Sound familiar? Most of us have had friends or acquaintances ask what they can do about their wife or girlfriend who is not comfortable around guns. You yourself may have been the one with the gun-fearing partner. I know, it sounds like I am singling out women. But as a long-time firearm instructor, I can say that while on occasion the man is the problem, it is generally the female of a couple who has an issue with guns.
Now, if an anti-gun attitude rears its ugly head on a first date, one might well consider seriously whether a second date is a good idea. But in a long-term relationship, especially a marriage, disagreements over guns can be a source of considerable friction. And it happens even to some very unlikely couples.
Case in point, some years ago I was talking with a certain radio talk-show host and reliably conservative constitutional lawyer. Chatting with him after an appearance in the city where I live, I off-handedly asked him, “So, ______, when are you going to get a gun?”
To my genuine surprise, he sheepishly confided in me that a gun was not an option at that time, because his wife “doesn’t want guns in the house, you know, with the kids and all.” Naturally, I didn’t ridicule or criticize him, but I was genuinely struck by the situation. Here was an extremely successful, articulate and persuasive legal scholar, yet he seemed helpless to convince his own wife that owning a gun might be a good idea. I realized that it required a more thorough exploration than was possible at that time. So I simply gave him a smile and a friendly nudge and said, “Well, we’ll have to work on that!”
The roots of this conundrum are as much in the evolution of social norms regarding guns as they are in the individual history of the person who has a problem with their partner owning, and especially carrying, a firearm. Both mold one’s view of guns.
Culturally speaking, for the first two hundred years at least, guns were an integral part of the American landscape. Even the most humble farmer had a shotgun over the fireplace. Women never even questioned the idea of “having a gun in the house.” Women were quite at ease with having guns around.
The average pioneer woman was quite capable of loading and shooting it herself. She had to be. After all, she needed to be ready to protect her young children from various miscreants who might show up when her husband and older sons were not around, either on a hunting trip or out working in the fields for the day.
My great-great-aunt, who was in her 90s when I was a child, lived in rural Utah around 1900. She once had a group of ten or twelve riders, “ruffians” as she called them, appear outside their ranch house, ominously asking her and her sister, “where are the men-folk?” As the story goes, she leveled her Model ‘94 Winchester rifle at them and “suggested” that they be on their way. They wisely complied.
Even as late as the 1950s, more women regularly participated in shooting sports than golfed! But today, women like “Aunt Ethyl” are few and far between. And much of the blame falls on the same people who have done so much to destroy American culture in many other areas as well.
I’m talking about the “Woodstock Generation,” those who became teenagers in the 1960s. From making drugs and promiscuity socially acceptable, to the creation of the modern welfare state, they were the perpetrators of many of the destructive social changes we are still confronting today. That Nancy Pelosi is a contemporary of mine is a source of endless humiliation. I hate what my generation has done to this country.
The 1960s also produced the insane idea that we should try to “rehabilitate” hard-core criminals rather than punish them. After all, they weren’t responsible for their heinous crimes. Society was. They had a bad childhood. They were “frustrated” at the lack of opportunity. They were “products of their environment.”
And predictably, in a culture where no one is at fault, eventually they got around to blaming violent crime on, you guessed it, guns. The oft-repeated buzz-phrase “availability of guns” originated in the 1960s, and is still used as a mantra today. Suddenly, all those robbers, rapists, and cold-blooded murderers were seen as “victims” – of poverty, racism, and of course, “easy access” to those evil guns.
Today, Hollywood (whether movies or TV) has the biggest influence on how people view guns. And since the 1960s, the major media has waged a relentless campaign to convince people, especially women, that “guns are evil” and should be looked at with the same fear and apprehension one would have seeing a coiled up rattlesnake on their kitchen counter.
They achieved this by portraying most gun-toting characters either as police who (unlike in real life) never miss in shoot-outs with suspects, or as vicious, crazed killers. In the rare cases where the plot has a private citizen using a gun, they almost never successfully defend themselves or thwart a crime.
Instead, gun owners in the entertainment media are likely to be portrayed as inept, careless, or downright stupid. They shoot their own spouse coming in late at night. They leave a gun out for a young child to find, who dies as a result. The unmistakable message is that most people who own guns are reckless and irresponsible.
As a result of all this endless propaganda, women came to believe that the “proper” position was to fear, if not hate, guns. It became clear that a “real woman” stands four-square against having them “in my house,” especially if there are children involved.
But, thankfully, things are beginning to change. The recent surge in firearms ownership has included an ever increasing percentage of female buyers. Part of the reason may be that, over the last decade, the entertainment media has begun to portray female characters (who are role models for a huge chunk of the female populace) as not merely owning and carrying guns, but actually liking them.
More and more, a female character in movies or on television is very much at ease with guns. She will now be shown at a gun range, often out-shooting her male companion. In some shows, the woman is the one who carries the gun, while her partner (a “consultant”) does not even have a gun himself.
Personal experience is another huge factor in forming one’s views. Traumatic events involving guns affect different people in different ways. Even what people do for a living can affect how they view guns. For example, doctors and nurses, especially those who work the ER or the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), often have anti-gun views, precisely because they see only the negative side of guns. They see a teenager, lying there with multiple gun-shot wounds (“GSW” in medical slang) and they blame the gun.
This is understandable, since they seldom see the positive results of someone using a gun to protect themselves. They see the rape victim, but they never see the armed woman who shot or deterred a rapist because she never shows up in their emergency room. She is invisible.
I once gave a talk to a group of nurses, where I discussed this very phenomenon with them. Not only did they immediately grasp the concept, but later, several of them cautiously contacted me about doing a “basic gun safety” course for a group of their friends.
This illustrates something about dealing with those who have a fear of hatred of guns. It is a simple fact of human nature that we all fear what we don’t understand. On more than a few occasions, I have suggested that the “guy with the woman who hates guns” have his partner join us at the range, even if only to observe.
Sometimes I provide a simple, non-threatening “gun safety session,” often in their own home. No shooting, just proper handling, explanation of differences between types of guns, etc. Almost invariably, the result is a gradual ebbing of the spouse’s discomfort.
Every relationship situation is different. Many couples find compromises that work for them (“Honey, could you please leave the gun in the car when we visit my parents?”). But under no circumstances should you try to hide your gun ownership from your spouse. Secrets and lies are no basis for a healthy relationship anyway. And when it comes to guns, having all the cards on the table is imperative.
We’ll never “convert” hard-core gun haters, especially strangers. But with calm and non-threatening education, we can often change the hearts and minds of those closest to us, one person at a time
[Courtesy of USCCA’s excellent “Concealed Carry” magazine]