We have all heard the phrase, “Be the change you want to see.” While the phrase itself has nothing to do with firearms or firearm ownership, its meaning has never been more relevant to our pursuits. In many places in our country, guns of any type have a very negative reputation. It is up to us as law-abiding firearm owners to change that perception: We each need to step up to the plate and educate. I’ve given a lot of thought on how to deal with the anti-gun crowd professionally, so that you can walk away feeling good about how you represented yourself and, to a certain extent, the industry.
As women, we sometimes have an extra hurdle when it comes to helping educate an anti, because more than likely you’ve met one who doesn’t respect strong, independent, self-thinking ladies who have no problem not only sharing an opinion, but defending it as well.
“Anti’s,” as I like to call them, can be abusive, rude, disrespectful, aggressive and, more often than not, misinformed. I understand that not everyone likes firearms, and if that is your choice, that is fine; after all, we live in America. It’s when the same people who preach the First Amendment try to take away our Second Amendment rights that the conversation can start going bad.
The knee-jerk reaction when someone makes an anti-gun comment is to scream, “You can rip it from my cold, dead hands!” But escalating the rhetoric doesn’t help any of us; in fact, it usually makes things worse. We are better than that; we are law-abiding firearm owners.
A lot of the misperception stems from illegal guns being used in crime. We aren’t talking about those firearms, though—we’re talking about our firearms.
Hollywood and the mainstream media do a great job of showcasing criminals and big guns. For a lot of Americans, that is their only exposure to the world of firearms. How many times have you watched news reports that say a criminal used an “assault rifle?” Many times, the firearm involved is an AR-15, which are readily available in all 50 states.
An AR-15 is not an “assault rifle,” but did you know that most people think that that’s what the AR in AR-15 stands? The AR actually stands for “Armalite rifle”; Armalite is the company that originally developed the platform in the late 1950s. When Armalite licensed the rifle to Colt’s Patent Firearm Manufacturing Corporation, Colt assumed the name AR-15. Most in the general public believe these modern sporting rifles are fully automatic “machine guns,” and cannot understand why in the world anyone in the civilian population would “need” one.
So, what’s a girl to do about it? Advocate, educate and lead by example. Sometimes it’s just a matter of misperception. Having a civil, intelligent conversation with an anti can show that you are not what they see on television. It’s also OK to explain to them that while you realize guns are not their thing—and they don’t have to be—it doesn’t give them the right to deny your rights. We need to educate every time the opportunity arises, and we need to do it as articulately and professionally as possible.
How to talk about gun ownership
I don’t refer to my guns as “guns.” I call them “firearms.” The media uses the term “gun” so negatively and so often that by using “firearm,” we change the perception ever so slightly.
Responsible firearm owners always abide by the golden rules; doing so assures you’re professional and safe.
Use every opportunity to educate someone. It is amazing the misconceptions and misperceptions that the average American citizen has. When someone makes a face or rollsher eyes when the topic of firearms comes up, I like to ask her why. Here are some common misconceptions to use as educational opportunities.
Sometimes, when attempting to educate and advocate, you have to be willing to walk away and be the bigger person. I recently had an experience with a woman whom I’ve known casually for a few years. We were talking about the weather when the conversation went downhill. While commiserating how cold our New York winter had been, I mentioned how I wished I were in Florida. Her demeanor turned angry and she stated she would never go to Florida. Still thinking we were talking about the weather, I asked if she disliked Florida’s humidity. “Florida is an awful state,” she replied. “They have that shoot-anyone-you-want law.”
I knew immediately she was speaking of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Soon enough, her ire soon turned to firearms in general. I remained calm and did my best to educate her in a professional manner. I prefaced my response to her diatribe by saying, “Just to let you know, I have firearms, I shoot firearms, and I work in the firearm industry. So we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.” As she berated me for my beliefs and told me how evil guns were and how no one should be allowed to have one, I knew there wouldn’t be a win in my column here. I let her finish, and I ended our conversation by telling her that although I disagreed with her opinion, I did respect it, but that it was a shame that she didn’t respect mine. And with that, I walked away.
Could I have let the situation escalate? Sure. Would I have gained anything by it, other than getting angry? No. Walking calmly away after making my point was the right way to end it. I hope some of the facts and information that I educated her with that day will at least sit in the back of her memory. I now go out of my way to say hello to her and chat politely, but only about safe topics, such as horses and gardening.
It truly is up to all of us to change the perception of firearm ownership in the United States. As legally permitted firearm owners, we need to fight this battle head-on, every day. Our goal is not to try to convert others to our way of thinking, but we do need to educate the public that firearms are not evil.
Firearms aren’t for everyone. We take on tremendous personal responsibility when we purchase one. Think about it: There are plenty of individuals that I know whom I’d never want to own a firearm. It’s just not in them. But just because firearms aren’t right for one person, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be available for anyone else. This isn’t a firearm issue, it is a responsibility issue. Perception is everything.
I’ll keep on educating and advocating every chance I get. The media keeps replaying that negative stereotype, and it’s up to us to counter it … 1 conversation at a time.
Annette Doerr is a freelance outdoor writer and business services consultant living in suburban New York. This married mother of two is an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and Range Safety Officer. Annette is not only passionate about the sport of shooting, she also loves helping new shooters get involved, especially women and teens. An active equestrian, she enjoys riding her American Quarter horse, Cody. She volunteers in greyhound rescue and adoption, and shares her home with Casper, a rescued racing greyhound, along with her her cat, Tony, and her husband, Bob. Visit Annette at WeShoot2.com, her personal blog. View all posts by Annette Doerr