Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Irrational Fear of Gunowners

Kevin Baker of Smallest Minority wrote an article that caused me to stop and think. His post dicusses several thoughts that ate at him for awhile.

He mentions Abigail Kohn who wrote an anthropological study on gunnies called Shooters. Some of her academic colleagues thought she should reveal gun nuts as being the disgusting people they must be. The second thread revolved around an article that I reviewed here. The author basically thinks gunnies are insane. The final thread came from Representative Patrick Kennedy who claimed that anyone who would not back his bill outlawing .50 caliber rifles had to be insane.

Baker went on to say:
We call ourselves "gun nuts" - embracing the label thrust upon us by the ignorant, anti-gun bigots - but many of them really believe it. We're "potentially dangerous" because we like guns.

I think that's something most gun owners don't really grasp. I know it initially took me a while to get my mind around the idea.
I get it. I understand that anti-gun people actually fear us more than they fear guns. When I moved to Massachusetts I met people at my job who adamantly oppose my gun rights. It's not personal, they believe no one should own guns.

My co-workers actually recoiled from me when they found out I was a gun owner. They couldn't understand it. They claimed to fear me while admitting I had done nothing to earn that fear. Their belief about gun rights could be described with one phrase, “Guns are bad.”

Perhaps, these people believe this because they have no positive examples of gun ownership. I offered to take my colleagues shooting. I promised a safe environment, safe training (I have training credentials after all), no cost, and an afternoon of fun. I offered the choice of handgun, rifle, or shotgun sports. While I didn't face open hostility, no one took me up on the offer.

Near the end of his post, Kevin mentions that he and other gun bloggers will take people shooting. As of this writing, he has had three takers in the year or so I've been reading his site. Actually, that’s more success than I had and I wish him and the other bloggers well.

I used to think that if someone would just go shooting, the experience would help cure them of their unreasonable fear. Now I am not so sure. I think the primary causes of this fear of guns and gunowners are:
  • Fewer rural people. In rural areas guns are a tool and form of recreation, in the suburbs and big cities guns are seen as a threat that have no utility except for criminals and cops;
  • Mainstream Media. Press reports emphasize gun crime, but do not cover defensive uses of guns, or gun sports (ever try to watch shooting on the Olympics), etc. Everything seems geared to "guns are bad;"
  • Professionalization. This is an attitude that only a plumber can replace a washer, only AAA can replace a flat tire, only a cop can use a gun—we are witnessing the death of self-reliance.
So, how do we reach out to those who fear guns and their owners? Taking them shooting can help, if they’ll go. But, I fear most of them are willfully ignorant. They want to stuff their fists into their ears so they can’t learn. Most won’t read anything that refutes their arguments even if you throw in every rational fact possible.

It may be that the three forces I described above, and there are more forces, are too much to easily overcome. Maybe, it's too early in the morning for this, but I am depressed about the future of my avocation, even while I see encouraging signs. I will do what I can to save it, but so many people view “guns are bad” that I wonder who will win.

But, I need to tell those who willfully decide to fear guns and their owners something. I am not insane, I am not a disgusting person, I am not psychotic, I am not paranoid. I am simply making a choice in a free country that you don't like. If you can’t accept that, then leave me alone.

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