Many of us struggle at times to explain to our non-shooting friends just what it is that we enjoy about firearms and shooting. Whenever a tragedy occurs involving guns, even some of our best friends may question why we have guns or why we like to shoot. Yes, we know that we have a right in this country to own guns and to shoot them but just repeating that does not always help others understand. I say "help" them understand on purpose because I've seen that need in many of my friends and acquaintances over the years. They are not anti-gun, they just really don't understand why we seem to like them so much.
I have some thoughts on this but I don't pretend to have all the answers and certainly not THE answer to the question, "Why do you like guns?"
First of all, if I am going to expect people to accept what I say about guns, I must be reasonable in my response to them. I need to make sure that I really understand what they are asking me.
My tone is perhaps as important as anything else. If someone asked me about why I like Chevrolet vehicles for example, I would not assume that they were hostile toward that brand, just because they owned another brand. I might want to find out if they're asking why I like Chevrolets instead of Fords.
I'd probably say that I liked the way they look, the way they have performed for me, the price and certainly in my case, the dealership that sells them. They might ask me some questions to clarify my statements and I'd try to answer them. I might even ask if they'd ever tried a Chevy and offer to let them take a look at mine and even drive it.
I'd also hope that anyone who asked me a question about either guns or vehicles is doing that because they think I'll give them a reasonable answer. That may be based upon how they've seen me react to other questions or in other situations in the past. I can't assume that they're asking me a question to provoke an outburst or confrontational response.
Why do I like guns? I like the workmanship that goes into them. If I never shot again, I'd still like to own guns and just look at them from time to time. I like to test myself to try and make one hole in paper with my rifles, revolvers and pistols. I've never been the most steady person in they world but I've found that the discipline involved in target shooting helps me steady my hands and help me concentrate.
I like to take my shotgun to the range and watch as I hit a clay target just right and turn it into powder. I like to see if I can better my trap, skeet, or sporting clays scores. I enjoy 5 stand, even though it's very challenging to me.
I like to see the expression on the faces of my grandsons when they break a balloon with a BB gun and later with a .22 rifle, for the first time. I've enjoyed seeing my wife who's a classically trained musician learn to shoot a shotgun and set World Records and win World Championships. I've had only a small part in that but I was the first person to put a shotgun in her hands and give her some elementary instructions about sight picture, breathing and trigger squeeze.
I don't play golf but I appreciate people who do. I don't bowl much but I have friends who do. I don't play cards much, don't like to play board games, I don't play tennis but I do like to shoot. We're all a little different and like different things. That's as it should be.
Sometimes folks will talk about the dangerous nature of guns. I can't argue much with that. Almost anything can be dangerous if mishandled. Those balloons that my grandsons and I enjoyed breaking so much can be deadly to a young unsupervised child. I would never think of giving a 2 year old a balloon and then leaving the room. The same can be said for hard candy, marbles...you get the idea. Guns are no different.
What about those guns sometimes called "assault weapons", why do we need those? Here's an area that, in my opinion, we need to really be sure what the person is asking. What do they consider an assault weapon? Is that the AK-47 that they see on the news? Is that the AR-15 that they've heard about lately? Is that a shotgun with a pistol grip? When they hear assault weapon do they mean a fully automatic weapon or a semi-automatic weapon or do they understand the difference in the two? Have they ever shot a gun? Would they like to give it a try?
Over the years I have found that many people who don't understand why we shoot have never shot a gun. I've offered to take them to the range and let them try it. Some have become enthusiastic shooters, some have tried it but never taken up the sport but none have gone away without a better understanding of what I see in the sport.
I've just found that when I approach the questions that non-shooters have with an open mind and in a non-confrontational manner, it works better. When I offer to let someone shoot my gun, it seems to help. When i show that I'm a reasonable person and that I try to answer questions not just about guns but about other subjects as well in a logical manner and when I make sure I really understand the question or questions that they have, it seems to work better.
Will you or will I be able to change the mind of an anti-gun fanatic, of course not. People who already have their minds made up about guns and shooting are not asking us questions to learn something. Should we be hostile toward them? I don't think so. We'll do our cause no good by senseless arguing, or shouting each other down. Maybe some folks who watch "experts" on television doing that enjoy it and maybe they even learn something from it but I don't. I believe we should be courteous to everyone, just stay away from people who only want to argue, and try to help people who are genuinely interested in learning.
All the answers, or THE answer, no, I don't have those. I do however think that we can do our part to explain why it is that we like guns and like to shoot them to people who really want to know.