If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in responding to the new calls for gun control in response to the Virginia Tech tragedy, among people both on the internet and off, it’s that most people’s perceptions of the issue are woefully uninformed. It’s shocking to me how many advocates of gun control don’t even know the most basic things about firearms. Even the queen of the gun control herself, Carolyn McCarthy, didn’t know what a barrel shroud was, even though her bill, H.R.1022, bans firearms that have them.
The basic problem we have is that a large portion of the general public, especially in more urbanized areas, have absolutely no experience or knowledge of firearms themselves. So when folks like the Brady’s and their friends in the media report that the Walther P22 is a high powered killing machine, they have no basis in knowledge that would raise doubt about the veracity of that statement. We on the gun blogosphere may giggle at the idea, but a lot of people genuinely don’t know any better.
We bear the burden of a population that’s easily mislead because it doesn’t have first hand knowledge of firearms, and doesn’t really care too much about self-defense issues, the right to keep and bear arms, target shooting, hunting, or any of the other things we talk about here. That is the core of our problem. The fact that the media is ignorant and doesn’t even try to hide their overt hostility towards guns and shooters is a big problem too, but if people were better educated on our issue, they’d know the media were ignorant and misleading.
That’s why I think the best thing we can do to help ourselves is to educate people we know, and try to at least give them a bit of familiarity, so they can identify media hysterics when they see it. Try to get someone to the range, especially someone who has never shot before. The best anecdote to the bullshit being spewed by the anti-gun crowd and their accomplices in the media is direct first hand experience with firearms. Take the opportunity to not just entertain, but to educate.
One of the things I like to do is take someone clay shooting. Aside from being a lot of fun, it introduces people to the shotgun. Later, when I take them over to the target range, I’ll let them shoot an AR-15 or an AK-47. They can see these scary looking weapons but neat holes in the paper, and fire a single shot with each pull of the trigger, just like any other self-loading gun. If you have access to a plinking range, let them shoot water jugs with it. Let them do the same with a pistol. Then let them do it with your shotgun. Most people are quickly shocked by how much damage a shotgun does to targets. That’s often a good opportunity to point out that at close ranges, the shotgun is probably the most lethal firearm ever devised by man, and yet it has common sporting uses, and very few people believe it ought to be banned. Even in largely gun-free Britain, shotguns are still lawful to own, with a proper shotgun certificate from the police. In my experience, if you can get someone to the range, they aren’t likely to adopt the idea that we ought to ban shotguns too.
We will never go back to being a society where the majority has a reasonable familiarity with firearms. Thanks to technology and laws surrounding the issue, it’s become much more complicated than it was a century ago. But it’s important to do what we can. If we can at least, each of us, make a few people understand that a .22 caliber target pistol isn’t a high powered killing machine, and realize the media is full of crap when they hear that, we’re doing ourselves a favor. Most people don’t appreciate being mislead and lied to, and when it comes to guns, they get that all the time.