I stumbled across an article that says something that I don’t believe is said often enough in the shooting community:
I’ve written before about the lack of welcome given to the Millennial Generation (and the later members of Gen X) by the shooting community. Their tattoos and piercings put off some, while their voting patterns and interest in social justice causes make others mad. As I’ve said, they look and think differently from the generations which came before — and that makes many people very nervous.
But there is a point of common interest: they like guns (they particularly like suppressors!) and they believe that people have a right to own them. We share that enthusiasm with them, and that’s what’s important.
Yes, they’re different. They like guns but worry about income inequalities; they enjoy shooting but also a clean environment; they want to buy ammo but dislike the multinational corporations which make it possible for them to do so. In short, they’re full of dichotomies and inconsistencies — just like the rest of us!
Appearance-wise I’m one of the most bland people out there. I’m always always dressed business casual, I keep my hair short and naturally colored, and my skin is entirely devoid of tattoos or piercings. In other words my appearances are generally unoffensive to the traditional shooting culture. But I’m also an anarchist and a metalhead. That means I keep some very colorful company. Many of my friends would fall in the category that is sometimes referred to as punks. They have long hair that can be cut into mohawks, colored anything from pink to blue, are often covered in piercing and tattoos, and wear clothing with enough spikes that one could mistake a single individual for an entire Spartan legion in phalanx formation. They’re damn good people but often receive a less than welcome response from traditional shooters.
Now it’s story time. Back in the day I had a girlfriend who liked to color her hair. During the year we were dating she had changed her hair color from having two pink stripes framing her face to first entirely light blue then green then light blue again and finally pink. While she grew up around firearms she hadn’t been shooting in quite some time so I decided to take her to an undisclosed range (undisclosed because I don’t want to sully the range’s good name). Everything was fine until a couple of more elderly individuals showed up.
During one of the cease fires one of the individuals approached me as I was walking out to swap targets. He didn’t bother introducing himself or offer any other form of nicety but jumped right into questioning me about my at the time girlfriend. His first question was “Does she know what she’s doing?” From the tone of the question I was led to believe he was insinuating that she didn’t know how to shoot or at least shoot safely. I said “She knows exactly what she’s doing. She grew up around firearms.” To which he said “She doesn’t look like she knows what she’s doing.” This statement irritated me. Her target was testament enough that she knew what she was doing. Furthermore at no point did she handle any of the firearms she was using in an unsafe manner. Needless to say I had to ask “How so?” I half expected him to make an offhand remark about her gender being unable to shoot. Instead he surprised me by saying “Well she looks like a gang banger.” This really, and I mean really, pissed me off. I politely informed the man, truthfully, that she held a Ph.D. in mathematics and more security clearances than he was probably aware existed. When we returned to the firing line and called the range hot my wonderful electronic earmuffs picked up the conversation he was having with his friend and needless to say there were a lot of rather unflattering remarks being made about my girlfriend. Unfortunately she was also wearing fancy electronic earmuffs and overheard their conversation. Her enthusiasm for shooting deadened a notable amount that day.
We in the shooting community often spend a lot of time talking about the need to get more people involved in shooting. Unfortunately for many of the more vocal shooters what they really mean is that they want more people like them in the shooting community. Unless you’re a Republican voting, politically and socially conservative, Christian church goer they don’t want you in their little club. The linked article made a point that demonstrates this quite well:
One thing is certain: these new shooters don’t like the NRA and they aren’t members. They don’t know the organization because the organization hasn’t taken the time to know them. What they believe they know about the NRA and its members comes from the mainstream media, because too many members have decided that these new shooters aren’t worth getting to know as human beings.
(Frankly, the organization’s social stances haven’t helped, either. Seriously, look at the major social activities planned for the NRA convention later this month: a country music concert and a prayer breakfast. Do you really think these people are going to be excited about either?)
I’ve had numerous heated discussions with fellows gun enthusiasts due to my political views (because the only thing more vile than a dirty liberal Democrat to some members of the shooting community is a downright dangerous anarchist). If you ever want to see a political discussion go from civil to yelling just bring up the fact that you think the Constitution is a flawed document that shouldn’t be cited as scripture. My viewpoints and the viewpoints of most of my anarchist friends do not align with the National Rifle Association (NRA). We don’t derive our ability to own and carry firearms from an amendment to some document written by power hunger individuals who were upset that the Articles of Confederation didn’t allow for monarchical control. Us metalheads aren’t interested in a country music concert and most anarchists and metalheads want to be as far away from a prayer breakfast as we can get.
Fortunately most of the gun rights activists I know aren’t bigoted pricks. But many of the shooters I know are. And those shooters are usually more than willing to share their opinion of others without much resistance. I try to make it a point when I hear one of those individuals shooting their mouths off at or about people they don’t like to speak up. If we want to grow the shooting community we need to be accepting of all people who are interested in guns. That “dirty liberal” who supports background checks but otherwise is in favor of gun rights? Yes, accept him. You may be able to change his mind about background checks but being a dick to him isn’t going to do it. What about that transgendered individual or that gay couple? You damn well better accept them because the second you don’t you not only turn them off to shooting but you also make the rest of us in the community look like bigoted assholes.
While you don’t have to like everything about fellow shooters you should at least realize that shooting is enough common ground to build an alliance, and preferably a friendship, on.