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The Public Comfort

Joe is a little insulted about the whole Scoutten-Boomershoot kerfuffle, and says:

In his followup comment he says he doesn’t want put anything “on TV that could alarm the anti-gunners”. I disagree. I am of the opinion that alarming them over Boomershoot then making fools of them is the more appropriate tactic (ask me sometime in private how we have baited them but they failed to take the bait). But if he doesn’t want to do that I don’t see a reason to attack him over that judgment call.

I think some would probably assume, based on my general support for not pushing beyond the general public’s comfort zone and understanding, that I believe it should never be done.  That is not correct.  I believe pushing too far is unwise, but you have to push some, otherwise you never move the ball forward.

Scoutten has some legitimate concerns about public perceptions, but I think his thinking is not necessarily clear about what perceptions we ought to be concerned about.  The overwhelming message we want to get across is that the shooting sports are safe and fun, that gun ownership and interest in shooting is not abnormal or unhealthy, and that it’s perfectly natural for people to want to defend themselves, their families and their communities.

We must be concerned about public perception when trying to do this, but that perception needs to be tailored toward getting people to overcome their prejudices about gun owners and people who shoot.  We properly eschew presenting people shooting in camo, shooting at an old, beat up school bus, or many of the other things Jim mentioned because they reinforce rather than break down prejudices and stereotypes.  Without proper context, context which is not possible to present in a short TV segment, people do not understand what the are seeing and wonder what these people are preparing for.

When I look at an event like Boomershoot, I see something that attracts people from all walks of life.  I see something that’s organized and put together by someone trained and licensed to handle explosives.  I see an event that starts with education and safety, namely a precision rifle clinic.  Most importantly, I see ordinary people enjoying themselves with firearms.  All these things can be easily highlighted in a TV segment with proper storytelling and editing.  Sure, there are some people that would be appaled by the idea of Boomershoot, or a machine gun shoot, but those are people who won’t be reached by any kind of positive coverage of any kind of shooting. I think we need to spend far less time worrying about which kinds of shooting activities do or don’t look favorable to the public, and worry more about telling the story of gun owners and shooting.  Let the public get to know ordinary gun owners, who have families, work at ordinary jobs, go to ordinary churches, and lead ordinary lives.  Do that, and it won’t matter whether they shoot a bolt action .22, an AR-15, a machine gun, or whether they get a thrill shooting at high explosives.

Shooters have a story to tell, and I’m grateful there are guys out there like Jim Scoutten and Michael Bane out there telling it in new, interesting, and entertaining ways, and presenting it to a mainstream audience.  We need that.  But I think we need to tell the whole story, and machine gun shoots and events like Boomershoot are part of that story.

2 Responses to “The Public Comfort”

  1. Stephen says:

    While I like to say that if you act like you have something of which to be ashamed, you soon will have something of which to be ashamed, we need to refrain from attacking everyone on the slightest provocation. I think there is a way to present Boomershoot as promoting precision, long range shooting. If Scoutten doesn’t feel that fits with his show and his audience, we’re better off agreeing to disagree and seeking out those who do want to make the case. This is minor league Zumbo.

  2. Sebastian says:

    I don’t think this is a Zumbo thing at all. It’s a minor quibble.

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