There are many different ways to have a birthday party. Some people like the traditional cake and a song. Others like to meet friends at a bar, or go to a park. But, I’d imagine that heading to the shooting range for fun and some skill improvement would be a popular option among many readers here. Who doesn’t want to put some lead down range with some friends to commemorate surviving another trip around the old burning gasball in space?
But it turns out that heading to the range for a birthday party isn’t always as easy as it should be. That’s what Chad Loder allegedly discovered recently. Unlike many other customers, Loder is a well-known left wing activist and “anti-extremism researcher“, who likes to pore through open-source data to find dirt on right-wing activists, some of whom have faced legal problems as a result.
Loder claims his efforts are essential to bringing violent offenders to justice, while his critics call what he does garden variety harassment, cyberstalking, or doxxing. So you can probably imagine that Loder doesn’t have a lot of friends on the right side of the political spectrum, and his actions have allegedly led to Loder’s removal from Twitter.
After going to the gun range with some friends to celebrate a birthday in San Diego, Loder’s location was tweeted by a popular right-leaning Twitter account. It was later claimed that the account got the information from an employee of the gun range.
Loder’s group of friends are now concerned that the range had access to their driver’s licenses, which means their political enemies may now have personal information such as their home addresses.
According to Loder, everyone who went to the range that evening is now afraid to go to shooting ranges at all for fear that they’ll become political targets (figuratively, not literally) and that their future safety is in danger. Some of those who were there with Loder were first-time shooters, and aren’t going to do it again any time soon.
I understand why people would hate someone like Loder. People who make it their business to cause legal trouble for other people tend to not only make a lot of enemies, but it just sucks to see people on your side get selected for this kind of harassment while people of different political persuasions aren’t targeted. I can see how someone would derive some satisfaction from what they might have seen as giving Loder and his friends a well-deserved taste of their own medicine.
But, I’m not going to have that debate here and my goal certainly isn’t to side with Loder or his associates.
What bothers me about this incident is that we’re seeing a gun range get embroiled in the culture wars. Instead of being a business where everyone is welcome to come have fun and improve their skills, there are now fears that going to the range could be unsafe if they get crosswise with conservative activists.
Aside from this incident, I’ve seen many stories of left-wing activists (sometimes self-described communists who subscribe to the “under no pretext” ethos), non-passing transgender people, gay couples, and women with blue hair saying that they don’t feel comfortable going to the range either.
That concept is a little weird to me, largely because I spend a lot of time at ranges and have never personally seen it. Not only do I prefer to shoot at unsupervised outdoor ranges, but I also haven’t seen or heard of any gun businesses turn away any of the above kinds of people. But I’ve also seen enough people say they feel uncomfortable to know that it can’t be an issue that’s entirely made up or imaginary.
As an instructor, I’m bothered by this because it’s generally bad for safety and the gun culture as a whole. Gun ownership is growing in basically every conceivable demographic, and having a bunch of people who — mistakenly or not — don’t feel like they’re welcome at the range means people are missing out on training, practice, and fun. I don’t want to see government mandate training, but responsible people who want to train should have nothing standing between them and doing it.
As a gun rights activist, I’m bothered by what this kind of thing could do to the future of shooting sports and gun rights. If “stereotypical” gun owners — if there is such a thing any more — are comfortable being into guns while other demographics are feeling discouraged, we run the risk of losing the war in the long run. The last thing we need is gun owners becoming a shrinking and aging minority that’s only a generation or two away from the losing critical mass we need to successfully defend our rights.
If anything, gun owners needs to be actively encouraging people to become gun owners and participate in the shooting sports to keep it alive over time. Putting other political or social priorities ahead of that isn’t a recipe for long term success.