Educating Gun Owners

Every once in a while, gun owners actually get a bit social and talk to the other folks on the range. Rarely are they happy with the result of any conversations that turn to politics. Such was the result of several conversations in New Jersey, according to the experience of Cemetery. Unfortunately, Cemetery’s own ‘About Me’ page illustrates the difference between him and the Average Joe gun owner:

A few years later, I’m still here. Constantly learning about my guns, other guns, and doing my best to fend off information overload.

Most folks, not just gun owners, try to fend off information overload, but not because they are compensating for learning so much. Unfortunately, most have a maximum limit for how much they are even willing to learn about guns and the gun issue. It’s great to meet an activist who knows pretty much every anti & pro-gun bill in their state, along with the relevant federal issues. Alas, they are rare because most gun owners have no interest in learning that much. Sure, they’ll bitch after a bad bill becomes law, but they have little interest in becoming informed.

Anyone who has ever talked to me about my activist recruitment days knows that I had my share of days pulling my hair out with these folks. But when you start to feel that way, it’s important to remember that these folks are just being normal. We probably have more activists in the gun issue than most other political issues, and that’s something you have to keep in mind when you get frustrated. Activists are special because they aren’t normal. By default, it means they will be harder to find.  If you spend enough time trying to find and cultivate them, your standards run the risk of sinking to defining an activist as anything with a pulse who has a basic understanding of major political issues.  It can be pretty sad sometimes. :)

Another risk for activists who spend enough time talking to other gun owners is frustration that stems from two distinct types of “head-in-the-sand” gun owners.  The first is the type of gun owner who simply feels comfortable with his head buried.  There’s a comfort in just not knowing.  If they don’t know, they don’t have to worry.  The others are similar to the guy who left the comment Cemetery profiled:

If you can’t defend your yourself, your property, and your family with a double barrel 12, there’s something wrong with you. If someone breaks into my house, they’re getting a face full of 00 buckshot. In fact, I would prefer a shotgun to a sissy little 9mm. So, until they start coming after my rifles and shotguns, I really don’t give a crap.

This person belongs into another camp.  Instead of having their head in sand because it’s just more comfortable that way, I wouldn’t even classify them as gun owners.  They will not only turn in their own guns, they will tell the authorities about their buddies who own guns.  There really is no educating these guys because they don’t care about owning guns or any serious threats to the right.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to pick the gun owners receptive to your messages out of a crowd.  It means that you will run into these two types regularly, and in a state like Jersey where there are few activists to balance it out, it can be overwhelming.  In New Jersey, the gun owning population has reached such a low level, and finding the signs of life in the grassroots can seem nearly impossible.  That’s why I believe that New Jersey gun owners have an obligation to try and rebuild some of the gun traditions.  Education and outreach needs to be an absolute priority.  The upside to having oppressive laws is that those you recruit now are likely to be appalled and might be better sources for future activists.

Really, the only solution is to keep trying, and figure out when to cut a contact loose.  If you find they are outright hostile, just walk away.  If they just like keeping their heads in the sand, only fish around long enough to figure out if there is an issue that might get them to at least look up.  If not, cut them loose.

3 thoughts on “Educating Gun Owners”

  1. The type of gun-owner that frustrates me most isn’t the head-in-the-sand type, they may not help but at least they aren’t out there actively hindering.

    The credulous gun owner, who accepts every fantastic conspiratorial “chicken little” blog posting or gun shop rumor and then repeats it as fact (by ranting on a call-in show or writing an ungrammatical letter to the editor) without first looking for corroboration, damages the credibility of those of us who are attempting to sway the” undecided middle” with reasoned arguments.

    Save me from my “friends”, I can handle my enemies on my own.

  2. I have had a number of trips to the range that were enhanced by talking to other people. I guess I have been lucky that way. Usually don’t talk politics, but sometimes. Learned a lot about guns.

    Similarly, I do track days with my Subaru WRX, and find people very interested in talking. Every car has a story and a driver at least two, everybody is there to go fast safely or enjoy the scenery.

    Where I am in CA, people tend to walk the streets looking as if they just ate a lemon or need a large dose of Ex-Lax. I am a runner and many runners studiously avoid eye contact or any recognition of any one else, especially in areas that are semi to affluent and liberal, based on the yard signs.

  3. “The upside to having oppressive laws is that those you recruit now are likely to be appalled and might be better sources for future activists.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much the situation here in Massachusetts. I know several people who have gotten LTCs and donated to GOAL at least partially out of spite.

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