This was originally cross-posted over at Daily Kos. I have permission from the author to reprint the article in full. The KV in the story below is me.
For this week’s story, I was invited to do a guest writing. For my diary here I will focus on exposure to firearms and how people’s opinions can change based on that exposure.
It seems like only yesterday I had never held a firearm. It was during college that I took an interest in them thanks to my buddy KVoimakas. I was not scared of them at the time, but had never been exposed to them like I was about to. The most exposure I had to firearms was just seeing them in movies and shows. Before I was allowed to hold any or go out to the range with KV, I had to memorize the safety rules. This was no big deal as they seemed pretty common sense and the last thing anyone wants is negligence when handling a firearm. I completely agree with him (and all others who responsibly handle firearms) that the safety rules must be known before firearms are handled.
After college I bought my first handgun. Being on some convenient acreage I was able to practice out back when time permitted. Over time I became a better shot. As I was taught, if anyone I knew wanted to go plinking with me, they first had to memorize the golden rules of firearm safety. This is how I was taught and this is how I would pass it on. Through these methods, safety always comes first and I can say that nobody who has been shooting with me has ever broken them. This positive exposure has eradicated any reservations about firearms in my family. Where before there was simply no opinion and some slight hesitation from my mother, shooting turned into a fun family activity.
Fast forward a couple years and we arrive at a point two years ago. This is when I met my current girlfriend. She is a wonderful girl and very open to anything I am into. It wasn’t but a couple dates into our relationship that I mentioned I carried a concealed firearm with me when we are out. This came as quite a surprise to her as she didn’t know that I was doing this (granted that is the whole point of concealed carry). She was completely taken aback by the idea that I had a firearm while we walked around the mall. She was wondering what kind of guy is this? While I had no fear of firearms before being introduced to them, she was quite afraid of them and wanted nothing to do with them. The funny part in this is that her father was a part time law enforcement officer for about ten years. During this time, he kept his gun hidden and never taught his daughters any of the safety rules. He kept them sheltered. In short, they had very little exposure aside from the same entertainment coverage I had.
Lucky for me, the fact that I had a firearm was not quite enough to keep her away from me. Eventually it got to the point where she was over at my place, and I took the firearm off and set it down next to me. I could tell she was very concerned by not just me talking about it but this time actually seeing it. She asked me to put it away. In this case I did put it away rather than have it around me. I took it upon myself at this point to start educating her about firearms. The facts heavily supported me and assisted with my persuasion. For instance, how few ‘accidents’ there actually are along with how concealed carry permit holders commit so few crimes compared to other sections of the population. She eventually became accustomed to the idea of me having the handgun around. At this point when she didn’t become upset about me having it around, I started teaching her the safety rules. I let her know that if it was around, she should know them. This was to eradicate any chance of a problem or accident resulting from her not knowing how to handle them. Next up was teaching her how to see if it was loaded (although I always add rule #4 – Any gun is always loaded, and you assume it is until it is verified it is not).
From that point she knew the basic safety rules, was okay with me having one around, and knew how to unload my handgun. Teaching her proper handling techniques for all of this was starting to pierce the veil of fear very nicely. The exposure was teaching her that handguns by themselves are completely harmless. Well, that and answering her question at least ten times that handguns cannot go off by themselves while they are just sitting there. Facts and knowledge were winning out. The next step was getting her to go shooting with me. One time, while KV was down visiting me, she was over and we went out back to shoot. She accepted our invitation go outside with us. Donning the protective ear and eye wear, there was she. While we were out there, she did not shoot with us, but she was at least there. Aside from a couple startles with how loud the firearms were she handled it greatly.
A month or so later, she agreed to shoot my 22 caliber rifle. I had demonstrated to her how silent it is and how there is basically no recoil. It was the first firearm she had ever shot. It was pretty impressive for a novice just how well she shot. She decided she liked it. From there she moved up to the 22 caliber pistol I had. Oddly enough, aside from those the only firearm she has fired so far (more than once) is my PSL (fires a rather large bullet but has no recoil). That brings us up to today. She has fired a couple other firearms of mine once or twice, but they startled her with their noise and / or their recoil, so for now she has stuck to the smaller firearms. This is her choice, and at this point I only ever offer for her to try something else if we are out shooting, and even then I won’t press her on it. I will not force her into trying anything she doesn’t want to. She enjoys shooting with me and it is a fun pastime when money, time, and the weather allow.
She is by far my best demonstration of exposure. While I felt predisposed to liking firearms, and my family was open minded about them, she was not. When I met her she was downright scared of firearms and did not want them around at all. After facts, time, and positive exposure, she has gone from fear, to acceptance, and now enjoyment of firearms. I believe that, for the most part, this type of positive exposure can take most people to at least the acceptance level. I see anything less than acceptance as simply a lack of knowledge and exposure. I understand that bad exposure does occur. Those stories in the news always seem to happen to and around innocent people. However, I would simply ask those people to realize that it was not any firearm that committed any crime; it was but somebody wielding a tool. When a drunk driver hits and kills people, we take away their privilege to drive, but we do not try to ban cars on the roads for any sort of reason. Cars and guns are but tools people use for various reasons. Yes, some reasons can be bad, but not all are. As long as such an insanely large percentage of firearm owners commit no crimes using them, there is no reason to over-regulate the market and ownership. I honestly believe that all anyone who wishes such things needs is more positive exposure.
Conversation on the forum takes place here.