How I came to stop fearing guns and embrace the Second Amendment

How I came to stop fearing guns and embrace the Second Amendment
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I used to hate guns, even giving money to anti-gun organizations. Today I am a life member of the National Rife Association.

The tale of my transition from “we need reasonable regulation” to “out of my cold dead hands” is not meant to convert gun control advocates to gun rights supporters, because no one column will ever do that. And that’s my point. No bumper sticker, Facebook post, Tweet or talkshow rant will change the mind of someone who feels the way I felt — that it’s insane to oppose gun limits. The only way to change someone’s anti-gun viewpoint is to slowly, and personally engage them and take them through the long process.

For me it hit hard when my childhood idol, John Lennon, author of the song “Imagine,” was gunned down on the sidewalk in front of his New York City home. I knew we were a gun-crazed, violent culture, but realizing some disturbed man could just walk into a store, buy a handgun and gun down one of the greatest artistic forces in history, well, it filled me with anger.

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A “no handguns” pin went on my jacket and my first check was mailed to an anti-gun advocacy group.

 

I saw guns as a symbol for hate, for fear, not that different from a swastika. After all, I was raised in a gun-free home. Thinking people support gun control. Fearful people fight gun control.

And then something awful happened. My older brother, Paul, did something crazy, dangerous, and reckless. This normally rational and thoughtful man bought a gun. He purchased the weapon of choice for the most violent drug dealers, a .22 rifle. I say this jokingly because I’d find out later that this model Ruger 10/22 is what farm boys in Kansas often get on their twelfth birthday. It’s a perfect “beginner” gun. 

I was convinced my brother lost his ever-loving mind. Then he got crazier. He actually had the nerve to bring this dangerous device right into my home. He tried to explain to me how the mechanics of it worked, show how the safety worked. He even tried to explain how the internal safety worked, showing me the gun wouldn’t just go off unless the trigger was pulled.

Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed. I had none of it. 

Weeks later, after several invitations I finally agreed to go to a shooting range with him to “try” the damn thing. I never shot anything more than a BB gun, and by going I’d have more credibility to convince him what a mistake he’d made.

We went to an indoor range and it was terrifying. We were given a lane right next to some bumpkin shooting some massively loud, scary handgun. I thought a ricochet would be the end of us. I hated the experience. 

Over the coming months I brought up reasonable objection after objection to argue that what he purchased was a danger, and why reasonable restrictions were needed. With the patience of a fisherman, he listened to every fear I had and pointed me to data, research and writings where we could both find answers.

He took me shooting again, this time outdoors. Instead of paper targets we shot tin cans. I learned if you aim a bit towards the bottom of the tin can you can make them fly. I still wasn’t sold on the whole thing, but slowly my knee-jerk emotional fear gave way to genuine inquisitiveness. I wanted answers. Why would our founders put the Second Amendment right after the one that protected our right to speech and religion? Why would someone want more than one gun? What’s the danger in gun registration?

The process lasted nearly two years, a grueling amount of time, but I wasn’t going to let go of my “rational” distrust of guns, or the seeming ease of being able to get them, easily. After all, facts have no use in an emotional argument, and it took that long to see the issue without the murky filter I was looking through.

Slowly, facts won.

I purchased my own .22 rifle, and then a .22 pistol, and over the years a revolver, and later a shotgun, and so on, all the way to what the media mislabels as an assault rifle. Target shooting with my brother brought us years of enjoyment and strengthened our relationship. More importantly it taught me how to better challenge my own confirmation basis and pre-conceived notions.

Imagine if every gun owner did what my brother did in taking just one person who should know better and helping them on this long journey. Imagine if some of those people then became journalists or elected officials.

Imagine.

Jon Caldara (@JonCaldara) is the president of the Independence Institute (@i2idotorg), a free market think tank in Denver Colorado.