Massachusetts has a reputation for being unfriendly to gun owners and Republicans, so I was a little surprised when I read about the recent gun safety class offered by the Leominster Republicans to members of the LGBT community. On “Cam & Co.” we’ve covered similar classes hosted by the Shiloh Shooting Sports range in Texas, but I didn’t expect to see a class offered in central Massachusetts. And much like the classes offered outside of Houston, the course put on by the Leominster Sportsmen’s Association was well attended. Almost two dozen folks turned out for the one-day class, and each one of them had his or her own story to tell about what brought them there.
The Sentinel & Enterprise newspaper interviewed several of the attendees and found couples wanting to learn about firearms so they could feel safe in their home, a young gay man hoping to learn about self-defense (he’s also taking mixed martial arts classes), a woman who was licensed to carry years ago but was spurred by the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to start training again, and many others.
One attendee, Mario Morales, has a cousin who was in the Pulse nightclub when the attack began. He says a conversation with his cousin, Jeffrey Rodriguez, afterwards convinced him that he should learn more about armed self-defense, telling the local paper that “actually hearing say that (if he) had a license to carry and some type of defense training, he might have been able to change the outcome” prompted him to attend the training event.
The organizer of the event, Gwen Meunier, is also the chairwoman of the Leominster GOP and said she saw the event as a way to share information about gun ownership, as well as spread a message of inclusiveness about the GOP. Whether she realizes it or not, she’s also helping to spread a message of inclusiveness about gun owners, along with the hundreds of others who have organized and set up similar training classes for members of the LGBT community over the past few months. Not only are these individuals helping people get over their fear of firearms and become trained and competent, they’re also letting people know that the vast majority of gun owners are welcoming of newcomers to the range and to the gun store.They want America to believe that the only people who are “gun people” are a small number of aging white dudes who hate everyone who doesn’t look or think like they do.
You know, anti-gun activists are engaged in a lot of fronts right now; legislatively, legally and through the referendum process in several states. But they’re also fighting gun owners culturally. They want America to believe that the only people who are “gun people” are a small number of aging white dudes who hate everyone who doesn’t look or think like they do. They want Americans who don’t own guns to be scared of Americans who do. And they really don’t want Americans as a whole to think of the Second Amendment as their right, too.
Well, as a white dude a couple of years past 40, I’m here to say that self-defense is a human right, and our right to keep and bear arms applies equally to all law-abiding Americans. It doesn’t matter where you live, how much money you make, or how you identify. It’s your right, and you should never be afraid to get the knowledge you need to safely and responsibly exercise that right because you’re afraid you won’t fit in.
By no means is this a controversial opinion among gun owners. The gun-owning community is a big tent, and the odds are that if you’re interested in learning more about the rights and responsibilities of gun ownership, you’ll get a warm welcome at your local range or gun store.