Kind guidance is key to interacting with new gun owners. They need help, and lots of it, not overly judgemental declarations.
Millions of Americans have recently become first-time gun owners. How can you help them learn about firearms safety and responsibility? How can you inform them about defending their right to defend themselves and their families?
If you’re an NRA certified instructor, you know the words from your credentials card: “Possession of this card carries responsibility for representing the whole shooting fraternity to those with whom you deal as well as the community as a whole. Much of what people think of guns, shooting and shooters depends on you.”
The same is true for all NRA members, including the many who offer informal instruction or advice, so always conduct yourself with decorum and friendliness. Listen more than you talk. Use your experience to offer helpful advice, but don’t be a know-it-all.
The NRA Guide for New Shooters, available for free at NRAPublications.org, is an excellent starting point.
Whatever you do, stay within your own proficiency. Perhaps you’re a handgun guy who knows only a little about shotguns and your friend bought a shotgun. Offer whatever advice you are competent to give and then provide them with resources for more information.
Your friend probably has just one gun. Now is not the time to tell them why they should have bought some other gun. Save that for much later, if ever. Concentrate on helping your friend acquire proficiency with the gun they already have.
Of course, you can let your friend try out some of your guns. If you have a .22, or air guns, they can be great tools for beginning shooters to learn the fundamentals.
If you can get your friend out to the range, that’s a good opportunity for them to see how fun shooting is. Your friend probably bought the gun as a tool for self-defense. They may not yet know that recreational shooting is a lot of fun, which also builds some of the skills for self-defense.
I didn’t grow up in a gun-owning household, so I can tell you that many things that seem simple to experienced gun owners are daunting to newcomers. Learning the NRA rules of gun safety comes first, but remember that simply learning how to load and unload a gun takes a little time and patience on your part. Also, show your friend how to do some basic gun cleaning. Storage needs also vary. Help your friend find the right solution for their circumstances.
There are lots of accessories for firearms. As you help your friend select some, keep budget and experience in mind. They might be interested to learn about lasers or red-dot sights. If so, help them install these add-ons if you can.
Continually encourage your friend to get further training. Tell them about the training courses the NRA offers via nrainstructors.org. The NRA now offers “The NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Course” and “Refuse to be a Victim Instructor Development Course” and other courses online, 24/7, for students to proceed at their own pace at onlinetraining.nra.org.
Your friend might also be interested to learn about NRA’s Marksmanship Qualification Program (mqp.nra.org). The program covers 23 shooting disciplines. The courses of fire for this self-paced program are structured to provide appropriate challenges for participants at all levels of proficiency. As participants achieve successive levels of proficiency, they earn certificates and badges. The program website offers downloadable templates for qualification certificates, so if your friend achieves the “Pro-Marksman” level after a few trips to the range, you can have a certificate ready. It’s a nice psychological boost for the new gun owner to achieve a recognized level of proficiency.
As you help your friend learn about firearms responsibility, you can also talk about civil rights. Again, listen more than you talk and don’t be a know-it-all.
As a member of this civil-rights organization—and as a subscriber to a magazine that is all about civil liberties—you know much more about Second Amendment issues than the average person.
As with any political discussion, the best approach is to show them the facts and let them draw their own conclusions. Focus on areas of agreement to build common ground.
Also, this isn’t the time to criticize your friend’s past votes for anti-gun politicians. Nor is it your duty to defend pro-gun officials from every possible criticism. Rather, as appropriate in the discussion, let your friend know some key facts. Let them know about how gun-control groups tried to use the pandemic as a pretext to shut down all gun stores. According to the anti-gun groups, acquiring a firearm to defend one’s home and family is not “essential.” So said the Bloomberg-funded Everytown group, the Giffords group, the Brady group and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Almost certainly, your friend has shown that he or she thinks the opposite.
You might point out to your friend that in places where the antigun groups have sufficient political power, such as New York or Massachusetts, they did shut down gun stores. So people who needed a firearm in an emergency were left defenseless. At every level of government—from the White House to city councils—the NRA fought to keep stores open and to re-open the ones that had been closed.
Already the anti-gun groups are making bogus claims about the dangers of “excess” guns—namely, the guns purchased by your friend and millions of other Americans this year. Your friend probably does not consider his one firearm to be “excess.”
By buying a gun, your friend implicitly made certain judgments: Firearms can be life-saving defensive tools; ordinary Americans are capable of owning firearms responsibly; and, in an emergency, one cannot always count on the police arriving in time. You and your friend already agree on these basic facts, so use that foundation for further discussion.
In terms of politics, the objective of your afternoons helping your friend isn’t for them to say at the end: “I will vote for freedom.” But when the situation is appropriate, you can inform them about Biden’s stated desire to ban guns, bankrupt gun manufacturers and so much more. Biden was endorsed by the gun-control groups that wanted to stop your friend from buying a gun. Speaking in South Carolina on Feb. 25, 2020, Biden warned firearms manufacturers: “I’m coming for you, and I’m taking you down.”
Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke didn’t do very well after he promised on Sept. 12, 2019: “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” O’Rourke later elaborated that the confiscation would be enforced by police “visits” to people’s homes. When O’Rourke endorsed Biden at a March 2, 2020, campaign rally, Biden pointed to O’Rourke and announced, “I want to make something clear: I’m going to guarantee this is not the last you’ve seen of this guy—you’re going to take care of the gun problem with me.”
Your friend may not be ready to announce that he or she will follow Charlton Heston’s famous words, to “Vote Freedom First.” But they are probably ready to begin the process of considering how to integrate this right into their voting decisions.
If your friend is ready to join the NRA, a one-year membership, purchasable at membership.nra.org, costs less than a box of ammunition. And if there were no NRA, your friend would not have Second Amendment rights as we know them now.