The Hidden Upside Of A Crisis


As I write this, we’re experiencing yet another end-of-the-world crisis. It’s about my 30th; I’ve lost count since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Many react by buying guns and ammunition, a seemingly rational response.

Often the demand comes from those who already own guns, using the circumstances to justify the purchase of a gun they have long wanted. Never let a crisis go to waste, as the cynics love to say. Anecdotal evidence suggests this time is different, with many first-time buyers. Many are surprised to find purchasing a firearm isn’t quite as easy as they’ve been indoctrinated to believe.

Crises bring new guns owners who’ll need lots of help understanding
the guns and gear they need, and how to use it all.

Education Wanted

I saw a cartoon with a yuppie type in a gun store: “I want to buy an AR-14GLOCKForty loaded with a hundred green-tip exploding bullets in fully automatic clips and I would like to use the gun show loophole, please.” It comes as a shock to find they must prove their identity, meet age and residency requirements, pass an FBI background check, and in some states, get a firearm owners’ license and complete a waiting period.

These first-time gun owners are going to need help, like the new handgun owner perplexed because he couldn’t load 9mm Parabellum cartridges in a Walther .380 pistol. A friend who works at a gun store told of a man who said he had never owned a gun but was buying one now at the insistence of his wife. He bought a pump shotgun. A couple of days later he returned with the shotgun completely disassembled, the parts in a cardboard box, needing help to reassemble it.

These new gun owners are unlikely to read gun magazines. Often our assistance will come down to one-on-one interaction. I’m sure many Handgunner readers are already asked for advice on cartridge and firearm selection.

So ... how does all this go back together again? If you get
this question from a new gun owner, help, don’t mock!

Be Nice, Make Allies

At times like this I like to remind myself of a few basic courtesies:

Don’t gloat. When someone you know who has made a habit of sneering at and mocking gun owners, and now wants a gun, it’s tempting to say I told you so. I try to resist. No doubt when the crisis is past many will return to their old ways, but some may see the light and become allies, or at least neutral.

Don’t mock their lack of knowledge. Remember what little they know about firearms and shooting comes from TV and is almost always wrong, sometimes hilariously wrong. I remember some dumb ideas I once had. When first reading reloading articles I didn’t know a “grain” was a unit of weight and thought it referred to a kernel of powder. If a load called for 58.5 grains, I pictured counting out 58 kernels and then cutting one more in half. The memory helps me to be patient.

Set a safe and responsible example. Remember, those new gun owners have been indoctrinated with gun owner stereotypes. Some may genuinely believe all gun owners are middle-school dropouts, gubmint-hating bigots. Civility is always a good thing.

Direct them to professionals. Firearm safety and shooting skills are best taught by experienced instructors using a structured training program. Local gun clubs, wildlife organizations and the NRA can provide training or help locate instructors. Check for more information.

You and I can help with advice on maintenance, cleaning, safe storage, ammunition selection, proper nomenclature and so forth. It’s better not to be too pedantic too early. I might even bite my lip and let it go when they ask, “How do I load bullets in the clip?” Later might be time to have them march around saying, “This is my pistol, and this is my gun …” but for now, focus on essentials.

Speaking of essentials, remember your own safety. In my experience, first-time shooters are self-conscious and very concerned with safety. Any mistakes they make are from not knowing better. Still, a range full of first-time shooters makes me nervous and I know of instructors who wear body armor while teaching. Personally, if I feel I need body armor just to go to the range, I’m likely not going!

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