Robert Siegel, one of the hosts of NPR’s All Things Considered, has a series on the events that shaped the political views of Americans who are now twenty-five, forty-five, and sixty-five. This is an interesting question, one that has a lot of room to explore. This includes the experiences that brought readers of this publication and me into the gun community.
One type is the tradition of hunting passed down the generations of a family. This is the experience that is shown in the old advertising from Winchester and similar companies—a father giving a first rifle to his son, then the two of them going out in pursuit of a buck. Gun ownership through a hunting heritage is sadly becoming less and less common in America. It’s part of the fabric of our culture, though it’s becoming more and more like the cowboy or the frontiersman and will only be saved by conscious effort to promote the practice.
Another experience that brings people into gun ownership is concern for personal safety or as a response to an actual assault. According to Gallup, this reason is given by sixty percent of people the organization surveyed about gun ownership. Guns for these people are tools, though in some cases, the potential is there for seeing weapons as magical objects without spending some time studying how to use them defensively in an effective manner—and to understand what they can and cannot do.
A special case of the desire for protection was the response of many Americans to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the wars we’ve engaged in since then. At least sales figures started upward in the years following, and the anecdotes I’ve heard from new gun owners on social media often mention this as a factor. The awareness that safety is something in the hands of all of us is a valuable lesson, one that Airman Spencer Stone put to good use in stopping an attack on a train to Paris last year.
Then there are the people who get into firearms because of a fascination with the history and technology. That’s one of the reasons I became a gun owner—a colleague of mine wrote stories about Reconstruction Era Middle Tennessee in which cap-and-ball revolvers featured prominently, and I had to have one. A Remington 1858 New Model Army may not be the most practical of weapons, but since when does every gun have to serve a specific job? And whoever said a boom and a cloud of sulfurous smoke isn’t a job that has to be done? If you’re a geek like me, Ian McCollum’s Forgotten Weapons channel on YouTube will eat up hours of your time.
But the most important understanding we all have to experience, something that hobbyists, collectors, hunters, and the tactically minded all must get behind: rights. It was a student who convinced me of this, citing the argument that if we let gun rights go, no right is safe as something we each can exercise by virtue of being human. And that’s the point we have to drive home to all gun owners, regardless of why they own them. None of the reasons that gun control advocates claim to accept—hunting or collecting—will last if thirty-round magazines and AR-15s are banned. Divide and conquer is a means of defeating gun rights, not defending them. The anti-rights crowd won’t do us any favors. It’s up to all of us to value the variety of experiences that bring us together and work to make sure future generations have the opportunity to share them.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.