Editor’s Note: The following is a syndicated article by author Beth Alcazar that first appeared in USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine Volume 14, Issue 6, August/September 2017 under the title, “Pick Your Battles: Dealing with the Anti-Gun Crowd.”
I have several friends and family members who are not fans of firearms. I also know many people who are somewhat OK with the idea of owning guns but who are not very supportive of concealed carry permit holders. And then there are folks who are completely against everything having to do with guns or the 2nd Amendment.
It’s possible some of these people are misguided. Maybe a few have had a bad experience or encounter in the past. Perhaps this crowd is blinded by the misinformation and lies spread through movies, TV and social media. Or maybe they just don’t know (or even care about) the truth.
Whatever the case might be, we all know someone from the anti-gun crowd. He or she could be from work or church, in our circle of friends or even within the walls of our own homes. And I have people ask me all the time how to reach those kinds of people or what to do if and when they encounter anti-gun folks in person or online.
Undoubtedly, it’s different for every unique person in every unique situation, and I don’t have all the answers. But there are definitely some points to keep in mind when interacting with someone who is unsure about — or even completely against — your right to keep and bear arms.
Get the Facts Straight
My first recommendation for anyone is to do some research. People who are against guns and gun ownership often quote “facts” and “statistics” that stretch the truth, hide the truth or ignore the truth altogether. It’s imperative that gun owners seek out reliable resources and do some of their own preparation and investigation.
Besides utilizing articles, videos and posts from the USCCA, I highly recommend looking through the website of the Crime Prevention Research Center, an organization that is dedicated to providing quality research on guns, gun ownership, crime and public safety. You can also double-check crime statistics and records about injuries, homicides, suicides and firearm-related deaths online through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and even via the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Arm yourself with solid information and research so you can have your facts and statistics straight, so you can recognize when things aren’t quite right and so you can share valid and trustworthy data with others.
Don’t Get Too Emotional
People who are against firearms might let the emotions flow. They might cry. They might get angry and yell. They might even try to blame you and all gun owners for the deaths of innocent children. Unfortunately, there are many tragic stories about terrible people who have done terrible things with guns. It can be easy to get caught up in emotions, but don’t let that get the best of you.
You cannot effectively defend yourself or share your decisions without first having a healthy emotional state, along with a logical, critical state of mind. It’s certainly fine to experience and express your feelings. Emotions can even serve as very powerful and persuasive motivators, but don’t let feelings take over. Equally importantly, don’t use emotions for manipulation; use them for motivation. Gut reactions, revenge and blanket accusations are not going to win a debate or an argument. The only true solutions are exposure, education and logic. So be sure to do your best to communicate carefully, cautiously, rationally and reasonably.
Don’t Patronize or Belittle
Most of us have probably heard the old adage: “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” In other words, we all know that it’s easier to engage — and even persuade — someone with polite requests and a positive attitude than with rude demands and negativity. This is definitely true for the topic of firearms.
Others might be more inclined to listen to you and accept — or even adopt — your values if you are considerate and respectful. You can be firm and unwavering, but you don’t have to hammer everyone to get your point across. Be assertive instead of aggressive. And even if the conversation gets you frustrated, take the higher road. Yelling and arguing won’t get you anywhere, and telling a person he or she is stupid, whiny or scared will likely not win anyone over to our side.
Don’t Bring up Politics
You’ll never win the political battle. Ever. The parts of the brain that actively engage when dealing with the subject of politics are directly linked to the areas of the brain that help define who we are. That’s how serious people are about their political leanings.
“Political beliefs are like religious beliefs in the respect that both are part of who you are and important for the social circle to which you belong,” said Jonas Kaplan, assistant research professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Consequently, with regards to politics, most people are highly unlikely to change their political beliefs, no matter what you do or what you say. And if you challenge them, they are more likely to shut down or become even more convinced that they are right … and you are wrong. Aside from that, the 2nd Amendment should not even be a political battle in the first place. It’s not a Republican thing. It’s not a Democrat thing. It belongs to all Americans and all parties. It’s a natural right protected by the Constitution, and the Constitution should not be up for debate.
Expose Them to the Positive Side
We’re living in a world full of fake news, internet trolls and out-of-control opinions. That, along with simple, fast and immediate access to social media outlets, has created plenty of bad examples of firearms usage. In addition, there are plenty of organizations out there spreading anti-gun propaganda. Keep away from these negative sources. And if you can’t eliminate them, at least try to balance them or challenge them with good sources. Share links to articles about those who have saved lives (their own or others) with guns. Post supportive memes showing safe and responsible gun ownership. I’d highly recommend leaving a copy or two of Concealed Carry Magazine around for folks to check out. Look for positive and helpful images, ideas, articles and videos.
Also, don’t be afraid to share the stories you know. I have a lot of friends who have been through some remarkable experiences that testify to the importance and the significance of our 2nd Amendment right. I can also, of course, share my own personal accounts … and share my three most important reasons to have a tool for protection: my children.
Take Them to the Shooting Range
This might sound counterproductive. I mean, who wants to bring the “enemy” right into the “stronghold?” But taking a cautious-but-curious, willing individual to the shooting range has worked on numerous occasions for many people. I’ve heard some amazing and encouraging stories of those who’d never picked up a gun try their hand at shooting … and love it! Except for the rogue, emotionally charged extremists looking to give guns a bad name, the majority of non-shooters and non-gun-owners I have taken to the range have loved their experiences — yes, even the liberals and the feminists.
Just don’t go overboard on the gun or the caliber. You want them to like this, remember? Give them something fun to use and something fun to shoot. Maybe go light with a .22 and let them try a fun game of poker or Battleship. Or try using responsive or reactive targets, from steel plates to colorful balloons. (I’d advise steering away from anything that looks human or animal. Don’t start there, as doing so might negate or destroy your efforts.) And don’t be afraid to extend follow-up invitations and, if they’re receptive, invite them to classes or training groups.
Help Them Understand
Knowledge truly is power, and you can be an unwavering resource of information and even training for the anti-gun crowd in your life. You don’t have to force it on anyone, but you can make yourself available to help with questions or concerns. It’s amazing how quickly a person’s mind can change when he or she realizes that some basic understanding and control can make all the difference in the world when it comes to using a tool like a firearm. And even if someone doesn’t want to own or carry a gun, the least he or she can do is learn about it. That way, this person can feel safer and more confident around guns. And, ultimately, if someone can recognize and follow the basics and the safety rules, then we’re all on the right track.
Be a Good 2A Role Model
We know that the responsibility of firearms owners is great, so don’t ever become too comfortable or complacent with guns. No matter what the situation, it’s important that you live as though people are watching you — all the time. Truth be told, they probably are. The anti-gun crowd seems to always be watching for us to mess up or let our guard down. That’s why it’s imperative that we stay safe, practice what we preach and stick together. The firearms community should not only stand for the right thing, we should stand together in unity whenever possible. Most importantly, we must purposefully and consistently model a positive 2A lifestyle; actions speak louder than words, so let your actions always say that you are safely and responsibly armed.
- Crime Prevention Research Center: CrimeResearch.org
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC.gov
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: FBI.gov
Discover how you can join nearly 300,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.