Recently, I was at a barbecue at my brother’s house with some friends who had just moved to the area from the Northeast. As we sat around the table catching up, the conversation eventually made its way to politics and the upcoming election. Because our politics didn’t align, there was potential for conflict, but I was pleasantly surprised by the calm, rational, and thoughtful way arguments were presented, and how respectfully they were received…that is, until the subject of gun control came up.

My more liberal-minded friend admitted she had never actually been in the presence of a gun and was happier for it. She just didn’t feel the need to endanger herself in such a manner, and though she could appreciate that some might enjoy hunting or target shooting, it was simply too dangerous to carry a firearm with you for any other purpose.

It was at that point that two of us at the table produced our own concealed carry firearms, unloaded them, and set them on the table in front of us. Unbeknownst to her, she had actually been in the presence of not one, but two firearms throughout the entire evening. Again, to my delight, she was not horrified or angry—she was curious.

“You mean you’ve just had that with you? This whole time?” she asked, smiling like a teenager that had just found the key to her parents’ liquor cabinet.

This isn’t an uncommon sentiment among open-minded, liberal-leaning Americans. Although party lines clearly separate gun owners from environmentalists, the truth of the matter is that many conservatives are concerned about climate change and many liberals don’t think the government should confiscate my guns. Political extremes, as depicted in the media, would have us believe we have nothing in common, when in reality, our differences can often be attributed to something as simple as exposure.

I purchased my first firearm by myself at 18 years old. It was a 12-gauge shotgun that I kept in the trunk of my Mustang for a year because my mother wasn’t comfortable having a gun in the house. Since that day, I’ve owned and carried firearms consistently in my personal and professional life. To me, the Glock on my hip is no different than the pocketknife in my pocket: It’s a tool with a specific function. My rifles, each different in their caliber and furniture, serve their purposes as well. I keep the tools I use to work on my car in one box, and the tools I would use to defend my home or blow off some steam at the range in another one. Beyond that, I make very little distinction between the two categories.

For my friend, however, her entire perception of firearms was based on how the media depicts them. She believes that one carries a pistol in order to shoot others, while I attest that I carry one in order to protect myself and others. She believes that firearms are inherently dangerous because of their potential to harm, whereas I recognize that a teenager with a cell phone and a driver’s license is a lot more likely to kill her than my lovingly worn-in 9mm.

The difference between how we see the same object is all based on our own forms of familiarity with it. I’ve seen my gun every day for years; she’s only seen them in the hands of killers on TV. Our perceptions are based on incongruous data.