How we talk about guns matters, whether we are talking to likeminded friends or family who think differently than we do. There are situations where it doesn’t help the Second Amendment and firearms to beat someone over the head with your love for it. We will have conversations in our lifetime that range from our significant other, to those who don’t understand why we love firearms, to the people we might never persuade to see our perspective. So here are a few thoughts to help you share what you love, especially with those you are closest to, without causing people to wish they’d “swiped left.”
Just like firearm choices are not one-size-fits-all, so are conversations. Understanding this makes us better advocates for what we are passionate about.
Men vs. Women
My original point of interest on this topic was how men and women often approach firearms differently, resulting in some “typical” ways in which they talk to each other about them. Many women (some men too) might have never been exposed to gun ownership or shooting firearms. And the main motivation for some of the women to buy a gun as an adult is for safety. This can make it a heavy subject. And it’s more common for men than women to have had experience with firearms, simply for fun—plinking, recreational shooting, as well as hunting and other outdoor experiences that are just about enjoyment or harvesting healthy meat.
Thinking about the person to whom you’re talking and asking, “How have you understood or used firearms in your life?” will likely give you some information to help you tailor your conversation.
If I know that the woman with whom I’m speaking has never shot a firearm, and her family never owned one, I will talk about different things than, say, when talking to my friend whose dad doesn’t think shooting and hunting is ladylike. My advice is to strive to prevent others from feeling judged or ignorant. There are facets of people’s upbringing over which they did not have control. We can share how excited we are for them to learn, though! Personally, I try to let the positives that I find in shooting, competing, feeding my family through hunting—all the good things I see in firearms ownership—shine through in how I talk.
Most people assume that men know more about guns and all things firearm-related than women. But there are plenty of women who do know a lot about firearms. I live in a house with four men: my husband and three sons. All of them know so much about firearms that sometimes I feel like their brains are genetically made to absorb the details through osmosis. But of course there are times when I have more experience with certain topics. And while I often ask them to read over articles I’m writing, I sometimes dismiss their comments outright. Not because they are wrong, but because they are making an assumption or handful of assumptions and want my line of thinking to conform to their perspective. If this confuses you, keep reading …
Just as with any other topic, not everyone uses or handles information related to guns for the same reasons, or with the same goals. An example would be people who are very knowledgeable about firearms being hypercritical of information geared toward new gun owners. We see it on social media all the time: comments like, “If you don’t know X, you shouldn’t own a gun,” and so on. But usually that very simple information isn’t shared for the people who already know it … it’s being shared for the millions who don’t.
Points to keep in mind when discussing firearms:
This leads me to some simple concepts to keep in mind when having conversations about firearms with someone who has a different level of knowledge than you do.
Practice good conversation skills; Don’t “talk down.” Like any conversation, if you talk down to someone who is less knowledgeable, they’re going to shut down. If you’re highly knowledgeable, make sure you convey information factually, and without making those who are just learning feel judged.
On the other hand, if you are brand new to firearms, try to be patient. Ask questions if something isn’t clear. Firearms require proper understanding and respect, so if something you’re discussing isn’t clear and it involves function or safety, don’t be shy.
Do you ever feel like you’re speaking another language when talking to someone about firearms? Don’t let it worry you, take it slow and find common ground to convey facts.
Remember that there are times when talking too technically will cause people to glaze over and lose interest. Someone asking how a trigger works might need an explanation of a hammer and firing pin, but explaining strikers vs. hammers and sears, trigger shoes, flat vs. curved triggers, overtravel and pre-travel … delivering that information all at once might just confuse them. Keeping things simple and offering that “This is the basic concept, but there are variations” will help new gun owners know there is more to certain topics, but you’re helping them understand the basics.
Don’t discredit video games and apps. It used to be that the primary way people learned about firearms was time in the military or law enforcement, and (more rarely) friends who were really into guns. People had limited paths to knowledge and low access to them. We had a generation or two who were taught to be afraid of “black guns.” But, like so many things in the age of the internet, it’s now pretty easy to verify information and find facts.
One way many young people learn about firearms is video games. Young people today have been exposed to more information related to firearms in more formats than our parents and grandparents. That exposure to information can be integral to their understanding that the gun they encountered in a video game does not match up with any of the mythological claim made by those who are not keen on firearms. Apps and video games are a more “hands on” method of taking in information related to firearms, but don’t fear resorting to some good old-fashioned reading!
Gun Owners vs. Future Gun Owners
The last item I’d draw your attention to is that no matter where you are now, don’t dismiss that your story might change later in life. Women who have never worried about the safety of their family often have a very abrupt change of mind when faced with defending their children.
What you find important and worth protecting is part of being human. Sharing how and by what means you do that encompasses more than just firearms, and so just like discussing the locks on your doors, or security systems, gun ownership is just one facet of a bigger picture. Sharing information doesn’t have to be a “hot button” topic or one that is taboo … Using respectful conversational skills can help pull guns out of the mislabeled pile of topics some mistakenly have placed it in.