Meditations on the Moderate Gun Owner: What do we do about them?

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We all have that friend, right? You know the guy who owns a few shotguns, maybe a pistol or a revolver, he hunts on occasion, but he doesn’t drink the new age kool-aid. You know, he’s just not into the black rifle scene. Maybe he’s a bit older, from your dad’s generation; or maybe he’s just a bit old school in his views. He values the Second Amendment, but he also believes in the “common ground” bromide bandied about by gun-control advocates. He believes “Shall not be infringed” means, “Well, there are some reasonable limits with respect to magazine capacity, black rifles, certain types of ammo, etc.”

Overall, he’s not a bad guy. But he’s not one of us. Let’s call him Tom Brokaw. Yeah, it appears the former news anchor is one of these guys. He’s a longtime gun owner, hunter, and outdoorsmen. But he’s moderately pro-gun in his views, which is to say that he exercises his right to keep and bear arms but he also supports some onerous restrictions.

While promoting his new show “Opening Day,” a one-hour special on NBCSN chronicling pheasant season, on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Brokaw shared his thoughts on the matter:

I’ve owned guns all my life. I’ve got a closet full of them in Montana and back here in the east as well. Hunting has been a terribly important part of my life growing up and it remains that. At the same time, as an urban dweller and someone who…feels the same pain that a lot of others do when we have these mass shootings, we need to have a discussion in the middle. We just can’t be a polarized country when it comes to guns.

We have the First Amendment as well as the Second Amendment. The First Amendment says, however, that you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. I think when it comes to a gun debate we’re now in a crowded theater. We need to have a way of talking to each other sensibly about it.

When I was growing up we didn’t have all the semi-automatics and the sniper rifles and the TAC-22s. And a lot of people that I know in the American West will say the same thing…we don’t need to have access to all that. There’s got to be a middle ground of some kind.

Before you start hating on Brokaw, and millions of other gun owners who likely share his position, remember this, the moderate gun owner is nothing more than an inexperienced and uniformed gun owner. That’s all. In the majority of instances, the reason why these guys don’t mind bans on many commonly owned and widely popular black rifles is that they’ve not spent a lot of time around them.  They’ve probably never fired them. They’re ignorant. They simply don’t understand that an AR-15 is no more dangerous or deadly than a standard big game hunting rifle, e.g. 30-06.

What’s more is they’ve been bombarded with the idea that black rifle equals mass shooting and more violence. This is a false thread that is perpetuated by a mainstream media that is sympathetic to the pro-gun control cause. The truth is that rifles of any make or model, including the “scary” black ones, are used in about four percent of crime.  That’s all.  Hardly the scourge gun-grabbers make them out to be.

Of course, there are other facts to share that might get them to move of the fence and join our side, such as the fact that overall violent crime is down while concealed carry rights have been expanded to all 50 states, including ‘shall-issue’ laws in more than 40 states, or the fact that various government departments found that the Clinton-Era ban on black rifles had no statistical impact on crime rates. A 2002 Centers for Disease Control study found that there was “insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence.”

Bottom line, when it comes to Brokaw-types or your moderately pro-gun friend, they just need to be educated. They need to go out and put some lead down range with an AR-15. They need to be given the facts about black rifles. Then we can have a discussion and see which side they end up supporting. My guess, they’ll end up on ours.

With that in mind, here are some AR facts courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation:

  • AR-15-platform rifles are among the most popular firearms being sold. They are today’s modern sporting rifle.
  • The AR in “AR-15” rifle stands for ArmaLite rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950s. “AR” does NOT stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.”
  • AR-15-style rifles are NOT “assault weapons” or “assault rifles.” An assault rifle is fully automatic — a machine gun. Automatic firearms have been severely restricted from civilian ownership since 1934.
  • If someone calls an AR-15-style rifle an “assault weapon,” he or she either supports banning these firearms or does not understand their function and sporting use, or both. Please correct them. “Assault weapon” is a political term created by California anti-gun legislators to ban some semi-automatic rifles there in the 1980s.
  • AR-15-style rifles look like military rifles, such as the M-16, but function like other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearms, firing only one round with each pull of the trigger.
  • Versions of modern sporting rifles are legal to own in all 50 states, provided the purchaser passes the mandatory FBI background check required for all retail firearm purchasers.
  • Since the 19th century, civilian sporting rifles have evolved from their military predecessors. The modern sporting rifle simply follows that tradition.
  • These rifles’ accuracy, reliability, ruggedness and versatility serve target shooters and hunters well. They are true all-weather firearms.
  • Chamberings include .22, .223 (5.56 x 45mm), 6.8 SPC, .308, .450 Bushmaster and about a dozen others. Upper receivers for pistol calibers such as 9 mm, .40, and .45 are available. There are even .410 shotgun versions.
  • These rifles are used for many different types of hunting, from varmint to big game. And they’re used for target shooting in the national matches.
  • AR-15-style rifles are no more powerful than other hunting rifles of the same caliber and in most cases are chambered in calibers less powerful than common big-game hunting cartridges like the 30-06 Springfield and .300 Win. Mag.
  • The AR-15 platform is modular. Owners like being able to affix different “uppers” (the barrel and chamber) to the “lower” (the grip, stock).
  • And, they are a lot of fun to shoot!
{ 10 comments… add one }
  • BRASS December 2, 2014, 12:49 am

    I don’t think the author of this piece thought it through. First he acknowledges that Brokaw has been around guns all his life, has and still hunts and by virtue of his long and successful career of which this certainly isn’t the first time Brokaw has done a piece on firearms and/or the Second Amendment; and then calls him a stupid voter. Yep, by saying these are ignorant and inexperienced folks who just don’t know what they are taking about he is patting them on the head and calling them stupid.
    I’m a cool aid drinker if you accept the poor characterization of strong constitutional supporters and most would consider me hard right on the issue. Yet, I wouldn’t call Tom Brokaw stupid and I’m not going to look him in the eye and tell a man that age that he is inexperienced and ignorant. Now that would be stupid. My dad fought in WWII and later as a treasury agent was forced to carry and use firearms. He hated them, I love them. Dad wouldn’t allow a BB gun in the house and I have a safe full. My dad by the way was a CPA, taught many college courses, served as an elected Justice of the Piece and was self taught in most of the technology of his day. We never saw eye to eye on guns but you call my dad stupid and that old Swede who grew up during the depression swinging a sledge hammer in a blacksmith shop and fighting for enough money to put himself through college on the docks in NYC would clean your clock. He could out think and knock most men out… the day he died.
    Maybe he just disagrees based on his perspective and a life time of experience. He has covered wars and seen plenty of gun violence and good gun results. I probably wouldn’t agree with Mr Brokaw on much and don’t really care for much of his reporting but I certainly know better than to call him stupid.
    Can you imagine what Brokaw or my dad would think and maybe even say about the guy who wrote this?

  • Ben Burkhalter November 26, 2014, 12:31 am

    Some of the comments that have been posted to this article are the exact reason why I am not a NRA member. There appears to no room for common sense in the discussion on either side. I am a Teacher/Rancher/Outdoors man. I own rifles and have had a few pistols. I have shot the very guns that a lot of yall go nuts over. I would not have them if you gave me one. I have shot the AR platform in 223, the NATO rounds, and several other calibers. They are not accurate enough for me to use on anything. Not even the lowly feral hog. They are inherently sloppy and the barrels float too much. And before you say it yes I have shot several different manufacturers, custom and strait off the shelf. The design is meant for combat… to hurl as much lead down range regardless of accuracy and you connect by shear law of averages. And I don’t reserve this strictly for the AR platform. I apply this to the SKS and AK’s as well. As for Pistols If it is not all metal with wood grips don’t even ask. No composites allowed at this ranch. You can fire 100 shells down range, if they don’t connect it was nothing more that a lot of noise and smoke.
    I will keep my Lever guns and my single shots. I know were my shot is going and I only need one. I don’t take a shot if it is not a clean kill. If I need a second one (which is rare) I can load/fire it before you can put in the second clip. Call me names I don’t care, but I never go hungry and I don’t screw up any meat with wasted money.

    • Administrator November 26, 2014, 6:57 am

      This guy is either a prozac infested fool or an actual paid government shill. Nobody fires shells downrange, and most off the shelf ARs are more accurate than the shooter. And they are certainly more accurate that your average lever gun. So what do y’all think? Prozac or shill?

    • Doc Holliday March 18, 2017, 9:36 pm

      You obviously don’t have a clue about these weapons. They are as accurate as the shooter is. If you can’t shoot them well, then that is all on you. , not on on the tool, which obviously you are.

  • Martin Pierce November 25, 2014, 11:43 pm

    I’m Old School in some things, but 80% in Tech Up!. I don’t like Pink Guns, blue guns, yellow guns, orange guns, etc., etc.,. It’s just a crazy money fad. Black guns, camo guns and brown guns are hunters camo too. Toy guns have a Red Piece of plastic on the end–so– I took my real Glock and painted it yellow with a Red Band on the Muzzell– Looks just like a toy gun–but stings like a bee.

  • Demscray November 25, 2014, 4:01 pm

    The First Amendment says notthing about crowded theaters, just as the Second says nothing about high cap magazines or military style rifles.

  • DaveGinOly November 24, 2014, 8:16 pm

    God, I’m so tired of the “can’t cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theather” argument, it’s completely fallacious! Assuming that a person is crying “fire” in a crowded theater in order to create chaos and possibly injure people, that person is not exercising a right, he’s committing a crime! The person posing this argument is no longer talking about the exercise of a right. Point this out to them and put them back on track. (On the other hand, it’s not, in fact, illegal to cry “fire” in a crowded theater, because doing so is completely appropriate if the theater is on fire!)

    No exercise of a right intentionally harms any innocent person. If an act intentionally harms an innocent person, it is by definition a crime, not a right. This is another way of saying nobody has a right to commit crimes.

    Any person who abuses a right to the point of inflicting injury or harm upon an innocent party has, in fact, crossed a line from the exercise of a right to the commission of a crime, at which point the exercise of the right ceases. Anti-gun people regularly make this illogical leap from “right” to “crime” without batting an eye. Don’t let them get away with it!

    “It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.”
    George Washington

  • John Pendleton November 24, 2014, 2:40 pm

    I’m surprised! Oh, maybe not, people who want to take away our right to carry can out and out call us knuckle dragging morons and that is ok! But went someone on our side standing up for our rights gets a little sarcastic, MY GOD THE WORLD IS GOING TO END! Tom, Get real and get a life!

  • Chris November 24, 2014, 1:35 pm

    The moderate gun owner will be the end of the Second Amendment. These folks are, more often than not, too naive to see the path we’re on until it’s way too late.

    How many people have you seen say “I own guns, but I don’t see the problem with UBC’s…” You try to patiently tell them the problems, that they won’t do anything, that they’re an incremental step towards further gun control, then they call you a conspiracy theorist, or a NRA hack or something.

    The only solace is once we get to the point of European style gun control and the police are walking into their house whenever they want to make sure they are in compliance with firearms storage laws that we will get to look them in the eye and say “I told you so”.

  • Tom Anderson November 24, 2014, 6:23 am

    Moderate gun owners as you describe them do not deserve to be ridiculed or alienated. Just because their opinions do not always match your own exactly is not a danger signal that they are against you or that they would not support your positions on modern firearms.
    What would cause them to be against you or to fail to support your positions is the extreme banter and simple minded attack against anyone that does not feel exactly the same way you do. Such actions are tasteless and reflect a way of looking at things that incite hate and distrust rather than seek to gain support for your positions via mature and respectful discussion of the issues.
    It is important that you get out the sort of information presented in this article, but to start it out by calling us names and implying or even stating that we are less worthy than your clique members is to hinder any discussion before it even begins.
    You probably will not get as many girls to dance with you if you insult them before asking them to dance or display attitudes of disrespect and rudeness while hoping they would want to dance with you.
    I support your positions on guns, but do not want to be associated with name callers, rude behavior, and people in general that fail to respect folks who do not agree with them in every detail.
    An apology would be an appropriate action to use in order to recruit moderate gun owners to consider helping your cause.

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