Miles’s law states, “Where you stand is based on where you sit.” In other words, your political opinions are shaped by your environment and your experience. We’re products of our place, our time, and our people. Each of these things is far more important to shaping hearts and minds than any think piece, any study, or certainly any tweet. And it strikes me that many millions of Americans don’t truly understand how “gun culture” is built, how the process of first becoming a gun owner, then a concealed-carrier, changes your life.
It starts with the consciousness of a threat. Perhaps not the kind of threat my family has experienced. Some people experience more. Some less. And some people don’t experience a threat at all—but they’re aware of those who do. With the consciousness of a threat comes the awareness of a vulnerability. The police can only protect the people you love in the most limited of circumstances (with those limits growing ever-more-severe the farther you live from a city center.) You want to stand in that gap.
So you take a big step. You walk into a gun store. Unless you’re the kind of person who grew up shooting, this is where you begin your encounter with American gun culture. The first thing you’ll notice—and I’ve seen this without fail—is that the person behind that counter is ready to listen. They want to hear your experience. They’ll share their own. They’ll point you immediately to a potential solution. Often the person behind the counter is a veteran. Often they’re a retired cop. Always they’re well-informed. Always they’re ready to teach.
Your first brush with this new world is positive, but it’s just a start. The next place the responsible adult goes is to the gun range, a place that’s often located in the store. Sometimes you buy the gun and walk straight to the range. You put on eye protection. You put on ear protection. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’re nervous.
But, again, there’s a person beside you. They show you how to load the gun. They teach you the basics of marksmanship. They teach you gun safety. Always treat the gun as if it’s loaded, even if you think you know it’s not. Keep your finger off the trigger unless you intend to fire the weapon. Only point it at objects you intend to shoot.
You do it. You fire. It’s loud, but if the salesman has done his job, then he’s matched you with a gun you can handle. In an instant, the gun is demystified. You buy a box of ammunition and shoot it all. Then you buy another box. For most people there’s an undeniable thrill when they realize that they can actually master so potent a tool.
But something else happens to you, something that’s deeper than the fun of shooting a paper target. Your thought-process starts to change. Yes, if someone tried to break into your house, you know that you’d call 911 and pray for the police to come quickly, but you also start to think of exactly what else you’d do. If you heard that “bump” in the night, how would you protect yourself until the police arrived? You’re surprised at how much safer you feel with the gun in the house.