Communion Of Dreams


RKBA – the education of a liberal
November 17, 2009, 10:27 am
Filed under: 2nd Amendment, Daily Kos, Guns, Politics, RKBA

(Cross posted to dKos, but thought some here may find it interesting. JD)

One of the guiding principles of my life, and my politics, is that education makes a difference.  Not just to give people the tools they need to succeed in life, but to also help improve our society through the reduction of fear.  Because all too often, fear springs from ignorance.  It can be ignorance of science.  Or ignorance of other cultures.  Or ignorance of sexuality.  Or ignorance of firearms, which is my topic for today.

For years I have tried to tell other gun owners and 2nd Amendment supporters that the single most effective thing they could do to insure continued support for the 2nd Amendment is to take new people shooting.  And preferably, to take someone who is liberal/progressive.  Don’t talk politics.  Don’t argue over this or that candidate.  Just take people out to the range, and give them a safe and relaxed introduction to shooting.

It’s easier for me, because my liberal and progressive friends know that I am on their side.  I don’t have a macho attitude, I’m intelligent and well educated, I understand quite well that things are complex and simple solutions are suspect.  In other words, I’m about like every Kossack who isn’t a troll.

When introducing someone new to shooting, I will first go over the safety issues.  Explain the four rules of firearm handling (this without even opening the gun cases yet.) Take out and hand around eye protection (unless they are already wearing glasses with safety lenses.  Take out and hand around hearing protection (I prefer the newer electronic type which allows for full normal hearing, but shuts off with loud noises.  I keep a couple extra pairs of these in my range bag so they can always hear me talking to them.)  Then we will discuss the particular range where we’re shooting, and any additional safety issues which pertain to it (actually, I’m lucky in that I have private land where I can go which has an ideal set-up for short-range shooting).

Only then will I take out the first gun, carefully explain how the “four rules” apply specifically to it.  Then I will set it aside, locked open, no ammo in sight.  I will do the same thing with each of the usually 6-8 guns I bring along, explaining what they are and how they function, how the “rules” apply specifically to handling them.

Then we’ll start.  I always prefer to start with just a .22 rifle.  If someone has done shooting at camp or in school, chances are that they were using a .22 rifle of some sort.  I go over once again how the “four rules” apply.  How the gun operates.  How to hold it.  How to aim (though accuracy isn’t important at this stage – just gaining a safe familiarity with guns is all I want to accomplish.)  Only after we’ve been over all of this do I break out the ammunition – and then just one round.  I’ll go over how to load the gun, once again how to operate it, and how to hold it.  After answering any questions, and checking that everyone has their eye and hearing protection in place, then I will fire the gun, demonstrating the recoil and report from it.  With a .22, neither is really noticeable, and it provides a good introduction to the whole idea of shooting.

If anyone has any questions at this point, I’ll answer them.  Then I’ll make safe the rifle, hand it to the first student (I prefer to only teach one or two people a trip – three max.)  Make sure they understand how to hold it, how it operates.  Then I will get out one more round of ammunition, and either help them load the gun, or load it for them.  When they are ready, and comfortable, I walk them through the process of aiming and firing the gun, just gently squeezing the trigger.  When it goes off, there is almost invariably a bit of a squeal of joy or laughter from the shooter.  And that is one of the best sounds in the whole world.

Sounds tedious?  It isn’t really.  I just do it in a very thorough and slow manner, taking my time.  Because to the person who has never handled or shot a gun before, it can be very scary.  Showing that guns can be safely handled, and even fun, is worth a bit of time.

We’ll shoot the .22 rifle a few more times.  I’ll let the student gain some level of comfort in loading and shooting the gun on their own, even allowing them to load two or three rounds into the magazine, so that they can shoot it multiple times without stopping to reload.

Then we’ll move on.  We’ll go from the .22 rifle to a .22 revolver, then a .22 semi-automatic, each time going over all the steps outlined above, always ALWAYS stressing the four rules of gun safety and how they apply to each firearm.  It depends on how much time we have (I usually like to allot about three hours – that’s long enough to tire out most people new to shooting), and what guns I’ve brought, but we’ll progress from smaller caliber guns to larger ones, as the student wants.  I usually have up to a .44 magnum – a large frame gun that is actually quite comfortable to shoot with “special” loads in it.  But it hasn’t always been so – you can go with whatever you have.  After we’ve gone through all the guns once, I give my friend a chance to go back and shoot anything that they want, once again going over the handling of that specific gun for safety.

When we’re done, I will pack up everything securely, as I answer questions.  It isn’t often that anyone “gets hooked” on shooting sports – it does happen, and I always tell them that if they want to go shooting again, I will be happy to provide everything.  But that wasn’t my goal.  My goal was to show that guns, while potentially dangerous, can be handled safely and sanely.  To de-mystify them, turn them from an object to be feared to a tool which is understood.  Once that happens, my liberal friends may or may not change their mind about the 2nd Amendment – but at least they will now be more informed of the issues involved.  And over time, I have found that most of the people I have taught have become much more willing to see the matter from my perspective.

Jim Downey


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