The debate over gun rights in Minnesota needs an overhaul, in both tone and content. The phrases “shall not be infringed,” “don’t tread on me” and “molon labe” may feel good to write online, or shout during a rally, but they are rather unconvincing to people who aren’t already in agreement. As gun owners, our first goal should be to respectfully listen to the concerns of our fellow Minnesotans, and respond personally. Additionally, if we want gun rights to be seen as civil rights worth protecting by all (even non-gun owners), we must be positive, approachable ambassadors for the cause.
A wonderful new podcast, “Guns Guide to Liberals,” can help every one of us become more effective advocates for the Second Amendment. The hosts, Sarah and Jon Hauptman, share insight on how we can use better communication skills to advance the public conversation on guns and gun rights. Instead of seeing proponents of gun control as the enemy, we could change our perspective, recognizing the opportunity to change some of their misconceptions about gun owners. The series challenges us to open their mind as well, and become more inclusive, especially to fellow gun owners.
First, gun owners have to calm down, and learn how to listen more carefully to the arguments of our idealogical opponents. We also need to let go of the urge to “win”, or turn every conversation on gun rights into a heated political debate, and focus on planting seeds of information. Think about how your words and reactions will impact others; if you get angry, or throw insults, you may reinforce the stereotype of gun owners being unbalanced, potentially dangerous nuts. Sharing your perspective calmly is key; we want to discourage negative reaction, and encourage our conversation partner to reflect on our words.
We cannot expect people to understand our position if they have no previous experience. Quite often, proponents of gun control proposals are well meaning, but lack understanding of how the policies they support will degrade civil rights. Civil rights are for everyone, and this message is far more unifying than making the argument between some gun owners and the rest of society. I’m not a person of color, but I still support their rights as human beings; in the same way, we need to emphasize to our fellow Minnesotans that the rights enumerated in the Second Amendment are worth protecting even if one doesn’t own firearms or weapons of any kind.
Advocates for gun control are spending a lot of money and effort in our state, which we should be using to our advantage. Our current political climate may be more partisan than ever, but the legislative push for restrictions on gun rights should not be something which divides us. Rather, it is an opportunity for us to start a conversation, and inform others on the consequences of the poor policy proposals within. This isn’t a “liberal vs conservative” fight either; Minnesota is full of gun owners who identify as liberal or independent, and we need to ally together no matter our politics.
If being an activist isn’t something you are interested in, or online debates get you hot under the collar, consider helping educate the next generation of gun owners. The DNR is always looking for volunteer firearms safety instructors, and your local school trap teams may be in need of volunteers as well. Supporting gun rights can even be as simple as inviting your friends, family, or neighbors to the range for a day of shooting.
Finally, as women are the fastest growing demographic of gun owners, I want to share a few excellent resources for Minnesota ladies. The DC Project, aimed at fighting misinformation with education, is looking for more interested women to join the movement. For new or tentative shooters, Well Armed Women provides a safe, comfortable environment once a month for women to get together at the range. If your area doesn’t have a chapter, please consider starting one with a friend.
Danielle Wiener, a stay-at-home mom, has a family cabin in McGregor and lives on a farm in Stacy.