Image from NRA Annual Meeting in Dallas, 2018, courtesy Dean Weingarten
People in the gun culture often express amazement about people who want them disarmed. They ascribe the desire to hostility and malice. It may be true for a minority of those who actively wish for a disarmed population. A significant number, likely a majority, have made a voluntary decision to be unarmed.
It is important to know your opponent and to understand their motives.
Three years ago, this correspondent wrote an essay on how to understand people who want a disarmed population. It was popular, but did not appear on AmmoLand.
I have updated the essay for current conditions.
There is an easy way to understand people who wish you to be unarmed.
It takes a little discipline. You may have a little mental discomfort. It is not particularly difficult. For the ability to understand the other, assume you have deliberately chosen to be unarmed.
Choosing to be armed is more difficult. It requires action. It requires training. It requires an investment in money and time. You think about unpleasant realities and plan for unpleasant possibilities. You devote time and money to be armed. A higher level of responsibility is required.
Once you internalize the decision to be unarmed, arguments on the other side become understandable. The voluntarily unarmed people we are attempting to understand are those who have moved from the decision to be unarmed, to the policy statement “guns are bad”.
Armed people have a power advantage over unarmed people. People do not want others to have a power advantage over them. It makes them uncomfortable. To prevent this, the voluntarily unarmed often want everyone else to be unarmed.
It is why many who are voluntarily unarmed dislike concealed carry, but violently abhor open carry. Open carry presents them with a reality they cannot easily ignore. It destroys their comfortable fantasy.
People more easily accept information which reinforces what they already believe. It is a form of selection bias. If you choose to be unarmed, you easily accept news that validates your choice. If authority figures tell you your decision to be unarmed makes you safer and more virtuous, you want to accept that as true.
If a politician proposes restrictions on gun owners and gun buyers, you appreciate their efforts. You do not own a gun. You do not intend to own a gun. Such proposals cost you nothing. The costs are born by other people, people who made a different choice. Armed people.
Restrictions on armed people appear to be positive, because you believe fewer guns means you will be less likely to have a personal conflict with an armed person. You are unconcerned with whether the proposed restriction is stupid, draconian, ineffective, or unjust. To a deliberately unarmed person, the cost is zero. Any reduction in the number of guns is seen as a reduction of risk to you.
One of the costs you avoid by choosing to be unarmed is any necessity to learn about firearms, firearms technology, and the dynamics of armed conflict. When people who are knowledgeable point out technical mistakes in proposed legislation, discussion, or articles, it strikes you as meaningless babble. Semi-automatic, automatic, who cares? You are not interested in guns, so the technical distinctions seem unimportant.
Remember, you have voluntarily decided to be unarmed. If you admit arms are effective in preventing crime, or might be necessary for any defense, you might need to re-evaluate your assumptions. Re-evaluating assumptions about reality is painful for most people.
This explains attempts to minimize crime, minimize the dangers of wild animals, minimize government ineffectiveness in emergencies. It explains why so much effort is expended to discredit the number of times firearms are used for self defense and to prevent crime. It explains the insistence that government can never become tyrannical.
It is difficult for an unarmed person to disarm an armed one. Because you fear those who are armed, you need a champion to disarm them. Your champion is the government. To believe the government is your champion, you assume the government is benevolent; the government is concerned with your safety; the government will be there to protect you in need. This mindset is easier to maintain if you believe the need for a protector is minimal. Many voluntarily unarmed people put significant effort in an attempt to minimize the need for armed protection.
The purpose of learning to think like someone who made the decision to be unarmed is to understand how to persuade those who have adopted the mindset, or who may be deciding to be unarmed or not. It is easier to persuade them if you understand the mindset.
Deciding to be unarmed depends on a perceived high cost to be armed, and a perceived low cost to being unarmed.
Many people who once were voluntarily unarmed have been persuaded and see the advantages of being armed.
There are several effective methods to persuade the undecided and voluntarily unarmed. The methods show the benefits of being armed for the individual and society, and the costs of being unarmed. They work on both emotional and logical levels.
An important part of persuasion is to present yourself as polite and reasonable. On the Internet, you are speaking to the world. Being polite and reasonable does not mean you have to agree. It is not hard to show people their misconceptions in kind ways. It helps persuade those who are reading but not participating.
One strong way to change the cost – benefit ratio for deliberately unarmed people is to show armed citizens make them safer. Show armed – or – legally armed – people make them more safe rather than less safe. Show how armed people work to prevent crime, rather than to cause it.
Examples of people who used firearms to prevent crime can be used to good effect. Show them people who are legally armed are more law abiding than police. Show legally armed people have stopped mass murder. Show where armed people have saved police lives.
The voluntarily unarmed do not need to become armed to see advantages in having legally armed people about. Legally armed people become another force to preserve order, in addition to the police.
Another method is to lower the personal fear of firearms. This is very effective. Invite them to go shooting. Make this a pleasant experience. Have them shoot a .22, using hearing protection or a suppressor. Have the target up close, so it is hard for them to miss. A great many people change their opinion about firearms after a trip to the range. It is one of the reasons those who wish to disarm us work hard to make it difficult to shoot legally. There are no public ranges in Chicago open to ordinary people.
You can reduce the perception of the cost of an armed population by showing them facts about firearm accidents. Tremendous strides have occurred to reduce fatal firearms accidents. The rate of fatal gun accidents have been reduced by 94% in the last 90 years. Show them fatal gun accidents involving young children are extremely rare, less frequent than fatal accidents involving bicycles or glass tabletops.
Explaining the uncertainty of the future can help them become aware of potential future needs for firearms. They may want to be armed in the future. Use historical examples. You do not have to go far. Consider rooftop Koreans, or shop owners in Ferguson, Missouri.
This shows them the benefit of keeping their options open. Explain how changes in society or their personal situation may make the ownership of a firearm more important or useful. People often become more aware of the need for defense when they become parents or homeowners.
The surge in new gun owners shows how effective this motivation can be.
The desire to be armed is rooted in human nature, in the desire to protect ourselves, those we love, our possessions, and our society.
Many who are voluntarily unarmed took the road of least resistance. If they can be gently persuaded to consider and reflect on their choice, they can change their mind.
The other side of the cost – benefit ratio is worthwhile. People who have chosen to be unarmed should be educated that disarming others is not cost free. Increased distrust in society, increased black markets in arms, increased risk of armed resistance and low level warfare can increase their personal risk.
Society becomes fragmented and divided. Everyone becomes far less secure. Attempting to disarm society carries serious risks for those pushing the disarmament as well as those society attempts to disarm. Draconian gun restrictions have not reduced murder rates or numbers of illegal guns.
In a society with 470 million privately owned guns, and gun sales at record levels, It will either take societal upheaval, or many generations to disarm the American population if it is possible at all. Those who are unarmed will be vulnerable.
Very few choose to obey a law to register guns. For fear of sparking serious unrest, the 90-98% who do not comply are not subject to house to house searches. The media attempt to convince people that guns are useless when social cohesion breaks down. Have you seen movies where guns, lying about, are ignored while the hero picks up a club, or runs away? They are common on the net, but not very popular.
You can tell them how strict gun control is seen by a large percentage of the population as violating basic human rights, the Constitution, and the rule of law. Most people can understand how bad it is for a country to lose trust in the rule of law. Look at Chicago, Venezuela, the U.S. Virgin Islands. In all those areas, the rule of law has broken down. This is a powerful argument, which is why those desiring an unarmed population spend so much time misrepresenting and attacking the Second Amendment.
Explain the physical limits of gun control. Show how people with minimal technology make guns with ease; explain that gunpowder, priming, and bullets were all made in households and small shops by 1880. People today still use those techniques. They are supplemented by easily obtained and inexpensive machine tools, chemical equipment, and even 3D printing. The information is available to anyone with a computer.
The gun culture and Second Amendment supporters have physics, chemistry, facts, human nature and the Constitution on their side. Those who wish a disarmed population can win if they suppress and control the flow of information. Those who oppose Second Amendment rights necessarily oppose free exercise of the First Amendment.
Above nearly the entire rest of the world, people in the United States have retained the ability to choose to be legally armed or unarmed. Most people in the USA want to keep the option. Nearly all the rest of the world does not have it.
©2021 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
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