Who is the typical gun owner? If we ask advocates of control, we’ll hear a list of stereotypes that center on southern, white, and male—unless they’re going on about cowboys, but a lot of the characters in westerns were Confederate veterans, so that’s not really an attempt at diversity by anti-rights people. If we expand outward from gun owners to Americans who are willing to respect gun rights, even if they won’t ever exercise those rights themselves, we have to bring in more of the country, and that’s asking a lot if we’re talking about folks who want to define the world by narrow ideological boundaries.
We gun owners have our own difficulties when trying to understand people who identify themselves as being concerned about reducing gun violence in this country. Many of them believe in banning this or restricting that as a means of achieving the stated goal, though not all are committed to that answer.
But even the broadest-minded among those of us in the gun community likely wouldn’t immediately consider someone who calls herself a pacifist as a person who would be willing to have an honest discussion about gun ownership and rights, much less trying out shooting.
Every so often, though, a reminder comes along that life doesn’t have to conform to our preconceptions of it. Take as an example of this an article that appeared recently in The Huffington Post, titled, “Two Pacifists Go To A Shooting Range.” To be fair, the author, Mary Gaylord, described her one previous attempt at shooting a firearm as a frightening encounter with an unspecified gun carried by her husband for protection against bears on an Alaska honeymoon. And she characterized the friend who wanted her to go to the range with her as a “hippie-liberal-pacifist.” But her friend received a coupon for a shooting range and wanted company, so Gaylord decided to go along.
After stepping inside, she says, “I immediately wanted to run back out. There were guns everywhere.” To regular readers and writers here, that sounds like good times, but perhaps we forget what being inexperienced with firearms is like. We’re talking about powerful and loud tools, devices that can intimidate people who don’t know how they’re operated safely.
What happened when they actually tried out shooting?
Afterwards, we felt a bit of a high. We had challenged ourselves to do something way outside of our comfort zone. I had gotten past my preconceived notions about how “people like me” would not be welcome or feel comfortable in a place like a shooting range.
That’s not a surprising result. Anyone who’s taken people shooting for the first time—and didn’t force a large-bore revolver or ten-gauge shotgun on them—knows that the usual outcome is converts to the gun community or at least people who are now more accepting of those of us already there.
What’s even better here is that Gaylord has come out of her experience open to understanding people who differ from her on one subject, a subject that too often divides Americans. This is the broader purpose of the organization she works with, Living Room Conversations, a project that “provides a platform for people to come together through social networks to engage in a self-guided conversations about a specific topics.”
In doing this, she is a case of what I’ve talked about before, namely the need to broaden the tent of gun ownership. We need to bring in more Americans who aren’t obvious members of the gun community. The more people we have exercising gun rights and the more we have who respect those rights even if they don’t participate themselves, the safer we all are.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.