At NRA Women we place much of our emphasis on female gun owners, Second Amendment supporters, competitive shooters, trainers, hunters and other firearm-related professionals who happen to be women. The recent surge in new gun ownership is no different, as we all have assumed, correctly, that many of the new gun owners in 2020 are women.
But I was recently reminded that we women are not an exclusive group of newbies, and that many men—from the young to the seasoned—are also embarking on their personal journeys toward responsible gun ownership.
I was at my local gun shop taking care of Form 4473 paperwork. Standing next to me was a gentleman, probably in his 50s, who was also filling out his 4473. I noticed a closed Glock gun case in front of him, and when we had a break in our task at hand, I inquired as to which model he had selected. “It’s a 48,” he told me. “Ah, nice; you’ll enjoy shooting that. I own a 48 as well,” I said.
I also wanted to confirm what I believed I had overheard him tell the clerk. “First firearm?” He nodded, so I congratulated him. He offered that he had initially held the Glock 19 during his search, but he didn’t like the feel of the “the handle,” as he motioned with his hand. “Oh, the grip,” I politely corrected him, sensing he was searching for the right term. “Well, you’ll have the best of all Glock worlds with the 48,” I told him.
He went on to tell me that initially he couldn’t pull back the ... the ... , again hesitating and motioning with his hand. “The slide,” I interjected. “Yes, the slide,” he repeated. “Turns out I was doing it wrong, holding it like this,” he demonstrated. “It’s definitely all in the technique,” I reassured him. “Everybody has that problem at first.”
Clearly this exchange opened the door for a comfortable conversation on new gun ownership, which validated just about everything I and so many other veteran gun owners have worked for and continue to strive for as we welcome others into our ranks. The gun store clerk, a firearm trainer whom I have known since shopping at this particular store, was busy checking our forms, so I was careful not to step on his toes in offering advice to his customer. Eventually he, too, chimed in when the new gun buyer asked if there was a YouTube video for instruction on how to clean his new gun.
The clerk didn't chastise him for wanting to do what so many of us now do in our world of instant education, which is to “go to the video.” Rather, he politely suggested taking a gun-cleaning class offered at their store, and also a class on how to properly operate his firearm. There was no condescension in the clerk’s tone, and there was no offense taken by the buyer. The customer was clearly receptive to our advice, and continued the conversation by inquiring about ammunition.
A man can no longer assume “the little lady” in the gun store, whether standing behind the counter or standing next to him in the line filling out a form 4473, is a firearm novice.
Were it not for my ever-present pandemic mask, the grin on my face might have appeared awkward and a bit perplexing to this customer. Something tells me this man probably used to stop at gas stations to ask for directions before technology like smart phones with map apps were at our disposal. As someone who is likely successful in other areas of his life, he was not too proud to admit his lack of knowledge about a topic that many consider to be coded into the DNA of the male species—guns. No longer can we assume that today’s man grew up in an outdoors environment where gun-ownership and everything that goes along with it—terminology, safety, mentorship and more—was commonplace. True, there was once a time when American men learned about firearms organically, linguistically, the way babies learn language from their parents (and maybe from a TV Western). But that can no longer be assumed.
By the same token, a man can no longer assume “the little lady” in the gun store, whether standing behind the counter or standing next to him in the line filling out a form 4473, is a firearm novice.
With that in mind, here are 5 ways that NRA Women can help prospective gun-owning men:
1. Don’t Make Assumptions
The adage we were taught growing up that “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is still applicable and probably a good rule to follow in most occasions of human interaction. Just because the man standing next to you at the gun counter looks like he could be a member of the cast of “Duck Commander” doesn’t mean he knows the difference between a wood duck and a woodchuck, let alone how to properly operate a firearm. As you would in other social situations, look for clues for approachability or his desire for your assistance.
Many well-intentioned men often find themselves in the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position. Bless their hearts, they are often confronted with solving the enigma of discerning between a damsel in distress or a distressed damsel. In contrast, most women don’t typically come across as know-it-alls on a subject like guns. If you are one of them, save your knowledge until you are prompted through a question or conversation. If this exchange organically leads to you sharing your firearm expertise with him, go ahead and open a dialogue. It could possibly lead to a new friendship.
We were all there once (except for my husband, who once showed me a picture of his 2-year-old self in a onesie wearing a pith helmet and joyously lugging both a toy jungle safari rifle and a toy Webley revolver). But empathize doesn’t mean patronize. If you see him struggling with a particular function like racking the slide on a handgun, let the salesperson do his or her job, but perhaps offer confirmation that indeed, the slide on that pistol looks a little stiff. But only if the salesperson seems disinterested in furthering the customer’s knowledge should you interject additional advice. Remember, you presumably are also in the gun store as a customer, and are not getting commission on a sale.
Welcome him into our ranks and show him how polite an armed society truly is. He is one of at least 5 million new gun owners since March and he should feel proud that he has taken a step toward personal freedom and accepting a solid responsibility for himself, his family and his fellow citizenry. Encourage him to join the NRA, the country's oldest civil rights organization, and one that fights to maintain his Second Amendment rights.
Direct the newbie to valid safety and legal courses, local ranges, your list of favorite gear (ammo, sights, ear pro), clubs and events. These days, a a sinful propagation of negative stereotypes involving the “gun culture” exists. Be the change you want to see, and consider what you do a positive legacy that goes beyond a helping hand.