How to Talk to the Non Initiated

There is indeed some excellent conservation happening in Tam’s comments, in regards to an MSNBC roundtable. I’d like to highlight a few things, because I think, overall, we’re pretty bad at talking to people outside the gun culture. I am guilty of this too. I’ve been surprised by analogies and arguments, which I thought were spot on and effective, fall completely flat when presented to a non-initiated person to the gun culture. Over at Tam’s, commenter staghounds makes this point:

For example, gun practice being “creepy” and “paranoid.” Think for a minute, and listen. Ask, not defiantly but to learn, what makes it creepy and paranoid? Is it different from practicing with other tools of daily life?

Yes, it is. What other tool do people do special practice and self training with? Musical instruments are the only ones that come quickly to mind. The other tools of life- cars, pens, hammers- we train with by constant doing.

It would be pretty unusual to meet someone who practiced jump starting his car for two hours every other week end.

Or who had four sets of jumper cables.

Maybe even creepy and paranoid.

That’s the real issue, but I think the answer is simple, and is provided by Yrro, the next commenter:

I think that’s where gun owners often *sound* insincere to anti-gun people. Because as much as I think effective self defense is a right… I go to USPSA because its fun. As much as I think that we need military weapons for the philosophical purpose of protecting ourselves from government… that’s *not* what I’m thinking about when I’m shooting 3-gun. Even general preparedness like carrying a knife or a flashlight is as much because I like being the guy who is prepared as I expect to get into a situation where I couldn’t deal without them.

Yrro is completely correct here, and the reason I believe we tend to avoid the “fun” line of argument is because it’s difficult to argue that our recreation ought to be preserved at a social cost. We stress the self-defense aspect because it makes for (we think) a stronger argument, and I generally agree that it does. But the fact is we do what we do because it’s an enjoyable form of recreation, and I don’t think we should be afraid to say that.

I got into shooting because it was fun. It’s fun in the same way video games are fun, and you get more exercise shooting. While I believe the fundamental reason our right exists (self-defense either from street criminals or state criminals), is hugely important, I also don’t think we should be afraid to admit it’s also an entertaining pastime. Most Americans who don’t have anything to lose won’t hesitate to offer up solutions that won’t affect them, and that they don’t imagine will affect anyone else. But few Americans really want to deprive other people of things important to them. If you can get most people to say “I can see both sides of the issue,” then the victory goes to the side with the largest number of energized people. That will typically be us in a struggle with the forces the favor gun control.

14 thoughts on “How to Talk to the Non Initiated”

  1. Is it “creepy” and “paranoid” when the police practice firearms skills?

    It’s not just musical instruments that people practice. Ever hear of basketball/football/soccer/baseball/judo/karate practice? Dancers, magicians, and even actors practice.

    If one were to be engaged in armed self-defense several times a month one might be able to “train by constant doing” but that’s clearly not a reasonable expectation.

    We train because our lives and the ones we love may depend being able to correctly and rapidly determine if a course of action is viable and to execute that action correctly and rapidly.

    1. I think the distinction people make is that a police officer is more likely to use his firearm, whereas most people never think they might be victims of a violent crime until it happens. That’s probably reinforced by Hollywood, where cops engage in gunplay all the time. In real life, most cops go whole careers without having to fire on someone. I think there’s a lot of pre-concieved notions that have to be deconstructed before one can get through to some of the more difficult people.

      I think most uninitiated folks view us as having an unwarranted focus on what they believe to be a low probability event. At least for most of the people I’ve spoken to about this (mostly family, some coworkers), they boil it down to that, and don’t understand what would drive such a thing, so they imagine excessive fear or paranoia as a possible motive. Generally speaking, these folks don’t really prepare for much, I think, in any context. It’s not just guns.

      As for sports, dancing and theater, I agree those are things that require the same kind of practice but more difficult people will reject the equivalence because those activities aren’t perceived as coming with any real social cost. I like the analogy to other martial arts the best, because they have both a recreational aspect and a self-defense aspect. If societal elites were threatened by judo or karate like they are gun ownership, I suspect there would be more stigma associated with martial arts.

      The fact that there isn’t I think is because most martial arts training in the US is foreign & recently imported, and have had weapons components of those arts largely removed. Things would probably be different if someone suggested Suzy Soccer Mom sign little Timmy up for hand-to-hand fighting with edged weapons. I suspect the reaction to that would be negative even if no live weapons were used in the training.

      There is something about training with weapons that make some people deeply uncomfortable, even people who aren’t reflexively pro-gun control.

      1. I think most uninitiated folks view us as having an unwarranted focus on what they believe to be a low probability event. At least for most of the people I’ve spoken to about this (mostly family, some coworkers), they boil it down to that, and don’t understand what would drive such a thing, so they imagine excessive fear or paranoia as a possible motive. Generally speaking, these folks don’t really prepare for much, I think, in any context. It’s not just guns.

        They’re absolutely statistically correct. Watching a morbidly obese incipient diabetic obsessing over which caliber and brand of hollowpoint is most likely to save his life is, to a dispassionate observer, absolutely bizarre.

  2. Most Americans who think they don’t have anything to lose….

    Fixed it for you.

    Of course, these Americans are totally ignorant of 20th Century history, and not very observant about the professed goals of too much of the Left.

    Not sure how to deal with the “it can’t happen here” crowd; as I say, many of them won’t even be convinced as they’re herded into the rail cars. In many cases, facing such brutal realities is more than they can deal with. Unfortunately the Gods of the Copybook Headings are not appeased by such head in sand behavior.

  3. I think this is a good point, and I’d defend my right to produce, own, and play video games just as vigorously as I do my right to keep and bear arms. Hell, the EFF is one of the other causes to which I give money.

  4. Back when I was anti-gun I was invited to go shooting. I found it to be surprisingly fun.

    Didn’t make me any less anti-gun.

    It wasn’t until I started looking up crime, and self defense statistics that I was forced to become pro-gun.

    The honest people who propose gun control want the EXACT same thing that we do.

    Only we’ve read the statistics. We can cite them, and they can choose not to believe them, so I’ve been challenging people to go dig up the stats and see how it fits their world view.

    1. Statistically speaking, if you do not do drugs nor associate with people who do, don’t hang out in bars, and avoid certain neighborhoods (any reasonably aware person knows Where The Bad Things Happen in their area) your odds of being the victim of a violent crime are vanishingly small. This is not to say it doesn’t happen, but follow those simple rules and you’re a lot more likely to have a heart attack than a mugging.

  5. I think shooting as a sport sounds less creepy and paranoid than shooting for self defense. Compare shooting to a sport like bowling or darts. Both take practice to be any good and lots of people can relate to them as being fun.

  6. Talking to the uninitiated is different than talking to the actively hostile. But in between is the willfully ignorant. This was brought home to me by talking to a close friend (who actually agrees with me about guns) about various social and economic policy issues. He is one of the smartest people I know but gets all his data from the left-wing media and resists suggestions that he broaden his horizon. So what do you do with someone like that.

  7. Several years back I got some anti-gun criticism from a very liberal co-worker, specifically about my participation in IPSC and 3-gun, equipment owned for those endeavors and the practice schedule.

    Turned out he and spouse were tennis fanatics – each had several very expensive racquets, a not cheap gizmo to keep tennis balls under pressure, paid enormous sums for professionals to improve their game, played in tournaments, etc.

    Took a while, but with some discussion and very gentle questions over a few months he came to the realization that there wasn’t much difference between us. He still had trouble with the “guns kill people, tennis racquets don’t,” so it wasn’t a complete transformation, but I judged moving him from far left to center was a win of sorts.

  8. It is like in HG wells story of the Morlocks and the Eli. Totally different views . The gun banners are the Eli they do not want to accept the idea that the world is dangerous and one has to accept that and deal with that. We decide tat self defense is a solution. They want more police, but their world view is upset when the need for armed guards become normal.

    Personally I also do not want armed guards and increased police presence. I would prefer that the teachers and administrators become armed in a concealed fashion and prepared to defend as needed.

    I thought the NRA position of armed guards was brilliant because that would naturally lead to armed teachers rather than police due to money constraints.

  9. Sure, guns are a tool. They’re also sporting equipment. No one would question me if I took a bowling ball to a bowling alley once a week to practice, and nobody would think that going to the driving range once a week is a bad thing (well, except a golfer’s significant other, that is… ;) ).

    A former boss of mine was an anti-gunner and a semi-pro golfer, and once I explained to him that the mindset to a good time at the range was almost *exactly* like the mindset needed for a good round of golf (only louder), he “got it” and took an interest in my sport.

  10. I work with a woman who knows that I carry and we’ve had several discussions about guns and self-defense. She’s not hostile to guns and is genuinely curious about why I choose to be armed. When I asked her to imagine a situation where she would need a gun, she said “No, I don’t want to do that. It seems like I would be fantasizing about shooting someone.”
    I suppose she would feel the same way about training for self-defense scenarios. I’m taking my mind to a rather dark place when I imagine things going so badly that I’m forced to draw my gun and shoot someone. It’s easy to be hypothetical about it when shooting paper targets, but to someone looking on from the outside, it may seem creepy.
    I’m still working on getting my co-worker to the range.

  11. Frankly, I find hunting (a “sporting” purpose), far creepier and with less Constitutional protection that the most mallninja’ed tacticool shooter.

    Because grocery stores. unless you live in the way-beyond, you can get your meat faster, cheaper, and with less effort from the cooler at Food Lion.

    One is a Constitutionally guaranteed civil right of both personal and community defence, the other is a hard and messy way to get dinner.

    On the other hand, I’m not at all anti-hunting. (I’ve debated going hunting, even — when I say “creepier”, I means it regsiters at all on my creep-o-meter, whereas defensive shooting practice doesn’t even blip the silly-scope. Obsessive bullseye shooters rate about the same as hunting on the creep-o-meter — as do obsessive golfers, stamp collectors, etc. Going that OCD on something that isn’t ultimately about protecting your life and the lives of your loved ones from external threats is at least a little bit “creepy”. {grin})

    Fat mall-ninjas are just amusingly silly.

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