Anti-gunners are all around us. Not only are they shopping at our corner supermarkets, exercising in our local gyms, frequenting our favorite bars and restaurants, dropping their kids off at our son or daughter’s school, working for the employers and businesses that we do, but they may even be living under the same roof.
While many are misguided and uninformed, anti-gunners are people too. As such they are susceptible to the same humanistic principles that guide our social universe, mainly the capacity to reason, verify facts and recognize when a previously held belief no longer rings true.
With that said, here are five tips to remember when trying to win over anti-gunners.
Attitude is everything
I could sum it up this way: don’t be a jerk!
This is easier said then done, of course. When discussing a hot-button topic like gun control, the fatuous idea that our constitutionally-protected Second Amendment right needs to be significantly restricted to save lives, it’s easy to get frustrated and angry. But don’t.
Let the better angels of your nature shine through during your conversation. What I mean to say is that you should be empathetic, patient, positive and kind. Hostility will get you nowhere. Pugnacity is a non-starter. And yelling your face off is futile, plus it makes you look like a fool.
Unfortunately, as pollster Frank Luntz has told us, a lot of the time it’s not a matter of what you say, but what people hear. Your interlocutor will not even begin to hear what your saying if you come across as a wrathful know-it-all.
So, be nice. And in staying true to that old adage: more honey, less vinegar (On this note, it might behoove one to refer to them as pro-gun control advocates instead of anti-gunners).
Don’t be afraid to listen. By that, I mean really listen to what they’re saying. Don’t outright dismiss it because it conflicts with what you know to be true. It’s important to pay close attention to the details of their argument because those are what must ultimately be addressed to win hearts and minds.
Before you proselytize the gospel of guns to an anti-gunner, you need to know why the individual feels the way they do, which is directly connected to what they’ve read, what they’ve heard, the source of that information, what they’ve experienced and what they’re innate prejudices are against firearms and the Second Amendment. The only way to discover all of this is to ask questions and listen attentively.
It boils down to knowing your audience. The better you know your audience, the greater the chance that you have to impact the way in which they view firearms.
Facts are your best friend
Facts are your best friend in a conversation. And if your nice, and if you’ve listened to what your new friend has had to say, then you know what facts you need to share with them to disabuse them of their mistaken ideas.
“We need tougher gun laws because mass shootings are an epidemic in this country.”
Fact: Actually no, they’re not. According to criminologist James Alan fox of Northeastern University in Boston, mass shootings have remained constant since 1976, with an average of 20 per year.
“I’m pro-gun control because more guns creates more crime.”
Fact: FBI crime statics over the past two decades show that violent crime (including gun crime), property crime and the homicide rate (including the gun-related homicide rate) have all uniformly decreased while during that same time period gun sales have skyrocketed and permissive concealed carry laws have expanded to all 50 states.
In other words, it’s empirically clear that more guns do not have a positive effect on crime rates, in fact, if anything, more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens has the capacity to decrease violent crime, property crime and the homicide rate.
Those are just two examples, but there are many more.
During your productive and hopefully pleasant debate where you’ve not only imparted some wisdom but built up some mutually affinity it always helps to invite the individual to a range. You know, the old, “Well, don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself.”
In my opinion ignorance about and inexperience with firearms is really the biggest reason why people support gun control. They’ve never fired a gun, they’ve never been to a range, they know very little about them other than what they see in movies and on the front pages of their local newspaper. Consequently, they buy into the negative stereotype and in many cases become fearful of firearms.
Folks who support gun control need to be aware of the facts, as noted above, but they also need to discover for themselves the positive aspects of keeping and bearing arms. For one thing, shooting in and of itself is a fun activity. It’s exhilarating and can even be a stress reliever. Then there’s the very convincing argument that owning a firearm is the optimal way to defend oneself, family and property, to say nothing of the other bonuses like hunting and shooting sports.
But given some quality range time, with some insightful instructions on stance, grip, sight alignment, target acquisition, trigger manipulation, it doesn’t take long for one to get bitten by the gun bug.
The other reason I invite anti-gunners to the range is because it reveals a lot about their character. Those who refuse the invite for no legitimate reason show that they are deeply driven by an agenda or by an ideology as opposed to the pursuit of real knowledge, that is, the knowledge that’s required to make an informed judgment about a precious right.
Rinse, lather, repeat
Chances are you’re not going to hit a home run with every anti-gunner you meet the first time around. But if you stay persistent and if you follow all the tips I’ve illustrated, over time you’ll begin to change their perspective.
Think about it. It only makes sense. How long can someone maintain that firearms are the scourge of society when they have had several pleasant conversations with a likable, knowledgable gun owner (you) who has no shortage of facts to illustrate the good aspects of gun ownership?
My answer: Not long.