Bridge the Gap

The following post is courtesy of Andy Wolf, veteran and firearms training instructor.

Like many issues currently placing a strain on the American people, the gun rights debate can be a highly-contested and heated topic.

In a country that threatens to tear itself apart due to heavily-entrenched political division, it’s quite easy to lose focus of the mission and feel compelled to “pick a side,” regardless of whether or not that side has your best interests in mind.

Even worse, it seems ever easier to feel resentful to those who don’t see things the way you do as this article from Forbes recently pointed out.

I see it everywhere- from people assuming you vote a certain way because you’re pro-gun to everyone and anyone who wants gun control being referred to as “liberals.”

Earlier last month, I was reading my emails in a coffee shop when a notice for a pro-gun rally in Tallahassee popped up in my inbox. Now, I’m a big supporter of the pro-gun rallies in Florida: as a state with middle-of-the-road gun rights (especially compared to our southern and midwestern cousins), it’s important to me that we not only hold on to the rights we have, but try and take back those that we have lost.

But as I was reading, an image within the email popped out at me, with text so large and noticeable that the person seated behind me even noticed: “MEET TEN THOUSAND OF YOUR NEW BEST FRIENDS & SHOW THE LIBERAL LEFT WHO WE ARE!”

“Pardon me for eavesdropping,” the man behind me said, “But insulting people right off the bat is certainly no way to get new supporters.”

“I agree,” I said, introducing myself in the process. “I’d like to hear what you have to think, and if you like, I’d be happy to discuss them with you.”

Naturally, we disagreed on many things, but fewer than you would imagine. In fact, we both wanted the same outcome- we just happened to have different ideas of how to achieve that outcome.

In addition to having common goals, a lot of this man’s consternation stemmed from misinformation he obtained through newspapers, TV and social media. Between technical understanding of how certain firearms worked, to the processes and laws in place concerning firearms. We had a very long discussion about the topic at hand, and by the end of it, he was more receptive…but still on the fence.

“How about this,” I said. “I’ll take you shooting. Pick a day and time. I’ll furnish the firearms and ammunition. You just pay whatever you want to chip in.”

He hesitated.

“C’mon,” I said. “I do this professionally, what more could you ask for?”

We agreed on a time and place. When the big day arrived, he was waiting for me nearby and had brought a friend.

“I hope you don’t mind,” he said.

“The more, the better!” I responded.

We shot for some time, using everything from semi-automatic 9mm service pistols to AR-15s and even the CZ Scorpion PDW-P. The man recognized several of the firearms from video games, and was more than happy to shoot them. His female companion overcame her fear of firearms and proved to be quite proficient.

Realizing they were now comfortable, I asked them if they would like to learn some basic defensive skills. They both agreed, and were given some basic training followed by scenarios that put everything into perspective.

By the end of the session, I had made two new friends- friends who had every right to feel however they wanted to feel, but were now properly and tactfully educated on the topic.

“I didn’t realize there was so much to this kind of thing,” the man told me. “I just figured you could buy them at Walmart without a background check and carry them in the streets.”

His companion was equally pleased with her lesson, but for other reasons.

“I feel a lot more confident,” she said. “I didn’t know a lot of the terminology or laws, and people would just call me things like a ‘stupid liberal’ when I would try and discuss it.”

I told her that seems to be a big issue (especially online), but that the gun community is one of the nicest, most helpful and self-policing communities around.

“I see that,” she beamed. “I’m definitely interested in knowing more about them. I’ve wanted one for awhile, but didn’t know who to ask.”

I am proud to announce that the young lady completed her training for her concealed carry permit, and purchased a Walther PPS M2 as her sidearm of choice.

As ambassadors, the way we behave -be it online or in person- reflects the gun community as a whole. Despite political tensions being high, we shouldn’t be so quick as to force ourselves into any one camp.

All over this nation, there are American citizens of every race, religion, political leaning and creed. We should treat everyone how we would want to be treated and reach out to them, rather than become lost in our own echo chambers and insecurities. As ambassadors to Second Amendment culture, we should strive to rise above such matters, let our maturity speak for itself and educate whenever we can.

After all, most people are just one range day away from a new perspective- they just need someone out there to give them a chance.

With August being National Shooting Sports Month, it is the perfect opportunity to bring a friend to the range. You never know….one of you might win a new firearm! And if you could use a little help opening the conversation, try sharing one of the videos from this page. There will be more posted throughout the month.