Raging Against Self Defense:
A Psychiatrist Examines The Anti-Gun Mentality
By Sarah Thompson, M.D.
"You don't need to have a gun; the police
will protect you."
"If people carry guns, there will be murders
over parking spaces and neighborhood basketball
"I'm a pacifist. Enlightened, spiritually
aware people shouldn't own guns."
"I'd rather be raped than have some redneck
militia type try to rescue me."
How often have you heard these statements from
misguided advocates of victim disarmament, or
even woefully uninformed relatives and neighbors?
Why do people cling so tightly to these beliefs,
in the face of incontrovertible evidence that
they are wrong? Why do they get so furiously angry
when gun owners point out that their arguments
are factually and logically incorrect?
How can you communicate with these people who
seem to be out of touch with reality and rational
One approach to help you deal with anti-gun people
is to understand their psychological processes.
Once you understand why these people behave so
irrationally, you can communicate more effectively
Defense Mechanisms - Projection -
About a year ago I received an e-mail from a
member of a local Jewish organization. The author,
who chose to remain anonymous, insisted that people
have no right to carry firearms because he didn't
want to be murdered if one of his neighbors had
a "bad day". (I don't know that this
person is a "he", but I'm assuming so
for the sake of simplicity.) I responded by asking
him why he thought his neighbors wanted to murder
him, and, of course, got no response. The truth
is that he's statistically more likely to be murdered
by a neighbor who doesn't legally carry a firearm1
and more likely to be shot accidentally by a law
How does my correspondent "know" that
his neighbors would murder him if they had guns?
He doesn't. What he was really saying was that
if he had a gun, he might murder his neighbors
if he had a bad day, or if they took his parking
space, or played their stereos too loud. This
is an example of what mental health professionals
call projection unconsciously projecting
one's own unacceptable feelings onto other people,
so that one doesn't have to own them.3 In some
cases, the intolerable feelings are projected
not onto a person, but onto an inanimate object,
such as a gun,4 so that the projector believes
the gun itself will murder him.
Projection is a defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms
are unconscious psychological mechanisms that
protect us from feelings that we cannot consciously
accept.5 They operate without our awareness, so
that we don't have to deal consciously with "forbidden"
feelings and impulses. Thus, if you asked my e-mail
correspondent if he really wanted to murder his
neighbors, he would vehemently deny it, and insist
that other people want to kill him.
Projection is a particularly insidious defense
mechanism, because it not only prevents a person
from dealing with his own feelings, it also creates
a world where he perceives everyone else as directing
his own hostile feelings back at him.6
All people have violent, and even homicidal,
impulses. For example, it's common to hear people
say "I'd like to kill my boss", or "If
you do that one more time I'm going to kill you."
They don't actually mean that they're going to,
or even would, kill anyone; they're simply acknowledging
anger and frustration. All of us suffer from fear
and feelings of helplessness and vulnerability.
Most people can acknowledge feelings of rage,
fear, frustration, jealousy, etc. without having
to act on them in inappropriate and destructive
Some people, however, are unable consciously
to admit that they have such "unacceptable"
emotions. They may have higher than average levels
of rage, frustration, or fear. Perhaps they fear
that if they acknowledge the hostile feelings,
they will lose control and really will hurt someone.
They may believe that "good people"
never have such feelings, when in fact all people
This is especially true now that education "experts"
commonly prohibit children from expressing negative
emotions or aggression. Instead of learning that
such emotions are normal, but that destructive
behavior needs to be controlled, children now
learn that feelings of anger are evil, dangerous
and subject to severe punishment.7To protect themselves
from "being bad", they are forced to
use defense mechanisms to avoid owning their own
normal emotions. Unfortunately, using such defense
mechanisms inappropriately can endanger their
mental health; children need to learn how to deal
appropriately with reality, not how to avoid it.8
(This discussion of psychological mechanisms
applies to the average person who is uninformed,
or misinformed, about firearms and self-defense.
It does not apply to the anti- gun ideologue.
Fanatics like Charles Schumer know the facts about
firearms, and advocate victim disarmament consciously
and willfully in order to gain political power.
This psychological analysis does not apply to
Another defense mechanism commonly utilized by
supporters of gun control is denial. Denial is
simply refusing to accept the reality of a given
situation.9 For example, consider a woman whose
husband starts coming home late, has strange perfume
on his clothes, and starts charging flowers and
jewelry on his credit card. She may get extremely
angry at a well-meaning friend who suggests that
her husband is having an affair. The reality is
obvious, but the wronged wife is so threatened
by her husband's infidelity that she is unable
to accept it, and so denies its existence.
Anti-gun people do the same thing. It's obvious
that we live in a dangerous society, where criminals
attack innocent people. Just about everyone has
been, or knows someone who has been, victimized.
It's equally obvious that law enforcement can't
protect everyone everywhere 24 hours a day. Extensive
scholarly research demonstrates that the police
have no legal duty to protect you10 and that firearm
ownership is the most effective way to protect
yourself and your family.11 There is irrefutable
evidence that victim disarmament nearly always
precedes genocide.12 Nonetheless, the anti-gun
folks insist, despite all evidence to the contrary,
that "the police will protect you",
"this is a safe neighborhood" and "it
can't happen here", where "it"
is everything from mugging to mass murder.
Anti-gun people who refuse to accept the reality
of the proven and very serious dangers of civilian
disarmament are using denial to protect themselves
from the anxiety of feeling helpless and vulnerable.
Likewise, gun owners who insist that "the
government will never confiscate my guns"
are also using denial to protect themselves from
the anxiety of contemplating being forcibly disarmed
and rendered helpless and vulnerable.
Reaction Formation -
Reaction formation is yet another defense mechanism
common among the anti-gun folks. Reaction formation
occurs when a person's mind turns an unacceptable
feeling or desire into its complete opposite.13
For example, a child who is jealous of a sibling
may exhibit excessive love and devotion for the
hated brother or sister.
Likewise, a person who harbors murderous rage
toward his fellow humans may claim to be a devoted
pacifist and refuse to eat meat or even kill a
cockroach.14 Often such people take refuge in
various spiritual disciplines and believe that
they are "superior" to "less civilized"
folks who engage in "violent behavior"
such as hunting, or even target shooting. They
may devote themselves to "animal welfare"
organizations that proclaim that the rights of
animals take precedence over the rights of people.15
This not only allows the angry person to avoid
dealing with his rage, it allows him actually
to harm the people he hates without having to
know he hates them.
This is not meant to disparage the many wonderful
people who are pacifists, spiritually inclined,
vegetarian, or who support animal welfare. The
key issue is not the belief itself, but rather
the way in which the person experiences and lives
his beliefs. Sincere practitioners seek to improve
themselves, or to be helpful in a gentle, respectful
fashion. They work to persuade others peacefully
by setting an example of what they believe to
be correct behavior. Sincere pacifists generally
exhibit good will towards others, even towards
persons with whom they might disagree on various
Contrast the sincere pacifist or animal lover
with the strident, angry person who wants to ban
meat and who believes murdering hunters is justified
in order to "save the animals"
or the person who wants to outlaw self- defense
and believes innocent people have the obligation
to be raped and murdered for the good of society.
For example, noted feminist Betty Friedan said
"that lethal violence even in self defense
only engenders more violence."16 The truly
spiritual, pacifist person refrains from forcing
others to do what he believes, and is generally
driven by positive emotions, while the angry person
finds "socially acceptable" ways to
harm, abuse, or even kill, his fellow man.
In the case of anti-gun people, reaction formation
keeps any knowledge of their hatred for their
fellow humans out of consciousness, while allowing
them to feel superior to "violent gun owners".
At the same time, it also allows them to cause
serious harm, and even loss of life, to others
by denying them the tools necessary to defend
themselves. This makes reaction formation very
attractive from a psychological point of view,
and therefore very difficult to counteract.
Defense Mechanisms Are Not Mental Illnesses
Defense mechanisms are normal. All of us use them
to some extent, and their use does not imply mental
illness. Advocates of victim disarmament may be
misguided or uninformed, they may be stupid, or
they may be consciously intent on evil, but that
doesn't necessarily mean they are "mentally
Some defense mechanisms, however, are healthier
than others. A safe general rule is that a defense
is healthy if it helps you to function better
in your personal and professional life, and unhealthy
if it interferes with your life, your relationships,
or the well-being of others. Young children utilize
projection and denial much more commonly than
do healthy adults. On the other hand, "if
projection is used as a defense mechanism to a
very great extent in adult life, the user's perception
of external reality will be seriously distorted."17
Defense mechanisms are also frequently combined,
so that an anti-gun person may use several defense
mechanisms simultaneously. For example, my unfortunate
correspondent uses projection to create a world
in which all his neighbors want to murder him.
As a result, he becomes more angry and fearful,
and needs to employ even more defense mechanisms
to cope. So he uses projection to attribute his
own rage to others, he uses denial that there
is any danger to protect himself from a world
where he believes he is helpless and everyone
wants to murder him, and he uses reaction formation
to try to control everyone else's life because
his own is so horribly out of control.
Also, it's important to remember that not all
anti-gun beliefs are the result of defense mechanisms.
Some people suffer from gun phobia18, an excessive
and completely irrational fear of firearms, usually
caused by the anti-gun conditioning they've been
subjected to by the media, politicians, so-called
"educators," and others. In some cases,
gun phobia is caused by an authentic bad experience
associated with a firearm. But with all due respect
to Col. Jeff Cooper, who coined the term "hoplophobia"
to describe anti-gun people, most anti-gun people
do not have true phobias. Interestingly, a person
with a true phobia of guns realizes his fear is
excessive or unreasonable,19 something most anti-gun
folks will never admit.
Defense mechanisms distort reality -
Because defense mechanisms distort reality in
order to avoid unpleasant emotions, the person
who uses them has an impaired ability to recognize
and accept reality. This explains why my e-mail
correspondent and many other anti-gun people persist
in believing that their neighbors and co- workers
will become mass murderers if allowed to own firearms.
People who legally carry concealed firearms are
actually less violent and less prone to criminal
activity of all kinds than is the general population.20
A person who has a clean record, has passed an
FBI background check, undergone firearms training,
and spent several hundred dollars to get a permit
and a firearm, is highly unlikely to choose to
murder a neighbor. Doing so would result in his
facing a police manhunt, a trial, prison, possibly
capital punishment, and the destruction of his
family, job, and reputation. Obviously it would
make no sense for such a person to shoot a neighbor
- except in self-defense. Equally obviously, the
anti-gun person who believes that malicious shootings
by ordinary gun owners are likely to occur is
not in touch with reality.21
The Common Thread: Rage -
In my experience, the common thread in anti-gun
people is rage. Either anti-gun people harbor
more rage than others, or they're less able to
cope with it appropriately. Because they can't
handle their own feelings of rage, they are forced
to use defense mechanisms in an unhealthy manner.
Because they wrongly perceive others as seeking
to harm them, they advocate the disarmament of
ordinary people who have no desire to harm anyone.
So why do anti-gun people have so much rage and
why are they unable to deal with it in appropriate
ways? Consider for a moment that the largest and
most hysterical anti-gun groups include disproportionately
large numbers of women, African- Americans and
Jews. And virtually all of the organizations that
claim to speak for these "oppressed people"
are stridently anti-gun. Not coincidentally, among
Jews, Blacks and women there are many "professional
victims" who have little sense of identity
outside of their victimhood.
Identity as Victim -
If I were to summarize this article in three
sentences, they would be:
(1) People who identify themselves as "victims"
harbor excessive amounts of rage at other people,
whom they perceive as "not victims."
(2) In order psychologically to deal with this
rage, these "victims" utilize defense
mechanisms that enable them to harm others in
socially acceptable ways, without accepting responsibility
or suffering guilt, and without having to give
up their status as "victims."
(3) Gun owners are frequently the targets of professional
victims because gun owners are willing and able
to prevent their own victimization.
Thus the concept of "identity as victim"
is essential. How and why do members of some groups
choose to identify themselves as victims and teach
their children to do the same? While it's true
that women, Jews, and African- Americans have
historically been victimized, they now participate
in American society on an equal basis. And other
groups, most notably Asian-Americans, have been
equally victimized, and yet have transcended the
"eternal victim" mentality.
Why, for example, would a 6'10" NBA player
who makes $10 million a year see himself as a
"victim"? Why would a successful, respected,
wealthy, Jewish physician regard himself as a
"victim"? Conversely, why might a wheelchair
bound woman who lives on government disability
NOT regard herself as a victim?
I would argue it's because the basketball player
and the physician believe that their identities
are dependent on being victims not because
they have actually been victimized, but because
they're members of groups that claim victim status.
Conversely, the disabled woman was probably raised
to believe that she is responsible for her own
success or failure.
In fact, many people who have been victims of
actual violent crime, or who have survived war
or civil strife, support the right of self-defense.
The old saying is often correct: "a conservative
is a liberal who has been mugged."
Special Treatment and Misleading Leaders -
Two reasons for these groups to insist on "victim"
status seem likely. First, by claiming victim
status, members of these groups can demand (and
get) special treatment through quotas, affirmative
action, reparations, and other preferential treatment
Second, these people have been indoctrinated
to believe that there is no alternative to remaining
a victim forever. Their leaders remind them constantly
that they are mistreated in every imaginable way
(most of them imaginary!), attribute every one
of life's misfortunes to "racism" or
"sexism" or "hate crimes",
and dream up ever more complex schemes for special
treatment and favors.22 These leaders are the
ones who preach that the entire Black experience
is slavery and racism, or that Jewish history
before and after the Holocaust is irrelevant,23
or that happily married women are really victims
of sexual slavery.24
Likewise, the NAACP is suing firearms manufacturers
to put them out of business,25 and is especially
opposed to the inexpensive pistols that enable
the poor to defend themselves in gang-ridden inner
cities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) proposed evicting anyone who dares to keep
a tool of self-defense in any of its crime-infested
housing projects. Jewish leaders, especially those
in the politically correct "Reform"
branch, preach that gun control is "a solemn
religious obligation",26 contrary to the
teachings of their sacred scriptures and their
own history.27 Law enforcement agencies falsely
teach women that they are safest if they don't
resist rapists and robbers,28 while women's organizations
advocate gun control, thus rendering women and
their children defenseless.
Victimhood is good business for organizations
that foster victim status. As victims, the members
depend upon the organization to protect them,
and the organization in turn relies on members
for funding and political power. In the interest
of self-preservation, these organizations work
hard at preserving hatred and bigotry and at keeping
their members defenseless and therefore
Anti-gun groups love victims! -
From my observations, pro-victimhood is a feature
of all of the anti-gun special interest groups,
not just the ones mentioned here. Every organization
that supports gun control apparently wants its
members to be helpless, terrified and totally
dependent on someone else to control every aspect
of their lives. It doesn't matter whether it's
a religious, racial, ethnic, political, social,
or charitable group. From Handgun Control, Inc.
to the Anti- Defamation League to the Million
Mom March, they all want you to live in fear.
In this scheme, soccer moms are "victims"
just as much as are inner-city minorities.
If these organizations truly cared about the
people for whom they claim to speak, they would
encourage safe and responsible firearms ownership.
They would help people to learn how to defend
themselves and their families so that they wouldn't
have to live in fear. They would tell everyone
that one of the wonderful things about being an
American is that you have the right to keep and
bear arms, the right to defend yourself, and how
these rights preserve the right to be free.
The psychological price of being a victim
In our current society, victimhood has many perceived
benefits, but there are some serious drawbacks.
Victims tend to see the world as a scary and threatening
place. They believe that others treat them differently,
unfairly, and even maliciously and that
they are helpless to do anything about it. This
belief, that they are being mistreated and are
helpless to resist, generates tremendous rage,
and often, serious depression.
But for victims to show rage openly can be dangerous,
if not outright suicidal. For example, a battered
woman who screams at or hits her attacker may
provoke worse beatings or even her own murder.
And a person who successfully defends himself
loses his status as "victim." For someone
whose entire identity is dependent on being a
victim, the loss of victim status is just as threatening
as loss of life.
So, unable psychologically to cope with such
rage, people who view themselves as victims: (1)
use defense mechanisms to displace it into irrational
beliefs about neighbors killing each other, and
the infallibility of police protection, and (2)
attempt to regain control by controlling gun owners,
whom they wrongly perceive as "the enemy".
Say NO to being a victim! -
But no one needs to be a victim! Quite simply,
it's not very easy to victimize a person who owns
and knows how to use a firearm. If most women
owned and carried firearms, rapes and beating
would decrease.29 Thugs who target the elderly
and disabled would find honest work once they
realized they were likely to be looking down the
barrel of a pistol or shotgun. It's nearly impossible
to enslave, or herd into concentration camps,
large numbers of armed people.
Communicating with anti-gun people -
How can you communicate more effectively with
an anti-gun person who is using unhealthy defense
mechanisms? There are no quick and easy answers.
But there are a few things you should keep in
Anger and attacks do not work -
Most gun owners, when confronted by an anti-gun
person, become angry and hostile. This is understandable,
because gun owners increasingly face ridicule,
persecution and discrimination. (If you don't
believe this, ask yourself if anyone would seriously
introduce legislation to ban African- Americans,
women, or Jews from post offices, schools, and
churches. Even convicted felons aren't banned
from such places but peaceful armed citizens
are!) But an angry response is counterproductive.
It's not helpful to attack the person you're
trying to persuade. Anything that makes him feel
more fearful or angry will only intensify his
defenses. Your goal is to help the person feel
safe, and then to provide experiences and information
that will help him to make informed decisions.
Be Gentle -
You should never try to break down a defense
mechanism by force. Remember that defense mechanisms
protect people from feelings they cannot handle,
and if you take that protection away, you can
cause serious psychological harm. And because
defense mechanisms operate unconsciously, it won't
do any good to show an anti-gun person this article
or to point out that he's using defense mechanisms.
Your goal is gently and gradually to help the
person to have a more realistic and rational view
of the world. This cannot be done in one hour
or one day.
As you reach out to people in this way, you need
to deal with both the illogical thought processes
involved and the emotional reactions that anti-gun
people have to firearms. When dealing with illogical
thought processes, you are attempting to use reason
and logic to convince the anti-gun person that
his perception of other people and his perception
of firearms are seriously inaccurate. The goal
is to help him to understand that armed citizens
and firearms are not threats, and may even save
Reversing Irrational thoughts - The Mirror
One approach that can be helpful is simply to
feed back what the anti-gun person is telling
you, in a neutral, inquisitive way. So, when replying
to my anonymous e-mail correspondent (above),
I might respond, "So you fear if your neighbors
had guns, they would use them to murder you. What
makes you think that?" When you simply repeat
what the person has said, and ask questions, you
are not directly challenging his defenses. You
are holding up a mirror to let him see his own
views. If he has very strong defenses, he can
continue to insist that his neighbors want to
murder him. However, if his defenses are less
rigid, he may start to question his position.
Another example might be, "Why do you think
that your children's schoolteachers would shoot
them?" You might follow this up with something
like, "Why do you entrust your precious children
to someone you believe would murder them?"
Again, you are merely asking questions, and not
directly attacking the person or his defenses.
Of course the anti-gun person might continue
to insist that the teachers really would harm
children, but prohibiting them from owning guns
would prevent it. So you might ask how using a
gun to murder innocent children is different from
stabbing children with scissors, assaulting them
with baseball bats, or poisoning the milk and
It's important to ask "open-ended"
questions that require a response other than "yes"
or "no". Such questions require the
anti-gun person actually to think about what he
is saying. This will help him to re-examine his
beliefs. It may also encourage him to ask you
questions about firearms use and ownership.
The "What Would You Do?" Technique -
Once you have a dialogue going with an anti-gun
person, you might want to insert him into a hypothetical
scenario, although doing so is a greater threat
to his defenses, and is therefore more risky.
You might ask how he would deal with a difficult
or annoying co-worker. He will likely respond
that he would never resort to violence, but "other
people" would, especially if they had guns.
(Projection again.) You can then ask him who these
"other people" are, why they would shoot
a co-worker, and what the shooter would gain by
Don't try to "win" the argument. Don't
try to embarrass the person you're trying to educate.
Remember that no one likes to admit that his deeply
held beliefs are wrong. No one likes to hear "I
told you so!" Be patient and gentle. If you
are arrogant, condescending, hurtful or rude to
the anti-gun person, you will only convince him
that gun owners are arrogant, hurtful people
who should not be trusted with guns!
Defusing Emotional reactions - The "You
Are There" Technique -
Rational arguments alone are not likely to be
successful, especially since many people "feel"
rather than "think". You also need to
deal with the emotional responses of the anti-gun
person. Remember that most people have been conditioned
to associate firearms with dead toddlers. So you
need to change the person's emotional responses
along with his thoughts.
One way to do this is to put the anti-gun person
(or his family) at a hypothetical crime scene
and ask what he would like to have happen. For
example, "Imagine your wife is in the parking
lot at the supermarket and two men grab her. One
holds a knife to her throat while the other tears
her clothes off. If I see this happening and have
a gun, what should I do? What would happen next?
What if after five minutes, the police still haven't
Just let him answer the questions and mentally
walk through the scenario. Don't argue with his
answers. You are planting seeds in his mind than
can help change his emotional responses.
The Power of Empathy -
Another emotion-based approach that is often
more successful is to respond sympathetically
to the plight of the anti-gun person.
Imagine for a moment how you would feel if you
believed your neighbors and co-workers wanted
to kill you and your family, and you could do
nothing at all about it except to wait for the
inevitable to occur.
Not very pleasant, is it? -
This is the world in which opponents of armed
self-defense live. All of us have had times in
our lives when we felt "different" and
had to contend with hostile schoolmates, co- workers,
etc. So we need to invoke our own compassion for
these terrified people. Say something like, "It
must be awful to live in fear of being assaulted
by your own neighbors. I remember what it was
like when I was the only (Jew, Mormon, African-American,
Republican) in my (class, football team, workplace)
and even then I didn't think anyone was
going to kill me." It's essential that you
sincerely feel some compassion and empathy; if
you're glib or sarcastic, this won't work.
Using empathy works in several ways. First, it
defuses a potentially hostile interaction. Anti-gun
people are used to being attacked, not understood,
by advocates of gun rights. Instead of an "evil,
gun-toting, extremist", you are now a sympathetic,
fellow human being. This may also open the door
for a friendly conversation, in which you can
each discover that your "opponent" is
a person with whom you have some things in common.
You may even create an opportunity to dispel some
of the misinformation about firearms and self-defense
that is so prevalent.
This empathy technique is also useful for redirecting,
or ending, a heated argument that has become hostile
and unproductive. It allows you to escape from
the dead end of "guns save lives" vs.
"the only reason to have a gun is to murder
children." With empathy you can reframe the
argument entirely. Instead of arguing about whether
more lives are saved or lost as a result of gun
ownership, you can comment on how terrifying it
must be to live in a country where 80 million
people own guns "solely for the purpose of
You should not expect any of these approaches
to work immediately; they won't. With rare exceptions,
the anti-gun person is simply not going to "see
the light," thank you profusely, and beg
you to take him shooting. What you are doing is
putting tiny chinks into the armor of the person's
defenses, or planting seeds that may someday develop
into a more open mind or a more rational analysis.
This process can take months or years. But it
Corrective Experiences -
Perhaps the most effective way to dissolve defense
mechanisms, however, is by providing corrective
experiences30. Corrective experiences are experiences
that allow a person to learn that his ideas about
gun owners and guns are incorrect in a safe and
non-threatening way. To provide a corrective experience,
you first allow the person to attempt to project
his incorrect ideas onto you. Then, you demonstrate
that he is wrong by your behavior, not by arguing.
For example, the anti-gun person will unconsciously
attempt to provoke you by claiming that gun owners
are uneducated "rednecks," or by treating
you as if you are an uneducated "redneck."
If you get angry and respond by calling him a
"stupid, liberal, socialist", you will
prove his point. However, if you casually talk
about your M.B.A., your trip to the Shakespeare
festival, your vegetable garden, or your daughter's
ballet recital, you will provide him with the
opportunity to correct his misconceptions.
If you have used the above techniques, then you
have already provided one corrective experience.
You have demonstrated to the frightened, anti-gun
person that gun owners are not abusive, scary,
dangerous and sub-human monsters, but normal,
everyday people who care about their families,
friends and even strangers.
As many gun owners have already discovered, the
most important corrective experiences involve
actually exposing the fearful person to a firearm.
It is almost never advisable to tell someone that
you carry a concealed firearm, but there are ways
to use your own experience favorably.
For example, if you're dealing with an anti-gun
person with whom you interact regularly and have
a generally good relationship a coworker,
neighbor, church member, etc. you might
indirectly refer to concealed carry. You should
never say anything like "I'm carrying a gun
right now and you can't even tell," especially
because in some states that would be considered
illegal, "threatening" behavior. But
you might consider saying something like, "I
sometimes carry a firearm, and you've never seemed
to be uncomfortable around me." Whether to
disclose this information is an individual decision,
and you should consider carefully other consequences
before using this approach.
First-hand experience -
Ultimately, your goal is to take the anti-gun
person shooting. Some people will accept an invitation
to accompany you to the range, but others are
too frightened to do so, and will need some preliminary
First, you want to encourage the anti-gun person
to have some contact with a firearm in whatever
way feels most comfortable to him. Many people
seem to believe that firearms have minds of their
own and shoot people of their own volition. So
you might want to start by inviting him simply
to look at and then handle an unloaded firearm.
This also provides you the opportunity to show
the inexperienced person how to tell whether a
firearm is loaded and to teach him the basic rules
of firearms safety.
Encourage the newcomer to ask questions and remember
that your role is to present accurate information
in a friendly, responsible and non-threatening
way. This is a good time to offer some reading
material on the benefits of firearms ownership.
But be careful not to provide so much information
that it's overwhelming. And remember this is not
the time to launch into anti-government rants,
the New World Order, conspiracy theories, or any
kind of political talk!
Next, you can invite your friend to accompany
you to the shooting range. (And if you're going
to trust each other with loaded guns, you should
consider yourselves friends!) Assure him that
no one will force him to shoot a gun and he's
free just to watch. Let him know in advance what
he will experience and what will be expected of
him. This includes such things as the need for
eye and ear protection, a cap, appropriate clothing,
etc. Make sure you have a firearm appropriate
for your guest should s/he decide to try shooting.
This means a lower caliber firearm that doesn't
have too much recoil. If your guest is a woman,
make sure the firearm will fit her appropriately.
Many rifles have stocks that are too long for
small women, and double-stack semi-autos are usually
too large for a woman's hand.
Remember that just visiting the range can be
a corrective experience. Your guest will learn
that gun owners are disciplined, responsible,
safety-conscious, courteous, considerate, and
follow the rules. He will see people of all ages,
from children to the elderly, male and female,
enjoying an activity together. He will not see
a single "beer-swilling redneck" waving
a firearm in people's faces.
In my experience, most people who visit a range
will decide they do want to try shooting. Remember
to make sure your guest understands all the safety
rules and range rules before allowing him to handle
a firearm. If you don't feel competent to teach
a newcomer to shoot, ask an instructor or range
master to assist. Remember to provide lots of
positive feedback and encouragement. If you're
lucky, you'll recruit a new firearms enthusiast.
But even if your guest decides that shooting
is "not for him", he will have learned
many valuable lessons. He will know basic rules
of firearms safety, and how to clear a firearm
should he need to do so. This may well save his
life someday. He will know that guns do not fire
unless a person pulls the trigger. He will know
that gun owners are friendly, responsible people,
not very different from him. Even if he chooses
not to fire a gun ever again, he will be less
likely to fear and persecute gun owners. And who
knows a few months or years later he may
decide to become a gun owner.
Why these techniques do not always work -
You should remember that you will not be successful
with all anti-gun people. Some people are so terrified
and have such strong defenses, that it's not possible
for someone without professional training to get
through. Some people have their minds made up
and refuse to consider opening them. Others may
concede that what you say "makes sense,"
but are unwilling to challenge the forces of political
correctness. A few may have had traumatic experiences
with firearms from which they have not recovered.
You will also not be successful with the anti-gun
ideologues, people like Charles Schumer and Dianne
Feinstein. These people have made a conscious
choice to oppose firearms ownership and self-defense.
They almost always gain power, prestige, and money
from their anti-gun politics. They are not interested
in the facts or in saving lives. They know the
facts and understand the consequences of their
actions, and will happily sacrifice innocent people
if it furthers their selfish agenda. Do not use
these techniques on such people. They only respond
to fears of losing the power, prestige and money
that they covet.31
By better understanding advocates of civilian
disarmament, and by learning and practicing some
simple techniques to deal with their psychological
defenses, you will be much more effective in your
efforts to communicate with anti-gun people. This
will enable you to be more successful at educating
them about the realities of firearms and self-
defense, and their importance to our liberty and
Educating others about firearms is hard work.
It's not glamorous, and it generally needs to
be done one person at a time. But it's a very
necessary and important task. The average American
supports freedom of speech and freedom of religion,
whether or not he chooses to exercise them. He
supports fair trials, whether or not he's ever
been in a courtroom. He likewise needs to understand
that self- defense is an essential right, whether
or not he chooses to own or carry a gun.