I have been a part of the gun culture since I was a child. My grandfather introduced me to shooting when I was very young. I was involved in marksmanship programs through Boy Scouts as a pre-teen, I joined the military as a young man, and I eventually became a defensive shooting instructor as an adult. With that background, it is no wonder that I now stand as an avid supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and an advocate for personal defense. However, this type of upbringing around guns is becoming more and more outside of the norm as our culture grows more urban and disconnected from its rural roots. In accepting this reality, it is imperative that we break from the traditional narrative and endeavor to grow the gun culture by reaching out in ways that may be uncomfortable to us.
When we examine the 2nd Amendment at its core, it is easy to see that it is based on personal defense. It exists to protect an individual’s right to own and carry firearms as an option for defense from every form of threat that may present itself from individual human aggression to a tyrannical government. We as advocates tend to focus on the latter in light of the fact that our government at the federal level has shown increasing hostility toward gun rights over the years. Slogans like the National Rifle Association’s “From my cold dead hands” or “stand and fight” act as battle cries for the base. Energizing the base is obviously important since the donations of legacy members are what the life of national gun rights organizations depend on. However, the strategies that work for pumping up the base will not necessarily aid in proselytizing to convert new supporters. We are essentially preaching the convention sermon at the revival meeting, and few if any are coming back for more. We need to get back to the gospel of personal defense at the grassroots level.
Personal defense is a fundamental human right. Anyone who has experienced something as simple as bullying will understand that human beings are built for self-defense; which means it requires little actual explanation. Depending on largely uncontrollable and unpredictable circumstances, some may be called on to defend themselves from the threat of deadly force. There are millions of people who have never owned guns that have nonetheless experienced the realities of this type of violence. Absent a strong ideological conditioning, anyone who has experienced such things is not a hard sell on the viability of firearms as an option for self-defense under those circumstances, often in spite of their political views on other issues. But what do we talk about with these people? We focus the narrative on government tyranny, “modern sporting rifles”, Obama, etc. This isn’t likely to appeal to the single mom who got beat half to death by her ex-boyfriend and now desires more options for self-defense if and when he or someone else tries again. We are talking about the wrong things at the grassroots level, and that is what limits the growth of our movement. It is up to us as individual gun owners to change this. If we as individuals take the lead, the national organizations will follow.
So, my challenge to you is to take someone outside of your circle of friends, someone who isn’t a part of the gun culture, to the range with you. Don’t wear your “infidel” t-shirt or your tactical gear; dress like a normal person. Base your discussions of gun rights on questions asked as opposed to talking points that you have learned over the years. Avoid platitudes and instead relate guns to the individual circumstances faced by this person. Do what you can to make this person your FRIEND, and they will likely see the gun culture in a new light at the very least. We as disciples of the way of the gun are stuck in Judea; and we desperately need to get to Samaria and the edges of the earth with our message. As we succeed in spreading this message, we will grow the gun culture and help to preserve our rights for the next generation.