South Park Pundit Hits a Bullseye…

…with his most recent post, Freaks and Geeks, on the topic of how to not put off new shooters. And Josh is right on target. Money quote (from my perspective):

The conclusion that I came to is that image matters to the liberals and gun grabbers. It isn’t the content – it’s the image. Hence the AWB “Scary Looking Weapons Ban” that sunset last year. Hence the .50 ban in CA. Hence half of the “feel good” legislation these idiots keep trying to shove down our necks. And they do it because they’re scared of that which they don’t know and that which they see as the norm.

From an earlier piece of mine, Fear, The Philosophy and Politics Thereof I quoted cultural anthropologist Abigale Kohn, author of the book Shooters: Myths and Realities of America’s Gun Cultures.

Our initial attempt to meet local militia members took us to a shooting range in the Bay Area, where we assumed local militia meetings would be held. We went on a Tuesday night, fully expecting the range to be seething with radical political activity. Why else would people congregate at a shooting range, if not to meet other like-minded, potentially dangerous right-wing gun nuts?

That’s what they expect. And I said in that piece:

It’s important to understand this: We call ourselves “gun nuts” – embracing the label thrust upon us by the ignorant, anti-gun bigots – but many of them really believe it. We’re “potentially dangerous” because we like guns.

I think that’s something most gun owners don’t really grasp. I know it initially took me a while to get my mind around the idea.

Josh also said in his piece:

I guess what I’m asking is for everyone to be the buffer for new shooters. Introduce them to the world the right way and don’t let the “crazy” be their first influence. Don’t let some of the kooks get to them first.

Exactly right.

I noted, a few posts down, that even the now has a forum for gun-related posts, and apparently a small but growing contingent of gun owners. A few posts later, in one relating a surprisingly pro-gun New York Times piece, I commented that this combination made me “wonder if there’s not some subtle, conscious or subconscious effort ongoing to ensure that the Left arms up in time for the coming conflict.” Commenter TomWright, however, was more sanguine:

Kevin, I have no problem with the DU or anyone else arming up. It forces personal responsibility on those that do, which may move them the tiniest bit away from the left, educates them on firearms, and can only help RKBA.

And he’s right – because ignorance promotes fear. Exposure, as Abigale Kohn, Slate columnist and NPR contributor Emily Yoffe, and even more recently blogger Redmemory1 have discovered, destroys that fear.

On top of that, owning a firearm tends to make already responsible citizens remarkably aware of a whole new world of responsibilities. I’ve quoted this letter before, but here’s a perfect place to put it again. It’s a piece written to Kim du Toit’s old site (link’s broken), but I have it archived. Written by “Refugee,” it goes like this:

I’ve seen the light, and I’m here to testify.

To those of you who grew up with guns, I expect that what I’m about to say will seem painfully obvious. But I came to class late, and what I learned there is still fresh and vibrant.

I thought, all my life, that I couldn’t own a gun safely, that no one could, really. Guns were dangerous and icky. Even after I realized that the Second Amendment was not quite the shriveled, antiquated appendix I’d been taught, for a couple of years or so I still wobbled around with the training-wheel comfort of believing that while not all gun owners were necessarily gap-toothed red-necked fascist militia whackos, I myself ought not to own firearms. I was too clumsy and careless, and guns were still dangerous and icky.

Just before 9/11 I woke up to how quickly my liberty was eroding, and in a fit of anger and defiance started saving for a handgun while training with rentals. (Thanks to Harry at Texas Shooters Range here in Houston.) When I actually bought one (to the horror and confusion of my friends and family), having it around the house, carrying it in my car, talking about it, showing it off, and of course shooting and maintaining it, taught me what I could not learn from books, magazines, classes, or even Usenet:

It taught me that freedom takes practice.

I thought I’d practiced. I’m as full of opinions as the next guy, and not shy about passing ’em out to anyone who’ll listen. I read banned books and underground comics. I’ve walked the picket lines and hung out with undesirables. A preacher’s kid, I pointedly don’t practice a religion. I’ve done stuff that Wasn’t Allowed.

But when I got a gun, I discovered it had all been safe, padded, wading-pool-with-floaties dabbling. After near on to fifty years, I finally started to grow up. If my Grands are any clue, I’ve still got twenty or thirty years to work on it, and get to be something like mature by the time I go senile.

It’s not just that rights are useless if they are not exercised, not even that rights must be used or be lost. It’s that exercising your rights, constantly, is what instructs you in how to be worthy of them.

Being armed goes far beyond simple self-protection against thugs or even tyrants — it’s an unequivocal and unmatched lesson that you are politically and morally sovereign; that you, and not the state, are responsible for your life and your fate. This absolute personal sovereignty is the founding stone of the Republic. “A well-regulated militia” (where the militia is “the whole people”) isn’t just “necessary to the security of a free state” because it provides a backup to (and defense against) the police and the army. More importantly, keeping and bearing arms trains sovereign citizens in the art of freedom, and accustoms us to our authority and duty.

As Eric S. Raymond wrote:

“To believe one is incompetent to bear arms is, therefore, to live in corroding and almost always needless fear of the self — in fact, to affirm oneself a moral coward. A state further from ‘the dignity of a free man’ would be rather hard to imagine. It is as a way of exorcising this demon, of reclaiming for ourselves the dignity and courage and ethical self-confidence of free (wo)men that the bearing of personal arms, is, ultimately, most important.”

It isn’t true for all gun owners, but the fact remains that taking responsibility for your own protection tends to make one understand the limits of the State, and the duties of the citizen. And, as TomWright said, new shooters – no matter their political leanings – can only help.

There are the Freaks out there who are off-putting. One of the reasons I don’t enjoy shooting in the desert is the yahoos that are often shooting nearby, but they are the minority in the ranks of gun owners. Many of us are willing to introduce newbies to shooting. Publicola maintains a list of volunteer instructors, and I’m on it. I have an invitation posted at the top of the left column of this blog:

If you have never shot a firearm, regardless of your position on the right to arms, and if you live near or visit the Tucson, AZ metropolitan area, I invite you to go shooting for a day. I will provide the arms, ammunition, targets, safety equipment, range fees and instruction.

All you have to do is show up.

I’ve not been as successful at attracting interested shooters as I’d like, but at least I’m trying. The residents of the UK have, for all intents and purposes, lost their right to arms because there were not enough among them familiar with firearms to counter public opinion. While the number of guns in circulation here continues to increase, the number of gun owners has been in decline for a long time. If we do not want to follow the British lead, then we need more people who are familiar with and not afraid of guns and gun owners. That means we need more shooters.

So let’s take Josh’s advice.

Edited to add: Stickwick Stapers has a new post up which is remarkably coincidental. Excerpt:

I like to tell Canadians that I am surrounded by armed and dangerous people in Texas — my neighbors — and that’s a good thing. But Canadians just don’t get it. They inevitably associate guns with bad guys, and I kind of understand, because, unless they’ve grown up in the far north or Alberta, none of them has grown up in anything resembling a self-reliant culture. I’d always been a 2A supporter when I lived in Canada, but the reality of the gun-culture was a little scary when I first moved to the States. My first couple of times to the range, I wasn’t 100% sure that the guy next to me wasn’t some kind of maniac. It was weird trusting a complete stranger with the power of life and death over me — and that’s the root of Canada’s problem with guns.

Not just Canada’s. RTWT.

Edited again to add this piece over at Boots & Sabers from yesterday. Excerpt:

It was disconcerting to know that wherever we went in Texas, any one there could be carrying a gun—the bank, the hospital, the mall, our church, virtually everywhere we went except for bars and the movie theater could be full of gun-toting nutjobs.

Then during a trip back home, I had an epiphany. Any one or more of the people at Fox River Mall in Appleton, Wisconsin, could be a gun-toting nutjob, too, and if one of those nutjobs went off, we were all sitting ducks. It took having the right to protect myself to miss it when it was gone. It is that moment that changed the way I felt about concealed carry. It’s that day that I realized that even though I may choose not to carry a weapon, someone else who is trained, licensed, and ready may be able to protect me from a gun-toting nutjob who might break the law and shoot or threaten to shoot an innocent person.

That is when I stopped rolling my eyes when Owen put his handgun on his belt. That is when I asked him to take me out and teach me to shoot a handgun. That is when my view of Texas changed. The people with CCLs aren’t the gun-toting nutjobs, it’s the criminals without CCLs who are the trigger-happy loonies.

Again, RTWT. It’s a meme!

And Owen? Link to your wife’s blog in the piece, would you?

Updated AGAIN, 12/1, 9:25PM: South Park Pundit has a new post up by the new gun owner in question, Examining “Gun Nuts”. More of the same meme, but recommended reading. Excerpt:

So after dealing with these notions half a dozen people had, what can I conclude? One, people are stupid when it comes to guns and gun owners, and that just compounds the fear they have. I mean – I own something capable of killing another person. My car. Golf clubs. Bat. Frying pan, maybe. But everyone owns those things and sees them everyday. They aren’t exposed to guns all the time, so they fear them, and because they fear, they hate.

Ayup. And the only thing that can overcome that fear is familiarity.

So take a newbie shooting this weekend.

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