In recent months, the firearms community at large has taken a beating, and we’ve got the black eye to prove it. It’s the kind of black eye that doesn’t seem to heal or go away. Why is that? Why are law abiding gun owners being portrayed as the bad guys, the loons, the unreasonable “clingers”?
Why are journalists comfortable printing all of the registered gun owners’ addresses in a given town? Why are tens of millions of responsible and law abiding Americans being punished for the actions of a handful of psychopaths? We are 26 times more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than by a semi-automatic rifle and yet, our legislators rarely call for stricter drinking and driving “control”. Why can’t we seem to get rid of this black eye?
I suggest that it’s because we don’t get sufficient rest between fights and try to better heal from our wounds to be stronger, later. When we persistently fight without better organization and strategy, we simply become loud and obnoxious, and ineffective. We become unable to convince anyone that our cause is just, that our motives are pure, or that our passion is neither contrived nor barbaric.
We, the gun community, have a branding issue. We have let the media control the narrative for far too long and it’s about to have some serious consequences if some within the federal government have their way.
UtahGunExchange.com came about because four friends saw an immediate need—the need to maintain the marketplace of exchange for private party gun sales in Utah. We didn’t create this site out of anger or malice towards KSL. Not one of the co-founders of this site wrote a single note of disgust to KSL, though many Utahns felt compelled to do so. Shortly after launching our site, we ran into one gentleman who said that he was sending several dozen nasty emails to KSL each day because he was so angry! This is why gun owners have a branding issue.
As we read through the comments that KSL received on their Facebook wall that night, we were disappointed in the number of vengeful messages left by fellow Utah firearms owners. That’s not to say that we didn’t also feel identical outrage, but convey it as these folks did helps make all gun owners look exactly the way the media so often portrays us—and it did us no good. It did not further our cause and it did not convince others to join us.
Instead, it just gave us all another black eye.
The good news is that there are three things we can do to heal this black eye before it’s too late.
Number one: Educate. We need to educate not only others about the differences between a military M-16 and a civilian version of the same rifle, but we need to educate ourselves within the Utah firearms family, starting with the proper and safe methods for buying and selling firearms to other Utah residents.
Do you know what the relevant laws are with certainty? Do you have your concealed firearm permit? No? Then go get it. Yes? Great, go audit a class. Find a concealed firearm permit class being taught near you and go listen to the instruction. There is not an instructor in the state that will prohibit you from sitting in on their class, to simply get a “refresher course” on Utah gun laws. The same thing applies for those folks who have no desire to get a permit but would like to become more familiar with the very basics of pistol operations and the laws regarding their use in the state—the same message applies: go audit a class. No instructor will charge you a dime for sitting in on their class if they aren’t stamping your application for a permit at the end. For those of you who have been procrastinating getting your permit for months, or even years—there is no time like the present. With the right instructor, the Utah CFP course can be a great stepping stone to learning the basics. Find an instructor here.
The second part of “Educate” that must be addressed is the manner in which we educate others once we have educated ourselves. We, Utah gun owners, are a passionate bunch, but let’s consider taking it down a notch and learn how to communicate our passion in a polite, respectful manner. There are those out there who will never fully grasp why we “need” a 30 round magazine or a half dozen black rifles, so let’s stop wasting our breath. Instead let’s seek out those who respect life, liberty, and property but have never been properly introduced to a civil and knowledgeable gun owner. Be that guy or gal who kindly answers those “simple” questions to the first timers. Offer to take them shooting with you next time you head to the range. Don’t hand them a .500 S&W for their first experience shooting so you can put the video up on YouTube and have a good laugh. Be better than that, start small. A simple .22lr revolver or whatever you think the shooter will be most comfortable with will do just fine. Understand that there may be years of programming—“guns are evil”—that will take time to reverse, even baby steps to overcome. Be patient and understanding if they exhibit anxiety just holding a pistol. These kind of actions and conversations will go a long way in dispelling and rebranding the image of Utah gun owners.
This leads us to action item number two: Train. We’re not talking six days a week, 1,000 rounds down range a month, and learning to Army crawl through your backyard, although that sounds like a blast. For most people, a basic pistol shooting course will go a long ways in improving skill sets. There are dozens of firearms training companies in Utah (not all are created equal). Ask around, talk to other gun owners, or your local gun shop, and find out who they recommend. When I purchased my first AR style rifle I went to my local range and asked if I could pay a range safety officer to walk me through the basic break down of the rifle. Took thirty minutes, cost me $20, and I retained more from that half hour than I did from watching 4 hours of YouTube videos demonstrating the same thing. If you are going to buy a membership to somewhere like Front Sight, go use it! If not, spend your money locally with the dozens of training companies available in Utah. Find a training course here. Whatever you do, do something. Don’t just take the Utah CFP course and think you are good to go. Get training.
This leads us to the third and final action item: Maintain. Maintain the skills you learned in training and spent all that money on! Make sure you practice on your own and keep improving. Join a local gun club, enter an IDPA match, buy an annual membership to a nearby range and put 50 rounds “down the tube” during your lunch breaks. There are any number of things you can do to maintain your proficiency. Additionally, “Maintain” encompasses our focus on our current rights and laws. As Utahns, we have some of the best laws in the country when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms, but that could disappear faster than we realize.
Maintain your vigilance and passion for the Second Amendment by paying attention to who you are electing locally and what they do once they are elected. All of the power to regulate firearms in Utah rests with the state legislature. Do you know who your Representative and Senator is? Do you know where they stand and how they will or won’t vote regarding upcoming firearms bills? It’s time to find out. As you discuss this topic with them don’t forget what we addressed in “Educate”—be polite but firm. Perhaps your representative isn’t as well versed in the world of firearms as you are, so take the time to educate them so we can maintain our rights in this great state.
We’ll never convince the Piers Morgans of the world that we need our guns to keep us safe from common criminals and to keep tyranny at bay, but that’s okay because we don’t need him. We simply need those that have not yet decided which side they are on. So let’s try to be a little more conscious of those folks as we discuss buying and selling guns in Utah. Be smarter, kinder, and more creative when addressing the newcomers as we train with them. Finally, let’s be more vigilant in maintaining the rights that our forefathers fought so hard for us to be able to enjoy.
Educate. Train. Maintain.
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