If you’re a life-long Democrat, or liberal-leaning independent, you just might have a difficult time understanding how gun-loving people can be good people. We’re appalled at the extremism of the NRA, who we thought would finally lighten up after the Sandy Hook shooting, but who, instead, refused to budge on something as minor as background checks, and their solution to the tragedy was to suggest arming school security guards and even teachers, thus selling even more guns to protect us from the people with guns. Meanwhile, we laugh (in a sad way) at militia radicals who pointed their semi-automatics at government officials as Fox News cheered them on and called them patriots, that is, until their hero, Cliven Bundy, claimed that “the negro” would be happier picking cotton; then they backed away. Liberals weren’t the slightest bit surprised at Bundy’s remarks. That’s exactly what they expected from anti-government gun-nuts.
So are all gun enthusiasts bad people?
I would say, “No.”
I grew up in a family that loved hunting and guns. I lived in a semi-rural, Pennsylvania Dutch area where, prior to the advent of video games (around 1980), there weren’t a lot of hobbies for rural kids to choose from. For my grandparents, there were no school sports; they only went to school through 8th grade. For my dad, a baby-boomer, he graduated high-school, but sports were not a big thing, plus not everyone is an athlete. Hunting was the only escape for most rural people, and deer hunting season, in late November, was like a national holiday, especially since we would go away to our extended family’s hunting cabin in central PA. It was, often, the biggest vacation of the year.
You might wonder, “How could a person love killing animals?”
The truth is: It wasn’t about that! When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to turn 12 years-old, so I could go hunting. All year long, when my dad met with friends and relatives, they enthusiastically shared numerous hunting stories, and that made me dream of someday having impressive hunting stories of my own to tell. It was a big community of people who enthusiastically shared a common interest, and I wanted to be a part of that community. Also, it was a competition. When the big day came, I wanted to succeed and be a great hunter, not fail and come home empty-handed.
Unfortunately, for me, I usually came home empty-handed and lost interest in hunting by the age of twenty. But for others in my family, they experienced great, thrilling successes, and loved hunting all the more for it. I even had an uncle who set up his own shotgun shell reloading system in his basement. It was his absolute favorite hobby. When he wasn’t working, his focus was on his true passion – guns and hunting.
Imagine having a hobby that you love and have devoted your life to, only to hear that there’s a political movement intending to take it away from you. Most Americans never have to worry that future laws will prohibit playing sports, playing video games, or enjoying music. But hunters do have that worry. When I was a young hunter, I was well aware of the gun-banning anti-hunting movement, as I read about protests at gun club events, like turkey shoots. And I was afraid they would take away my hobby. For my uncle, that fear never subsided, and today, that fear has turned to panic.
Thanks to the NRA and the Republican Party, hunters are more afraid than ever that guns will be outlawed and taken away. Of course, there has been no state or federal legislation that I know of attempting to accomplish such a thing. Nonetheless, the proclamation that the Democrats will ban guns is widespread. The Republicans make such a claim so they can win elections, and the NRA makes such a claim so the gun industry can sell more guns. This drives some gun owners to act out of fear of losing their way of life and become radicalized. Some of these extremists really are hateful, angry people, and from a Christian perspective, they have no right to become so hateful over the fear of losing a possession, since Jesus said that we cannot love both God and possessions. However, many gun-owners support background checks and limits on assault weapon capabilities, but the media never highlights them, because the media loves to show us extremists. These hunters are responsible hobbyists who understand that you have to kill ’em to eat ’em, and that hunting is more natural than getting your meat from a corporation that never lets its animals live free and wild, as hunted animals do until the moment of their demise.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the world you grow up in is the one you accept and often embrace. If the vast majority of your friends and relatives live a certain lifestyle, there’s a good chance you’ll embrace that lifestyle, too. And most of us never stop to think why we embrace it, especially when we’re young. We join the crowd, because hobbies are more fun when shared with those we love. And even if we obsess over a given hobby, we do it in part because, subconsciously, that hobby is somehow connected to positive social experiences.
Americans grow up with many different cultures, hobbies, and experiences, and it’s difficult for liberals and conservatives alike to understand those whose experiences differ from their own. I see liberals bash rural, gun-owners just as much as I see conservatives bash inner-city welfare recipients. Both groups fail to take the time and make the effort to understand that if we were in their shoes, we’d behave just like they do.