The local gun store & range was having an American Cross Blood drive which they use to bolster their range membership. South Carolina Carry Inc., our grassroots non-profit was allowed to have a table outside with the blood donation buses. We were there to share information about South Carolina Carry Inc. and recruit new members.
The day held wonderful conversations about Constitutional rights, conceal carry, open carry and political differences. One interaction with a woman waiting for her daughter to give blood was my favorite of the day. Everyone was respectful, accommodating and open to discussion- can you ask for more?
She came up to our table, you could see she was hesitant. She looked like she was waiting for someone, but it became clear she wanted to talk. I am glad she felt comfortable to ask questions. She asked if we supported semi-automatic guns. Instead of jumping on her, I asked what she thought that meant. She said when you press the trigger, the bullets shoot continuously.
That was the first sign that she was possibly being bottle fed by the media. I thought to myself, I hope I can come across in a helpful and loving way instead of judgmental and I dived in. Two other volunteers were helping with the conversation, Hal and James. I kept hoping she wouldn’t feel threatened, her body language seemed to be open, a good sign. I could see her looking to me, as a fellow mother and woman to answer her questions. Pat, Hal’s wife, was there and agreed with our questioning stranger that she was afraid of guns at one time too.
We explained the differences between full automatic and semi-automatic, including Hal’s explanation of Class III permits and how regulated guns currently are. I won’t bore you with all those details but it is not something the general public knows unless they purchase guns or ask questions.
Our curious stranger moved on to more difficult questions. Paraphrasing, “What about all the accidental shootings? Don’t you feel more gun control would stop that?” I could see that she was concerned about others well-being and fully believed that more regulations on guns would somehow prevent crime. We talked a lot about a person’s intent to commit crime and how we cannot control others no matter how much we wish we could. And should we want to control others…I digress.
“your first and most important self-defense tool is between your ears.”
She asked about more regulations on gun purchases, do we feel they are robust enough? There was a huge disconnect from the reality of purchasing firearms and her perception of how it happens. I asked her if she is asking that because of the media’s attention on the “gun show loop hole”? She said yes.
Hal, James, and I explained how a gun is purchased, the basics of FFL (Federal Firearms License) and the process of background checks. Are there people who sell and buy guns privately without oversight? Yes, of course but that will ALWAYS be. If guns were illegal, there would be MORE of that not less. Those with evil intent will find a way to accomplish their goal, no matter what laws are in place. Criminals are by definition people who disregard the law. No matter how many laws you establish, signs you post, police officers around- criminals will still break the law. The real question is what are you going to do when that criminal sets their sights on you? Are you going to wait 10-20 minutes for police response or would you rather be able to defend yourself?
A Federal Firearms License (FFL) is a license in the United States that enables an individual or a company to engage in a business pertaining to the manufacture or importation of firearms and ammunition, or the interstate and intrastate sale of firearms.
I offered another example, people drive cars every day. We know that drunk driving is illegal. Law-abiding citizens do not drink and drive, citizens with less respect for the law, themselves and others will drive drunk. Do we ban cars based on individuals’ poor decisions? Of course not, we punish the offenders. It is the same with gun ownership. If you break the law, you should pay for your crime. If you do not, you should not be given a hard time because you are a law-abiding citizen within your Constitutional rights.
As a mother, she is highly concerned about children getting hurt with guns, as I am too. We talked about gun education and it lacking in our schools and community. I told her about the recent study from Texas on the differences between children ages preschool to kindergarten age who are taught gun safety and ones that aren’t- how do they respond to gun sitting on a table. The children who were not taught gun safety picked up the guns and shot each other, the ones who were taught did not. It’s that simple.
We agreed that our schools NEED more gun safety education and I told her I think we need the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program for Gun Safety in elementary and middle schools. We NEED more gun education in our communities and we need more gun owners sharing gun safety with the general public. Again, she agreed with more education. Her husband owns guns; she is opposed to them. She feels they are dangerous and she is afraid of them.
Ultimately, gun rights are your constitutional right. The more you dilute that, the more you compromise that right, the less right you have. I told her, she was wearing beige, what if beige was outlawed because a large group of people decided they didn’t value the right to have the color? It is the same thing. At the core of the gun control issue is our constitutional rights, guns are being politicized to diminish our constitutional rights even more than they are now.
She asked, why guns? Why can’t I just carry mace to protect myself? What a great question! She had her keys in her hand already with one key in-between two fingers. I asked her, when you enter a parking lot, are you aware of your surroundings? Do have the means to protect yourself if necessary? Do you notice when a van is parked next to you? Do you look in the back seat before entering your vehicle? We talked a great deal about personal safety and training. Mace or pepper spray has its limitations and how can you accurately train yourself how to use them without risk hurting yourself? How would it help you if you get pepper spray in your own eyes while trying to fight your assailant? Hal, James and I were adamant that brandishing your firearm is the LAST resort. As James said, “your first and most important self-defense tool is between your ears.”
I shared with her my mugging experience, which I could tell made a huge impact. She asked how I would have done things differently if I had been armed. I am only alive today because of the cowardice of a man during a split second decision. I cannot know if things would have been different if I was armed but I would have acted differently knowing what I know today. I am much more self-aware and self-preserving than I was when I was younger. We all learn from our lives’ experiences, I learned many lessons that day.
Our curious stranger was quiet. She asked Pat, what made Pat change her mind about guns. I knew we had made long strides with her understanding of gun issues and propaganda. She was looking for commiseration, what we had shared was being considered. Whether or not she changes her views, the fact she was willing to listen, ask questions meant a great deal to me. There was no judgement towards her or towards us about being a bad person because we choose to have guns in our lives. Pat told her that although she was afraid of guns, she took classes and learned about gun safety from someone other than her husband, she said the education made all the difference. Once she shot a gun, she loved it and decided to pursue getting her South Carolina Concealed Weapons Permit. She is now a permitted carrier and very proud of her accomplishments. Pat was where our curious stranger is and where we hope she will go!
I could see that the next step was to get our stranger shooting. I asked her if she has ever shot a gun. She laughed, no I haven’t. My husband wants me to but I have refused. I offered to shoot with her, letting her use my .22 caliber to start with. I explained it has low recoil and we could go over the gun safety rules thoroughly before we even got on the range. You could tell she liked the idea. I gave her my information and hopefully she will call to get together again.
She may never call but at the end of the day, I knew I did everything I could in the moment. It is rare that you can meet someone with a differing opinion and walk away from a conversation with opposing views feeling good about the interaction. There was no name calling, no fear mongering, no extreme talk one way or the other. I am sure the idea of open carry is scary to many, including police officers. I understand, completely. For me, the core issue is our Constitutional rights- at what point will we be done compromising them away? When they are gone for good?
I hope that you read this and feel rejuvenated to talk to others about gun legislation. It is my hope that by sharing this with others, the experience can be shared, again and again until we all decide ultimately we are Americans first and second, our Constitution demands defense from all attacks foreign and domestic.
I hope you feel encouraged to continue to be a good steward of gun safety and offer education to others. As responsible gun owners, we are true patriots by teaching others to stay safe and could be saving others’ lives by teaching responsibility.