When I formed Armed Equality I wasn’t exactly sure where I wanted to take the group in terms of big picture, long term goals. I just knew I needed to do something helpful in response to the Pulse nightclub hate crime and terrorist attack. I started by reaching out to local shops and instructors to feel out who would be the most supportive.
Some were significantly more inclusive and interested in supporting us than others, thus they receive our dollars and retail support. I truly believe the free market is the greatest civil rights progress-facilitating mechanism in existence, and absolutely prefer it to state intervention.
Part of our cause is helping people in non-traditional demographics feel comfortable in 2A community spaces. If this sounds like a foreign or ridiculous concern to you, chances are you’re a non-LGBT white male and that’s okay. None of us has any influence over the gender, sex, or race we came into this world with, as and we all have extremely different life experiences.
Even relatively homogeneous cultures are typically formed through diverse influences from all areas of human life. In my experience and opinion, no single culture will ever be the end-all-be-all best of the best forever and always. They all have their advantages and disadvantages and exist in a constant state of fluctuation and improvement.
Science has shown — and I think we all know — that we typically feel most comfortable around like-minded individuals who share many of our personal, fundamental, and philosophical tenets. These tenets are usually the foundation of our interpersonal and familial identities and serve many incredibly important functions.
You would be hard-pressed to find a historian who wouldn’t agree that violent conflict most commonly takes place between groups of humans with fundamentally different philosophical tenets. Yet at the same time, we are all human and for the most part seek the same primary goals: life, liberty, property, & happiness.
For those of us who consider ourselves members of the 2A community, we often share some very fundamental philosophical tenets. But we shouldn’t expect that millions of independent, critically-thinking humans will ever be anywhere near homogeneous – nor would we ever want that. One of our primary goals here in the United States is preservation of the right to keep and bear arms. The right to own the tools necessary to protect ourselves and our loved ones is a right for which we will always need to fight. In my book it supersedes nearly everything else and should be prioritized accordingly.
So, if we can agree on that, here comes the difficult part. I’m asking you to consider willingly exposing yourself to some discomfort if that’s what it takes for you to help reach out to some non-traditional 2A demographics. How?
Here are some steps and actions I have taken and continue to improve upon out here in the southwest. Be mindful of how ostracizing hyper-partisan rhetoric can be, and do your best to control, temper, and orient yourself on social media and in person. You might feel that you’re “100% right” (we all often do, even I do in writing this post!) but we truly need to remember that insulting those we have hastily deemed our enemies is not going to be persuasive or effective in accomplishing our goals.
In my groups it’s a ban-able offense to call someone a ‘libtard’ or ‘conservatard’. This type of rhetoric is poison to productive and persuasive discussion, yet emotions are easily inflamed when something that consciously or subconsciously makes up a pillar of your identity is challenged. Please, do your best to take a deep breath, take a break, pour yourself a glass of whiskey; do whatever helps you remain calm, collected, and reasonable even when faced with what you deem unreasonable.
Empathy. It’s something that’s a lot easier for women than men to experience, appreciate, and value – yet I believe it’s the key to peaceable persuasion. This means that for the 2A community, which is undeniably predominantly made up of men, some extra effort is required.
Once again, what I’m asking may not be easy for you, but remember: IT WILL HELP YOU in the long term. Rather than defaulting to a position of labeling someone you disagree with an enemy who must be destroyed, try pausing for a moment and asking them some questions to help you understand where they are coming from. The interaction will be infinitely more likely to end productively.
Even if you end up helping them become 10% more 2A supportive, that’s a lot better than being responsible for pushing them to be 30% more anti-gun rights. At the same time, keep doing what you’re doing in terms of financial support of 2A organizations and being politically involved in whatever way you believe is truly the most effective.
When you ask questions you can learn a lot. You learn where someone is coming from, what motivates them, how to tailor your arguments – and you just might learn that your Bernie-supporting neighbor isn’t actually Satan incarnate. You might even learn that they’re a gun owner who would be happy to come to your next barbecue.
Hearts and minds are never won in the long term through force, insults, and ego clashes (see cognitive dissonance, fatal attribution error, confirmation bias, rationalization, and logical fallacies). We win the big picture, in the long term, by being shining examples of what we know we are: peaceful, protective, law-abiding, liberty-loving Americans. When we make it incredibly difficult for the anti-2A folk to locate firearm owners who are anything other than admirable, responsible, stand-up guys and gals…we win.