Monday, February 4, 2013

The Anti Gun Crowd Is Winning

This year, only a month old, has proved to be exhausting if you are in the gun community. Without going into the specifics we are all too aware of we've been fighting a gun battle that has taken the foreground in almost every news outlet around the country and in every form of media. Whether its on the television or in the paper, in blogs or twitter or facebook, there is no escaping the debates as to whether we need more laws, less laws, the current laws enforced or an outright ban on anything that fires a projectile. And if you're tempted to read the comments to such press you will see that people are viciously defending their own opinions. No blows are too low and no punches are being pulled from either side.

I've been trying to stay away from the gun debate because I have a pretty strong opinion that the people who listen to me are already aligned to my way of thinking and don't need to be preached to and the people who don't listen to me won't start no matter what I say. So, other than passing on a few interesting articles and encouraging others to get involved I'm staying out of things.

Yet, since the latest Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 has been introduced there's been a lot of talk about who is "winning." Is there enough support for the legislation? Who is going to vote for it? Is there senate support? Will it be stopped before it gets out of the House?

A lot of speculation that, quite honestly, we're just going to have to wait and see how it turns out.

So, some might (and probably will) look at the title of this blog and balk.

"Lima!" they might say, "The antis aren't winning. We have ..." and they will start to list all sorts of reasons why we are going to win in legislation this year.

That's all well and good but I'm not talking about legislation this year. I'm not even talking about legislation next year or the year after that. I'm talking about losing the battle but winning the war and the anti gun crowd is turning to an age-old system that has worked well for them in the past for both the better and worst. I'm talking about winning over our children and slaughtering any positive image of the gun culture.

After this whole gun control debate exploded I decided to educate myself on the history of British gun laws and how they ended up with an all out ban. Why wasn't it fought harder? How did such a thing happen without mass fighting and civil war and stand-offs between the police and citizens? The gun ban in England happened almost silently.

I found the answer hidden between the lines.

The British were successful in one area that American gun-control advocates have not been successful in but are waking up to: destroying the gun culture.

British gun control has a long and uncomplicated history. It was, as many suspect it may become here in the US, a slow and steady trickle of gun laws that simply made it harder and harder for citizens to own firearms to the point where it was too much trouble to keep a firearm. And along with the hardening of laws, lack of accessibility and a mounting financial and paperwork burden, there was also a vicious attack against those who might appreciate guns. They were demonized and attacked to the point where getting rid of the gun was a social solution as well as an economical one. By the time the last axe fell and people were told to turn in their firearms there was no desire to fight and it was considered a relief to some to get the evil stigma of "gun owner" off of their backs.

Many were very willing to get rid of the guns to be socially acceptable again.

And the social attack has begun in the states.


 


The above video is an old one but very relevant. In it, Eric Holder outlines a plan that has been working its was through the anti crowd and is now finding its way through the pro-gun crowd as well.

And it's happening fast. Faster than many will admit but slow enough where some people aren't noticing it or giving it due credit.

When I was a girl, just fifteen to twenty years ago, my brother had a hobby of making non-functional replica firearms--lever action rifles, machine guns, pistols, revolvers. He would craft them carefully out of wood and often take them with him to school to show his friends and teachers. He was praised for his craftsmanship and never once made to feel ashamed or that he had done something wrong because he enjoyed the look and mechanics of firearms. When he wasn't crafting firearms he was drawing pictures of them and learning about them and shooting them with his uncles and cousins on special days. He and our cousin would get realistic replicas as gifts and stage elaborate westerns and plays. Both my brother's handmade replicas and their store-bought ones were even used in school plays as props. The atmosphere was one of neutrality. It was understood that guns could and would do harm if misused but they were not bad in and of themselves and there was no need to fear the image of a firearm or make a boy feel badly because he liked them.

That boy grew up to join the military and make a long-standing career out of it. He still loves firearms and counts himself privileged to "play" with some of the most advanced weapon systems of our day. He teases me with reports of the thousands upon thousands of rounds he gets to fire through dozens of weapons over week or even month long trainings. His positive encounters and influence has impacted his sister (me) to the point where I have dedicated a large portion of my time to the positive influences and trainings or firearms and until recently I have never felt my status as a gun owner as a negative.

For me, it started with Columbine. I was still a girl and didn't know much about school violence. I went to a private school. I had never been bullied and never bullied (to my knowledge). It was not unusual for high school boys to have knives in their backpacks and talks of hunting and guns to go on during the lunch period. Some boys even took off time from school to go hunting and brought in pictures of themselves holding their rifles next to their downed deer. The atmosphere was a positive one. That all very suddenly changed.

There had been school shootings and violence in the past, there was a new level of fear and caution that had not been present before. Suddenly, the idea of bringing a hand-crafted toy gun to school was deeply frowned upon. A boy who had been expelled from a local public school and enrolled in ours brought a weapon to school and though no one was hurt or even threatened, with the new awareness to gun violence it was suddenly against the rules to bring any sort of weapon to school. It made sense, sure, but it also made a point of instilling a fear of firearms into a bunch of kids who had previously only seen them in that neutral light of machines of interest or of use in hunting or home protection. We weren't used to the negativity but we adapted quickly.

Firearms were not on the mind in college. There were rules against them, of course, but I was more concerned with my studies and my boyfriends than I was any type of firearms. When my boyfriend (now husband) told me he was getting his concealed carry permit I remember saying, "People can do that?" and asking him why he wanted one. He said that after four years of carrying a firearm in the military it seemed kind of weird not to have one and that response made sense to me. There was no fear. I didn't wonder if he was suffering from some mental illness or that he would go crazy. I didn't worry that he was going to get PTSD and go shoot someone. Guns were neutral. He wanted to carry one. It was within his legal rights to do that. Okay.

Then we got married and I got a job in the public school system. Guns suddenly became a big thing. Virginia Tech happened and the building I worked in got a shooting threat. I didn't know tensions could get so high for so many people all at once. By that time I was already a concealed carrier and there was no law against me carrying at work and so I did. While some coworkers were talking about escape routes and hiding under desks or even taking vacation time to get away from work I was planning offensive strategies and going to the range to make sure my aim was up to the task of potentially responding to an active shooter. I was finding places of cover and identifying fatal funnels. I was not afraid (even if I should have been). But I saw that many people were.


I had not been super secretive about my appreciation for firearms and when the tensions were at their highest people started to target me. They didn't understand why I liked guns. They thought all guns should be banned except for law enforcement or military. For the first time in my life I saw how my fondness for firearms could negatively affect my life through my job.

And that conflict was only made greater when I took a second job at a gun store. I loved my new job. I had more fun than I could express and it was a joy to work behind a gun counter. I was shooting daily and enjoying being around people who did not think me strange or odd or question my mental health or stability because I had an appreciation for firearms. When there was a hint of a threat, instead of people worrying and fretting we got together and made tactical decisions based on who had the best shooting skills and most experience. At my job in education my circle of friends was getting smaller at the range it was getting bigger. How sad that something I enjoyed drew such a harsh line in the sand.

When some coworkers from my education job came in to the range one day to shoot they looked at me in horror and later begged me not to tell anyone at work that they were there. They didn't want it to get out that they liked shooting.

Eventually I left my job in education to work at the gun store and range full time. It was a great decision and one that I have never regretted.

Since those years I've seen the negativity grow and grow. I recently had a family member say that she is uncomfortable driving in a vehicle with me or would not come to my home because of my firearms.

I have acquaintances who will not allow their children over to our home because we are gun owners. And no matter how little that may affect my own personal outlook to gun ownership, in the eyes of my child, who loves his friends and only wants to play with them, he may one day come to a conclusion that says, "Well, if Mom and Dad didn't have those stupid guns I could have been able to have fun with so-and-so." The negativity has set in. And it is a bitch to get out.

While it's not necessarily a brand new occurrence, just yesterday I was sent a message by someone who said he wished someone would take my gun and shoot me with it.

Children are expelled from schools for drawing pictures of guns or even pointing their fingers in a way that could be misinterpreted as a gun. A deaf child was asked to change his sign language version of his name because it resembled a gun. A friend of mine who's little boy brought a Halo action figure with a gun to a play date was asked to the action figure's gun in the car. This is doing nothing but bathing the psyche of children in an over-all negativity to firearms that will not be easy to defeat if it can be defeated at all.

And the results are already starting to show.

I'm starting to see the negativity spewed from the supposed gun supporters!


The same baseless fears are catching on in the gun community to a frightening degree.

Parents who will not let their children play with toy guns because of the "negativity" or fear that they will not be able to learn the difference between toys and reality or that they won't be accepted in school. Parents who have guns but won't even tell their children they have them because of the fear that they will tell their friends and it will get out that they are gun owners (granted, I do understand this response if there is a child or child's friend who is questionable and you feel would attempt to steal or otherwise be dangerous with the gun). People who beg coworkers not to let it out that they were seen a gun range.

A few days ago I read an article saying that people in the medical, educational, political and entertainment fields are getting to the point where they fear speaking positively about guns for fear of losing work.

That is frightening.

And it goes to show you that the anti gunners are winning. They are winning a cultural war against the gun that will not be able to be reversed if it is left to progress much further. When our children are grown they will see a cultural disadvantage to gun ownership. They may even think us crazy or mislead or archaic. They may shrug when it's time to hand in their guns.

How do we fight it? I have my ideas but I want to hear yours. How do you think we can reverse the cultural fear of the gun?


9 comments:

  1. I think we fight it the way we fight all culture wars. We instill proper and correct values in our children and we teach them that sometimes what is right isn't always popular. And doing what is right is far more important than doing what is popular.

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  2. I think educating people (young and old) will help combat this. If you can still find people who are neutral on guns (at least somewhat) then they can be educated. Knowledge can chase away fear of the unknown. I remember feeling a bit scared when I would hear the term "semi-automatic" because I had no clue what it meant. To me, it just sounded like "big, scary gun" however, when I learned what it meant, my reaction was seriously, "that's it?" All of a sudden, I could see why people found them useful. It was a mechanical thing, nothing more.

    As for our family, we are homeschooling so that helps shield our kids from the anti-gun talk out there, especially within our school system. We took our kids to one of the 2nd amendment rallies recently. They asked why we were going there and I explained that there were people who thought that others shouldn't have guns. Our oldest just got this funny look on her face and said, "but why?" It was such a foreign concept to her. We are just teaching them to respect guns but not fear them.

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    1. Thank you for the input and I agree.
      I think it's great you are homeschooling your kids. Keep up the good work!

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  3. I worry about some people for the cause (myself included) that we come across just as abrasive as the other side to those in the middle. I feel my hackles standing up when someone with an ignorant opinion begins to speak (this won't help the cause). It struck a chord when you mentioned seeing people at the range who were afraid it would become known.

    I believe the majority of the population has little or no opinion on the topic, but they side with the one that seems more popular. There likely are a number of people who would consider educating themselves, provided they could appear neutral in doing so. What if the people who don't understand guns were able to attend a similar curriculum to the NRA standard, branded for people who are afraid or politically manipulated in to hating guns. If those people could spend an hour or two in a course that explained things more clearly, they might walk away empowered to be free-thinkers. And if not, I'd still respect them for showing up to participate.

    I've been "tricked" into too many "pyramid scheme" meetings. I'm absolutely not saying the marketing should be deceptive. The education presented would have to be neutral enough that people would tell their friends and endorse the education, even if they choose never to carry. I also believe the information and stats spewed should come from a central source. The quickest way to lose a repuation is to accidentally fill people with bad facts with good intentions. It's a serious commitment of time and probably even some money for materials / marketing.

    People hate what they fear and they fear what they misunderstand. Responsible gun owners could sieze this opportunity to educate.

    I believe that my reality as a Christian started when I truly became a "fisher of men," not a "hunter of men." Specifically stated, I don't need to beat everyone with my beliefs to be effective (whether guns or God). A positive message shared with kindness will eventually spread, even if it takes a matter of years for an individual.

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    1. I agree. There is a need for more "neutral" information. This is a heated debate, for sure, and both sides can get very unreasonable very quickly. Whether it's a gift or a curse, I don't know but I tend to be very calm about the whole thing. I have strong opinions, feelings and beliefs but I have yet to "lose my cool" when talking about the issue. I definitely favor civil discussion.
      I mentioned the family member who doesn't want to come to my home or ride in a car with me. We have had many civil discussions regarding firearms and I have encouraged her to face her fears and take a firearms class. She agrees that it is probably a smart thing to do. I hope she does. And I hope that I can remain calm when discussing the issue with others and give out the right kind of information that encourages education.
      I definitely agree that some people are afraid to have their status as gun owners known because they don't want to be stereotyped as that kook with a gun. We need to change that image.

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  4. Very well written piece Lima.

    To answer your question, I think we need to stop hiding in the closet about gun ownership. We've been doing that, at least in my neck of the woods (Seattle area), for long before Columbine occurred. I was in junior high when that happened and I remember teachers and other students raising their eyebrows over my friends and I oogling over the latest and greatest in a gun magazine. Being a gun owner is very similar to the situation that homosexuals have gone through and we need to follow their lead. We need to stand up and be proud.

    The open carry movement has helped with this (minus Kalifornistan of course, but they're so far gone anyways). I remember when I first started open carrying down to the dog park in my hippy town of Bellingham (think: smaller Boulder, CO). For the first few times I came down to the dog park OCing, people would mosey on back to their cars and leave. But after the first few times, it didn't happen anymore. And better yet, they started chit-chatting with me about guns or about anything else that came up. Unlike concealed carry, where an anti-gunner or fence-rider can just ignore thinking about guns, open carry brings it into the conversation. And at least slowly, it makes them realize that gun owners aren't crazy. In fact, they're just like everyone else.

    The other thing that I think helps immensely is having the knowledge to back up your beliefs. Know the criminology studies like the back of your hand so that when they do come up in conversation, you don't just say a stupid one liner like "A cop's too heavy to carry, that's why I love guns." Or "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Well, no sh!t.

    Tell them something they don't know. Tell them about laws making the situation worse or get them to relate to you by telling them about you or a loved one needing one to defend yourselves. Get educated in the matter so that you don't stumble when they bring up a bogus study (i.e. Kellerman).

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    1. I do appreciate the open carriers who are willing to put themselves out there for the cause. There are some good ones out there who really do try to be a good example. I've seen a couple attention seeking weirdos and, unfortunately, some of them get all the attention to the point where it gives the others a bad name but that's what stereotyping is all about I guess.
      I met a very nice open carrier in VA who was a very good example of what an open carrier could be. He also had cards that he would hand out to people who had questions with the laws written on one side and links to further information on the other. He was a really good guy.
      I've open carried a few times myself. I think it can be a very useful tool as long as it is done without being confrontational and abrasive.

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  5. I've been thinking for several years about the issue of keeping quiet about my enthusiasm for firearms. But I hadn't thought about it in terms of the next generation until now. Reading this today is especially timely since we have a brand new baby son.

    The author of the previous reply mentioned being "in the closet", comparing a concealed firearms-owning lifestyle to what the gay community has gone through for many years. I'm glad I'm not the only one to make that observation. Personally, I've found the "don't ask, don't tell" policy quite useful. Around here, there's no standard for "no guns" signs, and even many properties which are controlled by those with strong anti-gun sentiments don't have any sign at all. Most people assume that there aren't any guns if they don't want there to be, and the law doesn't say much about the issue. So as a concealed-carrier with a valid permit, it's easier for me to carry discreetly when there's a likelihood that my firearm wouldn't be welcome than it would be to have the discussion about whether I should be allowed to carry into an establishment or not.

    Case in point is my church. It's part of a mainstream denomination which fawns all over every statement by the UN, and routinely issues statements against guns, gun violence, and the idea of self-defense in general. Even though the denomination has strong sentiments, I've never heard a single word one way or the other from our pastor or anyone else in our local church. The Sunday after the Sandy Hook shooting, we read the names of the victims, but the pastor didn't speak out against "gun violence" or express support for "gun control". Frankly, I'm happy to keep it that way. I dread the conversation about making the church a posted "gun-free zone". This area is steeped in anti-gun sentiments, and I'm pretty sure I know how it'd turn out. I'd rather carry quietly than have to make the choice between carrying and going to church.

    Because the world is such a small place, and because so many of my social circles overlap, I'm generally pretty quiet about my gun ownership unless I'm with people I know are favorable toward the idea. The last thing I need is a friend or customer asking me to leave my rights and safety behind when I step onto their property. My strategy has always been to conceal my interest in firearms and especially conceal the fact that I carry on a regular basis.

    When I learned I was going to be a father, I figured there would be no way of hiding our firearms from our son. We're not the types who have just one or two, and who treat them purely as a tool. I, especially, enjoy them, and I want to pass that positive appreciation on to my son. Unfortunately, I think that also mean passing on the concept of hiding that interest to my son. As soon as he's able to understand the idea of keeping secrets, we'll have the game that no one is allowed to know about our firearms unless we know they also have some (as many of our friends do). Much as I hate to admit it, I think keeping secrets is a valuable life skill in today's world.

    After reading this blog post, I'm also forced to admit that such a strategy assumes we've already lost the war of public opinion. On those occasions when I do wind up talking to people about guns, I'm often pleasantly surprised to learn that they actually have a favorable attitude toward them, even in this supposedly anti-gun area. I have a sort of split personality; I'm pretty involved with gun rights advocacy, testifying at public hearings about proposed laws and attending the rallies, but rarely talking about those activities with those who aren't into firearms like I am. I'd like to think that my efforts to preserve our rights makes up for my silence on the issue in everyday life, but this blog post has me reconsidering.

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