- "You don't need to have a gun; the police will protect
- "If people carry guns, there will be murders over
parking spaces and neighborhood basketball games."
- "I'm a pacifist. Enlightened, spiritually aware
people shouldn't own guns."
- "I'd rather be raped than have some redneck militia
type try to rescue me."
- How often have you heard these statements from misguided
advocates of victim disarmament, or even woefully uninformed relatives
and neighbors? Why do people cling so tightly to these beliefs, in the
face of incontrovertible evidence that they are wrong? Why do they get
so furiously angry when gun owners point out that their arguments are factually
and logically incorrect?
- How can you communicate with these people who seem to
be out of touch with reality and rational thought?
- One approach to help you deal with anti-gun people is
to understand their psychological processes. Once you understand why these
people behave so irrationally, you can communicate more effectively with
- Defense Mechanisms
- About a year ago I received an e-mail from a member of
a local Jewish organization. The author, who chose to remain anonymous,
insisted that people have no right to carry firearms because he didn't
want to be murdered if one of his neighbors had a "bad day".
(I don't know that this person is a "he", but I'm assuming so
for the sake of simplicity.) I responded by asking him why he thought his
neighbors wanted to murder him, and, of course, got no response. The truth
is that he's statistically more likely to be murdered by a neighbor who
doesn't legally carry a firearm1 and more likely to be shot accidentally
by a law enforcement officer.1
- How does my correspondent "know" that his neighbors
would murder him if they had guns? He doesn't. What he was really saying
was that if he had a gun, he might murder his neighbors if he had a bad
day, or if they took his parking space, or played their stereos too loud.
This is an example of what mental health professionals call projection
- unconsciously projecting one's own unacceptable feelings onto other people,
so that one doesn't have to own them.3 In some cases, the intolerable feelings
are projected not onto a person, but onto an inanimate object, such as
a gun,4 so that the projector believes the gun itself will murder him.
- Projection is a defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms
are unconscious psychological mechanisms that protect us from feelings
that we cannot consciously accept.5 They operate without our awareness,
so that we don't have to deal consciously with "forbidden" feelings
and impulses. Thus, if you asked my e-mail correspondent if he really wanted
to murder his neighbors, he would vehemently deny it, and insist that other
people want to kill him.
- Projection is a particularly insidious defense mechanism,
because it not only prevents a person from dealing with his own feelings,
it also creates a world where he perceives everyone else as directing his
own hostile feelings back at him.6
- All people have violent, and even homicidal, impulses.
For example, it's common to hear people say "I'd like to kill my boss",
or "If you do that one more time I'm going to kill you." They
don't actually mean that they're going to, or even would, kill anyone;
they're simply acknowledging anger and frustration. All of us suffer from
fear and feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. Most people can acknowledge
feelings of rage, fear, frustration, jealousy, etc. without having to act
on them in inappropriate and destructive ways.
- Some people, however, are unable consciously to admit
that they have such "unacceptable" emotions. They may have higher
than average levels of rage, frustration, or fear. Perhaps they fear that
if they acknowledge the hostile feelings, they will lose control and really
will hurt someone. They may believe that "good people" never
have such feelings, when in fact all people have them.
- This is especially true now that education "experts"
commonly prohibit children from expressing negative emotions or aggression.
Instead of learning that such emotions are normal, but that destructive
behavior needs to be controlled, children now learn that feelings of anger
are evil, dangerous and subject to severe punishment.7To protect themselves
from "being bad", they are forced to use defense mechanisms to
avoid owning their own normal emotions. Unfortunately, using such defense
mechanisms inappropriately can endanger their mental health; children need
to learn how to deal appropriately with reality, not how to avoid it.8
- (This discussion of psychological mechanisms applies
to the average person who is uninformed, or misinformed, about firearms
and self-defense. It does not apply to the anti- gun ideologue. Fanatics
like Charles Schumer know the facts about firearms, and advocate victim
disarmament consciously and willfully in order to gain political power.
This psychological analysis does not apply to them.)
- Another defense mechanism commonly utilized by supporters
of gun control is denial. Denial is simply refusing to accept the reality
of a given situation.9 For example, consider a woman whose husband starts
coming home late, has strange perfume on his clothes, and starts charging
flowers and jewelry on his credit card. She may get extremely angry at
a well-meaning friend who suggests that her husband is having an affair.
The reality is obvious, but the wronged wife is so threatened by her husband's
infidelity that she is unable to accept it, and so denies its existence.
- Anti-gun people do the same thing. It's obvious that
we live in a dangerous society, where criminals attack innocent people.
Just about everyone has been, or knows someone who has been, victimized.
It's equally obvious that law enforcement can't protect everyone everywhere
24 hours a day. Extensive scholarly research demonstrates that the police
have no legal duty to protect you10 and that firearm ownership is the most
effective way to protect yourself and your family.11 There is irrefutable
evidence that victim disarmament nearly always precedes genocide.12 Nonetheless,
the anti-gun folks insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that "the
police will protect you", "this is a safe neighborhood"
and "it can't happen here", where "it" is everything
from mugging to mass murder.
- Anti-gun people who refuse to accept the reality of the
proven and very serious dangers of civilian disarmament are using denial
to protect themselves from the anxiety of feeling helpless and vulnerable.
Likewise, gun owners who insist that "the government will never confiscate
my guns" are also using denial to protect themselves from the anxiety
of contemplating being forcibly disarmed and rendered helpless and vulnerable.
- Reaction Formation
- Reaction formation is yet another defense mechanism common
among the anti-gun folks. Reaction formation occurs when a person's mind
turns an unacceptable feeling or desire into its complete opposite.13 For
example, a child who is jealous of a sibling may exhibit excessive love
and devotion for the hated brother or sister.
- Likewise, a person who harbors murderous rage toward
his fellow humans may claim to be a devoted pacifist and refuse to eat
meat or even kill a cockroach.14 Often such people take refuge in various
spiritual disciplines and believe that they are "superior" to
"less civilized" folks who engage in "violent behavior"
such as hunting, or even target shooting. They may devote themselves to
"animal welfare" organizations that proclaim that the rights
of animals take precedence over the rights of people.15 This not only allows
the angry person to avoid dealing with his rage, it allows him actually
to harm the people he hates without having to know he hates them.
- This is not meant to disparage the many wonderful people
who are pacifists, spiritually inclined, vegetarian, or who support animal
welfare. The key issue is not the belief itself, but rather the way in
which the person experiences and lives his beliefs. Sincere practitioners
seek to improve themselves, or to be helpful in a gentle, respectful fashion.
They work to persuade others peacefully by setting an example of what they
believe to be correct behavior. Sincere pacifists generally exhibit good
will towards others, even towards persons with whom they might disagree
on various issues.
- Contrast the sincere pacifist or animal lover with the
strident, angry person who wants to ban meat and who believes murdering
hunters is justified in order to "save the animals" - or the
person who wants to outlaw self- defense and believes innocent people have
the obligation to be raped and murdered for the good of society. For example,
noted feminist Betty Friedan said "that lethal violence even in self
defense only engenders more violence."16 The truly spiritual, pacifist
person refrains from forcing others to do what he believes, and is generally
driven by positive emotions, while the angry person finds "socially
acceptable" ways to harm, abuse, or even kill, his fellow man.
- In the case of anti-gun people, reaction formation keeps
any knowledge of their hatred for their fellow humans out of consciousness,
while allowing them to feel superior to "violent gun owners".
At the same time, it also allows them to cause serious harm, and even loss
of life, to others by denying them the tools necessary to defend themselves.
This makes reaction formation very attractive from a psychological point
of view, and therefore very difficult to counteract.
- Defense Mechanisms Are Not Mental Illnesses
- Defense mechanisms are normal. All of us use them to
some extent, and their use does not imply mental illness. Advocates of
victim disarmament may be misguided or uninformed, they may be stupid,
or they may be consciously intent on evil, but that doesn't necessarily
mean they are "mentally ill".
- Some defense mechanisms, however, are healthier than
others. A safe general rule is that a defense is healthy if it helps you
to function better in your personal and professional life, and unhealthy
if it interferes with your life, your relationships, or the well-being
of others. Young children utilize projection and denial much more commonly
than do healthy adults. On the other hand, "if projection is used
as a defense mechanism to a very great extent in adult life, the user's
perception of external reality will be seriously distorted."17
- Defense mechanisms are also frequently combined, so that
an anti-gun person may use several defense mechanisms simultaneously. For
example, my unfortunate correspondent uses projection to create a world
in which all his neighbors want to murder him. As a result, he becomes
more angry and fearful, and needs to employ even more defense mechanisms
to cope. So he uses projection to attribute his own rage to others, he
uses denial that there is any danger to protect himself from a world where
he believes he is helpless and everyone wants to murder him, and he uses
reaction formation to try to control everyone else's life because his own
is so horribly out of control.
- Also, it's important to remember that not all anti-gun
beliefs are the result of defense mechanisms. Some people suffer from gun
phobia18, an excessive and completely irrational fear of firearms, usually
caused by the anti-gun conditioning they've been subjected to by the media,
politicians, so-called "educators," and others. In some cases,
gun phobia is caused by an authentic bad experience associated with a firearm.
But with all due respect to Col. Jeff Cooper, who coined the term "hoplophobia"
to describe anti-gun people, most anti-gun people do not have true phobias.
Interestingly, a person with a true phobia of guns realizes his fear is
excessive or unreasonable,19 something most anti-gun folks will never admit.
- Defense mechanisms distort reality
- Because defense mechanisms distort reality in order to
avoid unpleasant emotions, the person who uses them has an impaired ability
to recognize and accept reality. This explains why my e-mail correspondent
and many other anti-gun people persist in believing that their neighbors
and co- workers will become mass murderers if allowed to own firearms.
- People who legally carry concealed firearms are actually
less violent and less prone to criminal activity of all kinds than is the
general population.20 A person who has a clean record, has passed an FBI
background check, undergone firearms training, and spent several hundred
dollars to get a permit and a firearm, is highly unlikely to choose to
murder a neighbor. Doing so would result in his facing a police manhunt,
a trial, prison, possibly capital punishment, and the destruction of his
family, job, and reputation. Obviously it would make no sense for such
a person to shoot a neighbor - except in self-defense. Equally obviously,
the anti-gun person who believes that malicious shootings by ordinary gun
owners are likely to occur is not in touch with reality.21
- The Common Thread: Rage
- In my experience, the common thread in anti-gun people
is rage. Either anti-gun people harbor more rage than others, or they're
less able to cope with it appropriately. Because they can't handle their
own feelings of rage, they are forced to use defense mechanisms in an unhealthy
manner. Because they wrongly perceive others as seeking to harm them, they
advocate the disarmament of ordinary people who have no desire to harm
anyone. So why do anti-gun people have so much rage and why are they unable
to deal with it in appropriate ways? Consider for a moment that the largest
and most hysterical anti-gun groups include disproportionately large numbers
of women, African- Americans and Jews. And virtually all of the organizations
that claim to speak for these "oppressed people" are stridently
anti-gun. Not coincidentally, among Jews, Blacks and women there are many
"professional victims" who have little sense of identity outside
of their victimhood.
- Identity as Victim
- If I were to summarize this article in three sentences,
they would be:
- (1) People who identify themselves as "victims"
harbor excessive amounts of rage at other people, whom they perceive as
- (2) In order psychologically to deal with this rage,
these "victims" utilize defense mechanisms that enable them to
harm others in socially acceptable ways, without accepting responsibility
or suffering guilt, and without having to give up their status as "victims."
- (3) Gun owners are frequently the targets of professional
victims because gun owners are willing and able to prevent their own victimization.
- Thus the concept of "identity as victim" is
essential. How and why do members of some groups choose to identify themselves
as victims and teach their children to do the same? While it's true that
women, Jews, and African- Americans have historically been victimized,
they now participate in American society on an equal basis. And other groups,
most notably Asian-Americans, have been equally victimized, and yet have
transcended the "eternal victim" mentality.
- Why, for example, would a 6'10" NBA player who makes
$10 million a year see himself as a "victim"? Why would a successful,
respected, wealthy, Jewish physician regard himself as a "victim"?
Conversely, why might a wheelchair bound woman who lives on government
disability NOT regard herself as a victim?
- I would argue it's because the basketball player and
the physician believe that their identities are dependent on being victims
- not because they have actually been victimized, but because they're members
of groups that claim victim status. Conversely, the disabled woman was
probably raised to believe that she is responsible for her own success
- In fact, many people who have been victims of actual
violent crime, or who have survived war or civil strife, support the right
of self-defense. The old saying is often correct: "a conservative
is a liberal who has been mugged."
- Special Treatment and Misleading Leaders
- Two reasons for these groups to insist on "victim"
status seem likely. First, by claiming victim status, members of these
groups can demand (and get) special treatment through quotas, affirmative
action, reparations, and other preferential treatment programs.
- Second, these people have been indoctrinated to believe
that there is no alternative to remaining a victim forever. Their leaders
remind them constantly that they are mistreated in every imaginable way
(most of them imaginary!), attribute every one of life's misfortunes to
"racism" or "sexism" or "hate crimes", and
dream up ever more complex schemes for special treatment and favors.22
These leaders are the ones who preach that the entire Black experience
is slavery and racism, or that Jewish history before and after the Holocaust
is irrelevant,23 or that happily married women are really victims of sexual
- Likewise, the NAACP is suing firearms manufacturers to
put them out of business,25 and is especially opposed to the inexpensive
pistols that enable the poor to defend themselves in gang-ridden inner
cities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed
evicting anyone who dares to keep a tool of self-defense in any of its
crime-infested housing projects. Jewish leaders, especially those in the
politically correct "Reform" branch, preach that gun control
is "a solemn religious obligation",26 contrary to the teachings
of their sacred scriptures and their own history.27 Law enforcement agencies
falsely teach women that they are safest if they don't resist rapists and
robbers,28 while women's organizations advocate gun control, thus rendering
women and their children defenseless.
- Victimhood is good business for organizations that foster
victim status. As victims, the members depend upon the organization to
protect them, and the organization in turn relies on members for funding
and political power. In the interest of self-preservation, these organizations
work hard at preserving hatred and bigotry and at keeping their members
defenseless - and therefore dependent.
- Anti-gun groups love victims!
- >From my observations, pro-victimhood is a feature
of all of the anti-gun special interest groups, not just the ones mentioned
here. Every organization that supports gun control apparently wants its
members to be helpless, terrified and totally dependent on someone else
to control every aspect of their lives. It doesn't matter whether it's
a religious, racial, ethnic, political, social, or charitable group. From
Handgun Control, Inc. to the Anti- Defamation League to the Million Mom
March, they all want you to live in fear. In this scheme, soccer moms are
"victims" just as much as are inner-city minorities.
- If these organizations truly cared about the people for
whom they claim to speak, they would encourage safe and responsible firearms
ownership. They would help people to learn how to defend themselves and
their families so that they wouldn't have to live in fear. They would tell
everyone that one of the wonderful things about being an American is that
you have the right to keep and bear arms, the right to defend yourself,
and how these rights preserve the right to be free.
- The psychological price of being a victim
- In our current society, victimhood has many perceived
benefits, but there are some serious drawbacks. Victims tend to see the
world as a scary and threatening place. They believe that others treat
them differently, unfairly, and even maliciously - and that they are helpless
to do anything about it. This belief, that they are being mistreated and
are helpless to resist, generates tremendous rage, and often, serious depression.
- But for victims to show rage openly can be dangerous,
if not outright suicidal. For example, a battered woman who screams at
or hits her attacker may provoke worse beatings or even her own murder.
And a person who successfully defends himself loses his status as "victim."
For someone whose entire identity is dependent on being a victim, the loss
of victim status is just as threatening as loss of life.
- So, unable psychologically to cope with such rage, people
who view themselves as victims: (1) use defense mechanisms to displace
it into irrational beliefs about neighbors killing each other, and the
infallibility of police protection, and (2) attempt to regain control by
controlling gun owners, whom they wrongly perceive as "the enemy".
- Say NO to being a victim!
- But no one needs to be a victim! Quite simply, it's not
very easy to victimize a person who owns and knows how to use a firearm.
If most women owned and carried firearms, rapes and beating would decrease.29
Thugs who target the elderly and disabled would find honest work once they
realized they were likely to be looking down the barrel of a pistol or
shotgun. It's nearly impossible to enslave, or herd into concentration
camps, large numbers of armed people.
- Communicating with anti-gun people
- How can you communicate more effectively with an anti-gun
person who is using unhealthy defense mechanisms? There are no quick and
easy answers. But there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Anger and attacks do not work
- Most gun owners, when confronted by an anti-gun person,
become angry and hostile. This is understandable, because gun owners increasingly
face ridicule, persecution and discrimination. (If you don't believe this,
ask yourself if anyone would seriously introduce legislation to ban African-
Americans, women, or Jews from post offices, schools, and churches. Even
convicted felons aren't banned from such places - but peaceful armed citizens
are!) But an angry response is counterproductive.
- It's not helpful to attack the person you're trying to
persuade. Anything that makes him feel more fearful or angry will only
intensify his defenses. Your goal is to help the person feel safe, and
then to provide experiences and information that will help him to make
- Be Gentle
- You should never try to break down a defense mechanism
by force. Remember that defense mechanisms protect people from feelings
they cannot handle, and if you take that protection away, you can cause
serious psychological harm. And because defense mechanisms operate unconsciously,
it won't do any good to show an anti-gun person this article or to point
out that he's using defense mechanisms. Your goal is gently and gradually
to help the person to have a more realistic and rational view of the world.
This cannot be done in one hour or one day.
- As you reach out to people in this way, you need to deal
with both the illogical thought processes involved and the emotional reactions
that anti-gun people have to firearms. When dealing with illogical thought
processes, you are attempting to use reason and logic to convince the anti-gun
person that his perception of other people and his perception of firearms
are seriously inaccurate. The goal is to help him to understand that armed
citizens and firearms are not threats, and may even save his life.
- Reversing Irrational thoughts
- The Mirror Technique
- One approach that can be helpful is simply to feed back
what the anti-gun person is telling you, in a neutral, inquisitive way.
So, when replying to my anonymous e-mail correspondent (above), I might
respond, "So you fear if your neighbors had guns, they would use them
to murder you. What makes you think that?" When you simply repeat
what the person has said, and ask questions, you are not directly challenging
his defenses. You are holding up a mirror to let him see his own views.
If he has very strong defenses, he can continue to insist that his neighbors
want to murder him. However, if his defenses are less rigid, he may start
to question his position.
- Another example might be, "Why do you think that
your children's schoolteachers would shoot them?" You might follow
this up with something like, "Why do you entrust your precious children
to someone you believe would murder them?" Again, you are merely asking
questions, and not directly attacking the person or his defenses.
- Of course the anti-gun person might continue to insist
that the teachers really would harm children, but prohibiting them from
owning guns would prevent it. So you might ask how using a gun to murder
innocent children is different from stabbing children with scissors, assaulting
them with baseball bats, or poisoning the milk and cookies.
- It's important to ask "open-ended" questions
that require a response other than "yes" or "no". Such
questions require the anti-gun person actually to think about what he is
saying. This will help him to re-examine his beliefs. It may also encourage
him to ask you questions about firearms use and ownership.
- The "What Would You Do?" Technique
- Once you have a dialogue going with an anti-gun person,
you might want to insert him into a hypothetical scenario, although doing
so is a greater threat to his defenses, and is therefore more risky. You
might ask how he would deal with a difficult or annoying co-worker. He
will likely respond that he would never resort to violence, but "other
people" would, especially if they had guns. (Projection again.) You
can then ask him who these "other people" are, why they would
shoot a co-worker, and what the shooter would gain by doing so.
- Don't try to "win" the argument. Don't try
to embarrass the person you're trying to educate. Remember that no one
likes to admit that his deeply held beliefs are wrong. No one likes to
hear "I told you so!" Be patient and gentle. If you are arrogant,
condescending, hurtful or rude to the anti-gun person, you will only convince
him that gun owners are arrogant, hurtful people - who should not be trusted
- Defusing Emotional reactions
- The "You Are There" Technique
- Rational arguments alone are not likely to be successful,
especially since many people "feel" rather than "think".
You also need to deal with the emotional responses of the anti-gun person.
Remember that most people have been conditioned to associate firearms with
dead toddlers. So you need to change the person's emotional responses along
with his thoughts.
- One way to do this is to put the anti-gun person (or
his family) at a hypothetical crime scene and ask what he would like to
have happen. For example, "Imagine your wife is in the parking lot
at the supermarket and two men grab her. One holds a knife to her throat
while the other tears her clothes off. If I see this happening and have
a gun, what should I do? What would happen next? What if after five minutes,
the police still haven't arrived?"
- Just let him answer the questions and mentally walk through
the scenario. Don't argue with his answers. You are planting seeds in his
mind than can help change his emotional responses.
- The Power of Empathy
- Another emotion-based approach that is often more successful
is to respond sympathetically to the plight of the anti-gun person.
- Imagine for a moment how you would feel if you believed
your neighbors and co-workers wanted to kill you and your family, and you
could do nothing at all about it except to wait for the inevitable to occur.
- Not very pleasant, is it?
- This is the world in which opponents of armed self-defense
live. All of us have had times in our lives when we felt "different"
and had to contend with hostile schoolmates, co- workers, etc. So we need
to invoke our own compassion for these terrified people. Say something
like, "It must be awful to live in fear of being assaulted by your
own neighbors. I remember what it was like when I was the only (Jew, Mormon,
African-American, Republican) in my (class, football team, workplace) -
and even then I didn't think anyone was going to kill me." It's essential
that you sincerely feel some compassion and empathy; if you're glib or
sarcastic, this won't work.
- Using empathy works in several ways. First, it defuses
a potentially hostile interaction. Anti-gun people are used to being attacked,
not understood, by advocates of gun rights. Instead of an "evil, gun-toting,
extremist", you are now a sympathetic, fellow human being. This may
also open the door for a friendly conversation, in which you can each discover
that your "opponent" is a person with whom you have some things
in common. You may even create an opportunity to dispel some of the misinformation
about firearms and self-defense that is so prevalent.
- This empathy technique is also useful for redirecting,
or ending, a heated argument that has become hostile and unproductive.
It allows you to escape from the dead end of "guns save lives"
vs. "the only reason to have a gun is to murder children." With
empathy you can reframe the argument entirely. Instead of arguing about
whether more lives are saved or lost as a result of gun ownership, you
can comment on how terrifying it must be to live in a country where 80
million people own guns "solely for the purpose of murdering children".
- You should not expect any of these approaches to work
immediately; they won't. With rare exceptions, the anti-gun person is simply
not going to "see the light," thank you profusely, and beg you
to take him shooting. What you are doing is putting tiny chinks into the
armor of the person's defenses, or planting seeds that may someday develop
into a more open mind or a more rational analysis. This process can take
months or years. But it does work!
- Corrective Experiences
- Perhaps the most effective way to dissolve defense mechanisms,
however, is by providing corrective experiences30. Corrective experiences
are experiences that allow a person to learn that his ideas about gun owners
and guns are incorrect in a safe and non-threatening way. To provide a
corrective experience, you first allow the person to attempt to project
his incorrect ideas onto you. Then, you demonstrate that he is wrong by
your behavior, not by arguing.
- For example, the anti-gun person will unconsciously attempt
to provoke you by claiming that gun owners are uneducated "rednecks,"
or by treating you as if you are an uneducated "redneck." If
you get angry and respond by calling him a "stupid, liberal, socialist",
you will prove his point. However, if you casually talk about your M.B.A.,
your trip to the Shakespeare festival, your vegetable garden, or your daughter's
ballet recital, you will provide him with the opportunity to correct his
- If you have used the above techniques, then you have
already provided one corrective experience. You have demonstrated to the
frightened, anti-gun person that gun owners are not abusive, scary, dangerous
and sub-human monsters, but normal, everyday people who care about their
families, friends and even strangers.
- As many gun owners have already discovered, the most
important corrective experiences involve actually exposing the fearful
person to a firearm. It is almost never advisable to tell someone that
you carry a concealed firearm, but there are ways to use your own experience
- For example, if you're dealing with an anti-gun person
with whom you interact regularly and have a generally good relationship
- a coworker, neighbor, church member, etc. - you might indirectly refer
to concealed carry. You should never say anything like "I'm carrying
a gun right now and you can't even tell," especially because in some
states that would be considered illegal, "threatening" behavior.
But you might consider saying something like, "I sometimes carry a
firearm, and you've never seemed to be uncomfortable around me." Whether
to disclose this information is an individual decision, and you should
consider carefully other consequences before using this approach.
- First-hand experience
- Ultimately, your goal is to take the anti-gun person
shooting. Some people will accept an invitation to accompany you to the
range, but others are too frightened to do so, and will need some preliminary
- First, you want to encourage the anti-gun person to have
some contact with a firearm in whatever way feels most comfortable to him.
Many people seem to believe that firearms have minds of their own and shoot
people of their own volition. So you might want to start by inviting him
simply to look at and then handle an unloaded firearm. This also provides
you the opportunity to show the inexperienced person how to tell whether
a firearm is loaded and to teach him the basic rules of firearms safety.
- Encourage the newcomer to ask questions and remember
that your role is to present accurate information in a friendly, responsible
and non-threatening way. This is a good time to offer some reading material
on the benefits of firearms ownership. But be careful not to provide so
much information that it's overwhelming. And remember this is not the time
to launch into anti-government rants, the New World Order, conspiracy theories,
or any kind of political talk!
- Next, you can invite your friend to accompany you to
the shooting range. (And if you're going to trust each other with loaded
guns, you should consider yourselves friends!) Assure him that no one will
force him to shoot a gun and he's free just to watch. Let him know in advance
what he will experience and what will be expected of him. This includes
such things as the need for eye and ear protection, a cap, appropriate
clothing, etc. Make sure you have a firearm appropriate for your guest
should s/he decide to try shooting. This means a lower caliber firearm
that doesn't have too much recoil. If your guest is a woman, make sure
the firearm will fit her appropriately. Many rifles have stocks that are
too long for small women, and double-stack semi-autos are usually too large
for a woman's hand.
- Remember that just visiting the range can be a corrective
experience. Your guest will learn that gun owners are disciplined, responsible,
safety-conscious, courteous, considerate, and follow the rules. He will
see people of all ages, from children to the elderly, male and female,
enjoying an activity together. He will not see a single "beer-swilling
redneck" waving a firearm in people's faces.
- In my experience, most people who visit a range will
decide they do want to try shooting. Remember to make sure your guest understands
all the safety rules and range rules before allowing him to handle a firearm.
If you don't feel competent to teach a newcomer to shoot, ask an instructor
or range master to assist. Remember to provide lots of positive feedback
and encouragement. If you're lucky, you'll recruit a new firearms enthusiast.
- But even if your guest decides that shooting is "not
for him", he will have learned many valuable lessons. He will know
basic rules of firearms safety, and how to clear a firearm should he need
to do so. This may well save his life someday. He will know that guns do
not fire unless a person pulls the trigger. He will know that gun owners
are friendly, responsible people, not very different from him. Even if
he chooses not to fire a gun ever again, he will be less likely to fear
and persecute gun owners. And who knows - a few months or years later he
may decide to become a gun owner.
- Why these techniques do not always work
- You should remember that you will not be successful with
all anti-gun people. Some people are so terrified and have such strong
defenses, that it's not possible for someone without professional training
to get through. Some people have their minds made up and refuse to consider
opening them. Others may concede that what you say "makes sense,"
but are unwilling to challenge the forces of political correctness. A few
may have had traumatic experiences with firearms from which they have not
- You will also not be successful with the anti-gun ideologues,
people like Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein. These people have made
a conscious choice to oppose firearms ownership and self-defense. They
almost always gain power, prestige, and money from their anti-gun politics.
They are not interested in the facts or in saving lives. They know the
facts and understand the consequences of their actions, and will happily
sacrifice innocent people if it furthers their selfish agenda. Do not use
these techniques on such people. They only respond to fears of losing the
power, prestige and money that they covet.31
- By better understanding advocates of civilian disarmament,
and by learning and practicing some simple techniques to deal with their
psychological defenses, you will be much more effective in your efforts
to communicate with anti-gun people. This will enable you to be more successful
at educating them about the realities of firearms and self- defense, and
their importance to our liberty and safety.
- Educating others about firearms is hard work. It's not
glamorous, and it generally needs to be done one person at a time. But
it's a very necessary and important task. The average American supports
freedom of speech and freedom of religion, whether or not he chooses to
exercise them. He supports fair trials, whether or not he's ever been in
a courtroom. He likewise needs to understand that self- defense is an essential
right, whether or not he chooses to own or carry a gun.
- © 2000, Sarah Thompson.
- Dr. Thompson is Executive Director of Utah Gun Owners
Alliance, www.utgoa.org and also writes The Righter, www.therighter.com,
a monthly column on individual rights.
- 1 Lott, John R., Jr. 1998. More Guns, Less Crime. University
of Chicago Press. Pp. 11-12; Proposition B: More Security Or Greater Danger?,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 21, 1999.