
    And so an education on firearms and the second amendment begins.

  16. “Why do you need so many guns?”

    Heck. When I was in college, I would have been asking, “Why don’t you have more than ten?” Anyway, this is a great example of how to win people over to our side. Plus one vote for this article.

  17. Watch out for that Francis St cut over from State to Langdon on your way home at 2:30AM, stay safe you guys.
    Hail to thee our alma mater
    BS Econ Class of 81
    Don’t let them see where you retrieve the key for the big safe.
    Maybe cut out a hole in an old econ text book to hide the key, nobody will even look at an econ text book.

  18. Nice, Badgers represent! I went to a different UW school, but didn’t bring my stuff with me. So, instead, I would offer to take them to the range and pay for rental and ammo for them.

  19. Good way to go.

    When I’m asked “Why do you need so many guns?” I use that as an opening to explain the differences between each gun and the different roles they all have, and why no one gun is suitable for all purposes. The 22 rifle is for plinking and small game. The 22 pistol with red dot sight is for target shooting. The 9mm pistols are for home defense. The Nagant Revolver and the 1952 Polish M44 Mosin have historical value. The 20 gauge shotgun is for skeet shooting and bird hunting. The lever action 30-30 is for larger animals like deer or boar. And the AR-15 reminds me of my time in the military and is also for any situation where everything goes to hell. Like a massive natural disaster disrupting regular society and overwhelming the police.

    Many people are surprised and amazed that there are that many different kinds of guns and that many different roles for them, beyond “Kill children”.

  20. What happened to the good old days, when schools actually had skeet shooting teams?

    A cousin of mine actually received a full ride scholarship for competitive shooting.

    Fast forward to now. What the hell happened. SMH.

    • While we were whooping it up on the occasional Wednesday over a Republican presidential victory the Left went back to work indoctrinating our kids from grade 1 thru grad school and gaining near total control of the MFM.

      After 40-50 years of that we are royally fvcked.

    • The hard core leftists started their “long march through the institutions” in the late 50’s. We’ve now had two generations of hard-core leftists in charge of education in the US, and what you’re now seeing is the result.

      Fortunately for us, there is a huge debt bubble in higher education and universities and colleges are in the process of shuffling deck chairs around on their rapidly sinking cruise ships. More and more youngsters are realizing that going to college to get a BA is a pretty stupid move, given the debt issues that result.

      • The professors of the 50’s and 60’s let the leftists into academia because they believed in the ideal of academic freedom and curiosity.

        In stark contrast, the Leftists now fully control the institutions and have raised wide and high barriers to keep any dissenting opinions out of their indoctrination camps.

        I pray for the day that the education bubble bursts.

        • I went to college in the 60s. It was just as bad then as it is now. It was different bad, but it was bad just the same.

  21. “A twenty-minute tour of my small college room taught them more about guns, gun laws, and gun owners than a lifetime of reading HuffPo could.”

    While I’m sure your “gun safe tours” are educational and enlightening, you’re setting the bar awfully low with that comparison. A twenty-minute beating about the head and face with a cricket bat could teach you more about any given topic than a lifetime of reading HuffPo.

    BTW, I hope that each of these conversations ends with a sincere offer to take them to the range. As they say in Mortal Kombat: “FINISH HIM!”

  22. It is an unfortunate sign of the times that universities are no longer considered forums of free speech and exchange of ideas.

    If you think this is something new, you didn’t go to college during Vietnam.

  23. I admit it – I had to look up “Joffrey Baratheon target.” When I read this description:
    “Game of Thrones’ evil, whiny, sadistic twat of king” I couldn’t help but think, “Wasn’t he all over the news just this past week?”

  24. Holier-than-thou crap. Every firearm freedom this joker enjoys came at someone else’s expense in blood and treasure. Fielding a barrage of questions from fellow effete college kids about one’s little toys is nothing like using those tools to defend the underlying rights. This one’s dismissive attitude about others, including those who are peacefully and tirelessly working to advance firearms freedoms every day in this country, is a insult to all. That it comes from a coddled kid and range rat who regards his dorm room bull sessions a superior strategy is doubly offensive. Don’t give this brat yet another toy. He hasn’t earned an appreciation for the firearms he already has. He certainly doesn’t need yet another prop for Show-and-Tell Day.

    • So if he was attending college on his GI bill, would the article have a totally different meaning to you without changing a single word?

      Maybe next you will suggest that only veterans have earned their constitutional rights?

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