Whenever anyone, regardless of their political views, asks me about guns, I talk to them openly and empathetically, and then I offer to take them shooting – and emphasize that we’ll do it safely. Out of those I’ve offered range trips to, most of the ones who were repulsed by guns accepted, and their outlook almost invariably changed afterward.
I’ve never been a professional firearms instructor, but I’ve taught a lot of people how to shoot, and I think I’ve learned something from it. As gun people, we might look at a certain kind of person, like the fellow below who is frightened even by handling a virtual gun, as weak or as possessing poor strength of character. “He should just turn in his man card and buy a dress”, would be the reaction of many gun people I know after watching this video:
However, I think something else is going on, and I feel I have a duty in these situations to try to work with people like this, instead of dismissing them. I don’t think this guy is necessarily a weakling, I think he has lived his whole life desperately in want of having guns demystified for him.
He’s a guy who fears guns because he doesn’t understand where the bullets go, and whether that thing is called a “clip” or a “magazine”. He doesn’t know that the moving parts reciprocate in the action of the gun and strip rounds from the magazine, so it scares the crap out of him that a gun can still fire even if the magazine has been removed. What sort of voodoo witchcraft is that!? A natural thought if you don’t know what’s going on, I think.
He has never heard of the four rules, and he’s never had firearms presented to him in a safe, controlled manner. So to him, they can’t be made safe, and they can’t be controlled. He has no reason to think otherwise, because his exposure to guns has been in the news, in video games, and in movies.
As he’s gotten older – I assume he’s in his twenties or thirties now – he’s had no other release for this fear but to politicize it, and to smugly assure himself that’s he’s right to do so. It’s an uncomfortable confidence, though. He knows guns are bad, he’s practically tattooed it on his forehead, but he’s not any wiser about the firearms themselves.
When I’ve taken someone new to the range, especially someone who’s not comfortable with firearms, I’ve always structured the trip around these facts. Instead of handing them whatever gun they want and telling them to “let ‘er rip”, I first demystify the guns as much as possible. I explain the mechanism and operation of the firearm, the four rules, and I make target shooting as transparent and immediate as possible through reactive targets. Most of all, I put them in control, by giving them the tools to control their breathing, shoot accurately, and unload safely, by asking them for the firearm if I need to see it, and by letting them set their own limits.
That’s how I teach Gun Control 101.