An Open Letter to the Gun Community: STOP THE INFIGHTING!
Maybe we (the gun community as a whole) are victims of our own success. In the last several years we have survived a Democratic controlled Congress along with one of the most liberal presidents in history, and successfully defeated the first real anti-gun legislation we’ve seen at the federal level in 20 years. In the last 12 months we’ve seen sheriffs across the nation come out in support of gun rights and we’ve seen two state lawmakers recalled and a third resign over their stance on gun rights in Colorado.
Sure, there have been some setbacks in some states such as Connecticut and New York, but all in all, we’ve moved forward as a community in the last couple of years. It also seems we’ve become a community divided during that time. Over the last 2-3 months I’ve noticed a severe amount of infighting in the gun community. Now, when I say “gun community,” I’m talking about gun owners in general, gun bloggers, print publications, gun companies, accessory companies, trainers, activists, gun rights groups and grassroots organizers (sorry for whoever I just forgot).
Now I know that gun manufacturers are competing against each other and those of us in the publishing world are technically competing against each other as well. However, I think that we’re all forgetting (perhaps due to the complacency from the positive issues mentioned above), that we’re all on the same side of a lifestyle that is constantly under attack by people who would love nothing more than to take it ALL away.
Recently, I’ve seen several disturbing things (and I’m not going to name names here, which would only add fuel to several fires) including a prominent gun blog call out a print publication over a product review of a controversial new pistol, only to have another prominent gun blog call out the first gun for their calling out of the print publication… does that even make sense? Sure, all of that controversy probably means more pageviews and readers all around, but what damage does it do to the community? You force readers to choose a side and show the anti-gun community a weakness.
I’ve seen the leader of a large, national organization who hasn’t been on the scene very long bash the leader of a well established gun rights group who has literally done more for gun rights in the courts than any other organization. That second organization then had to publicly respond to the comments from the first organization. How does that look to outsiders? Instead of questioning each other’s commitment to the cause how about having a civil discussion on the phone or via email about the differences in your organization’s strategies and thought process?
Recently, I’ve started following multiple trainers and training companies on social media. I’ve taken my fair share of training courses in my day (I’m certainly not an operator who operates operationally on the daily by any means though) and the most common theme I’ve noticed is a willingness to learn, even among instructors. However, it seems like instructors are catching more and more flak recently over their training techniques on social media than ever before. Maybe it’s just that social media that gives everyone a voice and people are more inclined to offer criticism over the Internet, I don’t know.
However, I’ve seen some pretty hateful comments directed at instructors over their techniques by folks who have never even taken their courses. This is a disservice to the gun community for a couple of reasons: 1.) It might make potential students skip a GREAT training course because some random person didn’t agree with a 15 second segment of a 3 day course that they’ve never taken. 2.) Once again, it shows weakness to the anti-gun crowd. It gives the anti-gun crowd ammo (pun!) to use against a particular instructor or training style. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a debate on training techniques isn’t helpful, it most certainly is. However, said conversation should not include 8 different synonyms for the word idiot as well as vulgar names for multiple parts of the human anatomy.
This brings me to the biggest divide we’ve seen in the gun community recently (you know where I’m going with this) – open carriers. I will fully admit that I am not a fan of the early strategy employed in Texas regarding openly carried firearms. This strategy included groups of people carrying slung long guns, usually semi-auto rifles, into private businesses. Due to the backlash from a few of the businesses included in the demonstrations, members of the gun community, myself included, called into question this strategy as a means of advancing gun rights.
This civil exchange of ideas led to Texas’ open carry advocates making changes to their demonstration policies to reduce the number of long guns carried into private businesses while still maintaining their ability to get their political point across. In my opinion, this is how the gun community should operate. Debate should be encouraged and we should all be working to expand gun rights for as many Americans as possible. However, due to the anti-gun backlash to the open carry movement, we quickly became a house divided.
You may disagree with the open carry of rifles, hell, you may disagree with the open carry of handguns, and that’s completely fine. It’s 100% within your rights to do so. It’s even completely acceptable to voice your opinion on the subject. However, when we voice those opinions with vitriol and hate, such as I’ve seen so far (with increasing frequency), we only appear weak and give ammo to our enemies. The same goes for open carry advocates. You have to be willing to accept criticism (when delivered in a civil manner) without responding with hateful comments. Both sides are guilty of it, and it isn’t limited to the open carry debate. This is the digital age. Everything you say and do is cataloged and indexed and available for use by people who would like nothing more than to see our entire way of life eradicated.
Folks, we’re all on the same damn team here. I don’t think we should all be sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya or some crap. Hell, I don’t even think we have to agree on big issues. There SHOULD be a healthy debate regarding strategy, policy, legislation and other issues. However, we do have to be civil to each other, we do have to stop the pettiness, and we do have to remember we’re all on the SAME DAMN TEAM. Watch the friendly fire. Our enemies are stronger, better organized and better funded than they’ve ever been in the past. Now is not the time to turn on each other. We aren’t like the technology or car or video game industries where the players can take jabs at each other with little consequence. Our enemies are looking for the slightest sign of weakness to use against us.
I’ll leave you with this speech from Season 1 of Lost (yeah, yeah, flame-suit on for the comments that are surely coming), just substitute the whole thing about being on a supernatural island following a plane crash with gun stuff and it mostly works. We need to live together or we’re going to die alone.