Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Buttoned Down Mind of your Anti-Gun Friends

Raging Against Self Defense: A Psychiatrist Examines The Anti-Gun Mentality, By Sarah Thompson, M.D.

I had discovered, and read, this article a couple of years ago, but I lost track of it and never gave myself a chance to recommend it. Thanks to a link in the Comments section of an article by "Geek With A .45", I've found it again. I've reread it, and I can recommend it to you.

Taken by itself, it's a powerful insight into the reasons why some people unthinkingly assume that anyone who owns a gun is a danger to society. Words like 'rage', 'Projection' and 'Denial' are key to the understanding. Dr. Thompson also includes suggestions about how to present yourself as a sane, responsible member of society even though you do own a gun. The goal seems to be to convince anti-gun friends that people who own and shoot firearms aren't necessarily dangerous; by extension, guns aren't inherently evil.

I admit to some reserve in embracing the interpersonal techniques she suggests. I'm sure they can work, but I'm not convinced that 'just everyone' can use these conversational techniques in a successful attempt to diffuse the firm convictions of my friends.

Among my co-workers, I have one who is interested in shooting, and I took him to the range one weekend where he had a great time burning up a lot of ammunition. He wasn't someone who needs to be convinced; I was able to show him how to safely handle firearms, but mostly it was just a nice day at the range which we both enjoyed.

Another co-worker (and I'm sure I've mentioned this story before, too), wandered by my desk at the end of the day when I was discussing shooting with the fellow I just described. This second co-worker mentioned "I've never seen any reason for anyone to own a gun. I've never even seen one, let alone shot one." I didn't try to convince him of anything, although I did say that this was his choice, but I enjoy shooting and I've been competing at shooting matches for decades. Since I've never shot anybody in my office, I figured that was about all I needed to say. The implication was that some people do have a reason to own a gun, and it's one which he might accept. I haven't said another word about shooting guns to him, and we remain friendly.

Still another co-worker knows that I compete in shooting matches most weekends. I've described the experience in casual conversation, noted that it's a fun activity which both I and SWMBO enjoy as much for the company of good people as for the excuse to go to the range. Most Friday afternoons she asks me if I'm going to a match this weekend, or on Monday she asks if I HAVE gone to a match. The resulting conversation is much like that between colleagues who say to each other "so, did you go see that movie you were talking about?"

I consider that a healthy collegial relationship. She spends her weekends picking up trash from the Oregon beaches or working in her garden; I spend my weekends blasting holes in cardboard targets. Everybody had a good time, either enjoyed or suffered inclement weather, and we're all just good people.

The most significant story about "convincing an anti-gunner that guns and gunners aren't evil" is, probably the "How My Sweetie Learned To Love Shooting."

My Beloved SWMBO grew up in a gun-free zone. Her father, a lay preacher, never allowed (or had reason to) a gun in the house. She, too, grew up with the understanding that "there is never any reason for a person to own a gun." It wasn't something that was discussed; it was just understood.

After we met, and began dating, we soon spent every weekend together. We lived in different towns, so I would spend Friday night driving to her home ... bringing my range gear with me.

On Saturday Morning I would be found hauling my range gear out her door to the car, on my way to the match. We would say goodbye at the door, and I would say "you know, you're invited." She would always say "yeah, right" and I would be off to spend 8 or 10 hours at the range, or in travel. She would spend most of the day doing whatever she had planned.

After a bit over a year, she said: "I'm getting sick of this. We're together because we like being together, but it's only a couple of days each week and I'm tired of being left alone half of my weekend. Let's go to the match together."

Her perception of "people-who-shoot" was (predictably) a bunch of red-necked yahoos who spent the day at the range shooting at everything, and then sat on the pickup tailgate for a couple of hours drinking beer and shooting casually at random targets while cursing volubly.

She was surprised when she met a lot of clean-cut guys, and a few women, who treated each other with respect and treated Range Safety and Gun Handling as Gospel. More, the treated her and each other with respect ... modified by good-natured kidding. It was like being a golf match, except for picking up expended brass.

She came to know the competitors socially, and learned that she liked them. Except for the picking-up-the-brass thing.

After another year of going to matches, and picking up a lot of brass, she finally announced to me "Hey! I'm tired of picking up everybody's brass. Get me a gun, show me how to do this thing. I want to see these guys pick up MY brass!"

SWMBO has been much more comfortable at matches as a competitor than as a hanger-on.

For a while, she worried about people who may expect her to 'do well'. She didn't want them to think she was competitive, she just wanted to go shooting for the fun of it.l

Then, for a while, she was worried about people who had stared shooting after she did, but they were scoring higher in the order-of-finish than she did. So we got her better guns, spent some time training her until, for example, she realized that "Steel Is My Friend" ... and I stepped quietly out of the way and let other people take charge of her training.

Now she trains other ladies, in her spare time.)(

Then she got competitive. She would shoot a stage, then I would shoot it differently and do better, and she would say "Hey! Why didn't you tell me that was a better way to shoot the stage?!!" We went through iterations where I would coach her, and she would seem to take offense. Then I didn't coach her, and she would take offense. Eventually, she started doping the stages on her own, trying to find the best approach which made the best use of her own personal skills set, and she started moving up the 'order of finish' score sheet.

I would like to say that today SWMBO is entirely independent, dopes the stages to her personal best advantage, and regularly kicks my butt. Can't do that; she frequently beats me on the individual stage, she enjoys what she is doing, and she likes the people we shoot with. That she is unwilling to invest in practice time to the point where she regularly beats me is a personal decision, and I can't fault her for it.

I can only say ... she enjoys shooting, she performs to her expectations usually ( as I do, usually) and she had met new friends At The Range who are as important to her as they are to me.

The point is, this lady who "never knew a reason why anyone would want to own a gun" now loves to shoot, has her own guns (and is better trained in gun-handling techniques than 99.99% of everyone in the world) , has expanded her personal horizons, and looks forward to weekends when she can spend at least one day in a gravel pit with her friends.


I'm ecstatic. I don't really enjoy going to a match without her, even though I did so for 15 years in competition. It's just not as much fun without my sweetie, my lover, my very best friend. Our relationship is much stronger for our shared interest, and I thank God for the day when she decided that she decided that she didn't want to be left behind any more.

Here's the bottom line:
(1): Just because someone "doesn't know why someone would want to own a gun" doesn't mean that they can't enjoy the experience.
(2): ... uhhhh .. see (1).

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