As the gun debate continues to rage in this country, the social media conversation has been dominated by memes and straw man arguments bandied about by the most hard headed among both groups — with gun control and gun rights advocates both circling their proverbial wagons and congratulating one another on the new and witty ways they can agree amongst themselves.
A fortified position is intended to weather enemy contact, otherwise there’s no need for it, but when it comes to politics, we prefer our positions fortified and our opposition nowhere to be found. We don’t want to hear what they have to say, to engage with their line of thinking, or to acknowledge any merit or even humanity behind their concerns.
You can be a gun guy or not. You can believe in freedom or not. You can want to save the children or not.
From the outside looking in, it probably looks awfully silly, but to be honest, I couldn’t tell you for sure — because I’m a gun guy, and as such, I can’t help but view this topic through the skewed lens of a stakeholder. When someone that’s never touched a firearm and couldn’t be bothered to learn how they function proposes a law that makes no sense and would save no lives, I see it met with fanfare in Left-leaning outlets and I’ll admit it, I get angry.
But to be honest, I get frustrated with people on my side of the debate as well — when they make suggestions I find equally difficult to stomach. I remember the teachers I had in school and I know a lot of teachers now. I’ve got no doubt that there are plenty of educators in the country that own firearms, but most of the ones I know from my old stomping ground of liberal New England are just as scared of guns as they are of shooters. It’s not because they’re idiots, it’s because they see guns in the same way they see Great White Sharks or the Ebola Virus — a dangerous abstract they prefer to keep within the confines of their television sets. My comfort with firearms wasn’t bred into me; it developed as a result of years of proximity, training and use. I see a gun as a tool because, in my lifetime, that’s precisely what they’ve been to me — but to someone that’s never been near one, all they have to go on are the ridiculous things you see in the press.
Which brings me to the subject of this piece: why do some gun owners choose to own lots of guns and why is the press so afraid of them?
The “research” cited in that article claimed people bought more guns under Obama because of racism, rather than because people feared he’d pursue more strict gun legislation. I guess that’s why they used the word “suggest,” because “I made this part up” doesn’t work as well in a headline.
I get the basic idea here: guns are scary, so more guns are scarier — but the logic doesn’t really survive past the anti-gun curb appeal. While I’m reluctant to advertise how many guns of whatever type I own, it’s safe to say that I own more than your average gun owner and way more than your average gun control advocate would prefer. I purchased them all legally, keep them stored safely and securely, I have a license to carry awarded by my state of residence, and I’ve not only received quite a bit of training in how to handle my firearms, I continually seek more.
As far as guns go, I’m a pretty responsible American. So, why are multiple-gun owners like me so often characterized as some sort of domestic terrorist deserving of an episode of Hoarders?
I’m not trying to beat up on my left-leaning friends and family. You’re entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine, but from where I stand, my list of firearms isn’t all that different from any of the hobbies I see proudly touted by plenty of liberal folks.
I come from a racing background, and although there are lots of types of racing, many of the people in the industry carry their passion for cars and speed over into their personal lives. Souped-up daily drivers are a common facet among car guys and girls — from Roots type superchargers on classic domestics to chrome plated turbochargers on modern imports, America has long had a love affair with working on your own car, improving its performance — and yup — even racing illegally.
On average in this country, 40,000 people die in car accidents every year — but as a country, we don’t paint mechanics and car enthusiasts as murderers of children or crackpot conspiracy theorists preparing to overthrow the government. We just see them as people with a passion.
I’m not going to judge you for your souped-up Subaru Impreza, even though you’re much more likely to kill an innocent person with it than I am with any of my firearms.
Maybe it’s a money thing. It’s fair to say that I’ve invested more into my firearms than I have into other parts of my life, and one could argue that only a “crazy person” would devote so much of their disposable income to a singular interest. After all, reasonable Americans only do that with sound investments like Beanie Babies or smart phones.
I’ve always been budget minded when it comes to my hobbies, and firearms are no different. I’ve never put my family in a difficult position financially because of a purchase, I discuss the guns I buy with my wife beforehand and, if I’m honest, you might be hard pressed to know that I’m the sort of guy with a lot of guns even if you took a tour of my house. Having a “collection” of firearms isn’t different than having a “collection” of anything pricey, and at least for me, it’s proven to be a much less expensive hobby than my days spent pulling horsepower out of engine bays. I didn’t set out to have a bunch of guns, I just like to tinker, and it’s cheaper to tinker with my Glock or AK than it is to throw parts at a race car.
Nobody has ever criticized me for having a lot of sockets and wrenches. I’ve never been called a child-killer while driving my old nitrous injected Mustang GT or my brother’s Dodge Viper. If I told you I liked to unwind by having a beer and bolting parts to my wife’s Honda, you’d smile and nod, but if I say I’m going to have a beer and throw a new buttstock on my AR-15, people start acting like it’s because I’ve got plans to climb a clock tower.
I carried a rifle in the Marine Corps. I carried a rifle hunting in the hills of Vermont. To me, a rifle is no different than a hammer – it’s a tool with a purpose, and I take pride in taking good care of my tools. And just like tools, different firearms are better suited for different jobs, and as such, I’ve got more than one. You’d be hard pressed to find a pit mechanic that only owns one wrench.
Listen, I’m not saying guns aren’t dangerous, nor am I saying that this nation doesn’t have any issues with firearms that we need to talk about. All I’m saying is that the debate about firearms often simmers down into ad hominem attacks that presuppose gun owners and criminals are a part of the same social group. I’m sure there’s some crossover in that Venn diagram, but for the most part, people that own a number of firearms are able to because of their financial stability, responsible behavior, and a passion for the craftsmanship and function they find in their tools.
It seems like people on the Left can’t quite agree about how they feel about guns — one will tell you that “no one wants to take your guns” while another tweets about prying them from our “cold dead hands.” Politicians will use the phrase “common sense guns legislation,” then support a bill aimed at banning scary guns because they’re scary. That’s okay — conservatives don’t agree on everything either — but just like we can all agree that no one wants to see more children killed, can’t we also agree that, with at least one gun in over a third of all American households, most gun owners aren’t the bad guys you’re looking for.
So, let’s stop pretending that they are.
Image courtesy of the author