You probably didn’t set out to get yourself into a situation where you’re living with (or maybe just dating) someone who doesn’t like guns, but sometimes things change. Maybe you came to guns later in life after you’ve been married a while. Maybe you just got a new roommate and the subject didn’t come up before they moved in. However it happened, you find yourself living with or in a relationship with someone who doesn’t like the fact that you have guns around. Short of changing your living situation, what can you do?
Before we dig into how to handle this, let’s be clear that there’s a whole spectrum of negative opinions. Although anyone can change their mind and come to appreciate exercising their Second Amendment rights, you’re going to have a much harder time dealing with this situation if the person in question is rabidly anti-gun. If that’s the case, the situation might be untenable, and you might change the nature of your relationship or your living situation. But it’s more likely that the person you’re living with has a mild or vague dislike or distrust of guns because they haven’t had much exposure to them, and most of what they know about guns has come in the form of misinformation from the media. If this is the case, you stand a much better chance of changing their mind or at least agreeing to disagree so you can live in peace.
So, what are your options if you’re living with or seriously dating someone who doesn’t like guns? I suggest a few tips:
Get to the Root of Their Dislike
What’s behind their feelings about firearms? Have they had a bad experience in the past? Are they misinformed about how guns actually work and what they’re capable of? Did they just not grow up around guns and have had no exposure to how fun and safe shooting can be? Do they have strong political feelings about the Second Amendment? Have an honest, calm discussion about what their specific concerns are so you can address each one.
Try to figure out (without asking) if their fears are coming from a logical, factual place or an emotional one. You’ll be able to tell. Logical opinions can be changed with facts. Emotional opinions are sometimes better changed with experience and time.
Practice Safe Storage and Handling
Most people who dislike having a gun in the home will list safety as a major concern. Gun owners know that guns are only as safe as the person handling them—they are harmless objects until someone misuses them. You can go a long way to allaying someone’s fears by demonstrating that you always store your firearm securely. Consider a safe or lock box if you don’t have one, even if just to make them feel better. Demonstrate obvious extra care when handling the gun, including all the usual safety practices about muzzle control and keeping your finger out of the trigger guard.
If your roommate is afraid of guns and she sees you take off your CCW pistol and sit it on the coffee table, she might react badly. But if she sees you take it off your belt and secure it in a bedside lock box where no one but you can get to it, she’ll be much less nervous.
Try Logic and Facts
You don’t want to turn this into an argument or a courtroom drama (“Exhibit A!”), but some facts and figures about how safe the shooting sports actually are can definitely help change the mind of anyone who has been too heavily influenced against guns by the media’s hysterics and hyperbole. According to Pew Research Center, about 40% of American households have a gun in the home. Data is hard to pin down, but the bottom line is that accidents among gun owners and in the shooting sports are exceedingly rare, and the safety factor increases even more when firearms are stored securely in a home. Knowing the facts might help your gun-fearing roommate to relax a bit.
Take Them Shooting
Education is the best tool to assuaging an irrational fear (and make no mistake—fear of firearms is not rational). And the best education is hands-on training! If your spouse, boyfriend or roommate is willing to give it a chance, take them to the range and let them shoot your firearm(s). Every halfway decent range in the country is fanatical about gun safety, and seeing everyone else practicing safety the way you do at home will help a nervous newbie realize that we really do take this very seriously.
Seeing what a firearm can actually do (and what it can’t) and having control over the whole process will go a long way to dispelling some of the myths and fears your gun-hating friend might have bought into. This is particularly effective if you start with a small gun (a .22 LR is ideal if you have access to one) before moving up to something they might consider scarier, like a larger handgun or an AR-15.
Be aware that it might take time, maybe a lot of time, before they are ready for this step. Be prepared to spend months back in step 2 (demonstrating safe handling and storage) and step 3 (sharing facts and generally being a responsible gun owner) before they come around enough to want to try it.
Realize It Might Not Work
You can’t change everyone’s mind. Some people’s opinions are too ingrained and their minds too closed to come around to a different viewpoint. If they never change their mind but they get used to the idea of a firearm being in the house, that might be the best you are going to get. If they adamantly oppose living in a home with a gun in it, well, you’ve both got some decisions to make.
I will add that if you settle on agreeing to disagree about this, I think it’s wise to keep the gun secure where the other person can’t access it. It’s my personal opinion that if you are afraid of guns, you shouldn’t have unrestricted access to them until you get over the fear and learn to shoot safely.
In general, most people are rational enough to agree to disagree on a subject like this and can live in harmony, respecting each other’s views. You don’t need everyone in your life to love guns, of course. But being a responsible gun owner and a good ambassador for the Second Amendment can go a long way toward earning that respect, if not appreciation.