Tombstone, Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- What if your child were the victim of a mass shooting?
Would the searing pain of that horror change your thinking on attempts to ban “assault weapons?” If it were your wife, mother, sister, or brother, who was killed at a grocery store? A movie theater? A beach? Would the gut-wrenching emotional trauma change your mind? Would you join Demanding Moms? Would you send money to Everytown for Gun Safety? Would you testify in Congress and state legislatures calling for more restrictions on “weapons of war” that “flood our streets?”
These are questions that are thrown at pro-rights advocates on a regular basis. Do you have answers for them? Or do you have “shall not be infringed” and a pile of statistics?
Personal stories are powerful. The pain and heartbreak of losing a loved one to senseless violence can move political mountains. It invokes an empathy response that can completely shift people’s thinking, drawing them into the pain and convincing them that “something” must be done.
That’s why our political opponents work so hard to recruit the families of victims with stories that will break the hardest hearts. The pictures of beautiful children, heinously struck down in their innocence, will move anyone with a soul to tears. Descriptions of the horror, the insanity, the pure evil that confronts families every time they see a now-empty place at the table and a now-empty bed can melt political opposition. Our opponents turn all of that sadness, pain, horror, and revulsion to focus on a talisman, a totem that, to them, is the embodiment of evil and destruction: the murderers’ weapons.
You can’t blame a person who has had their heart ripped out by a deranged monster for their emotional response. You can’t dismiss their all too real pain, nor can you argue with it. Their feelings, and those engendered in people who hear their sad stories, don’t care about your facts. Any attempt to present those facts in the face of those feelings will come off as heartless at best and maybe inhuman.
Then how do we make the case to counter the sad, deeply emotional stories of victims of violence?
The only reasonable response is to tell our own stories and share our own feelings, tying them in with the reality that a gun – any gun – is just a tool. Tools can be used for good or for evil, and thankfully, they’re used for good much more than they’re used for evil.
But we can’t just throw out statistics about the 100+ million gun owners who never shoot anyone or the ever-growing number of examples of gun owners who have successfully stopped mass murderers. Those can be worked on later. First, we need to establish our own powerful stories to give us the emotional standing that will allow us to show the other side of the coin, the side where these tools are used to save lives, stop evil, and prevent tragedies.
Any day that a person uses a gun or other weapon against another human being is a bad day, but better, a bad day that you and your loved ones walk away from than a bad day that ends in a funeral. From that bit of truth, we can begin to turn the debate away from inanimate objects and tools and bring it back to where it belongs: the evil in the hearts of a few troubled individuals.
- Have you lost someone you love?
- Have you or a loved one been the victim of violence?
- Do you know people who have been saved by the mere presence of a gun in the right hands?
Over the years, there have been several incidents in which a member of my family has used a gun for personal defense, starting with my great-grandmother. At just 14, she was left home to care for her younger siblings. A recently fired farm worker approached the house, drunk and yelling threats. My great-grandmother herded the younger children into the house, locked the door, and grabbed her father’s shotgun, stationing herself in the front room. The drunk man screamed vile threats as he tried to break down the door. When he finally succeeded, that poor, terrified little girl pulled the trigger, striking her assailant and sending him fleeing into the nearby swamp. He was never found. She had to live with the thought that she had almost certainly killed that man, and it weighed on her, but she was alive to carry that burden and grateful to God that she had been able to protect her siblings.
Years later, her daughters, my grandmother, and aunt, were in their late teens and early twenties, exploring a ghost town in New Mexico. My grandmother rounded a corner to see a man with a large knife pinning her sister to a wall. The man ordered my grandmother to join her sister, but my grandmother drew a small pistol from her purse and informed the man that she was not going to comply with his orders. He saw the gun and the determination in her eyes, and he quickly fled the scene.
Many more years later, my little sister was about 16 and home alone when she heard a noise in the basement. She opened the basement door to see a man coming up the stairs. He smiled when he saw her, but the smile disappeared when she lifted the gun in her hand. He backed down the stairs and fled.
My family could have been decimated by any one of these terrible incidents. Still, thanks to the presence of a gun in the right hands, we had no funerals, and succeeding generations are alive to celebrate those positive outcomes.
If you don’t have personal stories, you know the stories of others.
One of the most powerful is the story of Suzanna Hupp. Suzanna had begun carrying a gun due to personal threats against her. She was in a Luby’s restaurant in Killeen, Texas, eating lunch with her parents when a madman drove his truck through the front window and started shooting people. Suzanna reached for the gun in her purse, suddenly realizing that it wasn’t there. At that time, concealed carry wasn’t legal in Texas, and she had decided to leave the gun in her car instead of illegally carrying it in her purse. She helplessly watched both of her parents shot down in cold blood. When police finally arrived and engaged the attacker, the murderer immediately committed suicide.
Suzanna’s great sorrow in the loss of her parents is the knowledge that, but for her decision to obey a law that only impacts the law-abiding and has no effect on criminals, she almost certainly could have saved her parents and a number of other people that day. Imagine carrying that burden. Suzanna went on to be elected to the Texas legislature, where she was instrumental in getting a concealed carry law passed in the state.
Joel Myrick was an assistant principal at a high school in Mississippi. When he heard gunshots in the halls of the school, he rushed to his car in the parking lot and retrieved a .45 caliber pistol that he had in the glove box, in violation of federal law. As he ran back toward the school, he saw a student with a rifle get into a car, and Myrick confronted him and held him for the police. The murderer was on his way to another school to continue his rampage. Myrick was not charged for illegally having the pistol in his car in a “Gun-Free School Zone.”
You probably know the story of Elisjsha Dicken, who was shopping with his girlfriend at a mall in Indiana when he heard gunfire in the mall’s food court. Dicken rushed forward, drawing his Glock pistol, and stopped the attack just seconds after it had begun. Three people were killed, but countless others were saved by Dicken’s quick and effective action.
You know the story of Stephen Willeford, a neighbor who rushed to the scene as a lunatic was attacking the local Baptist Church. Willeford, armed with an AR15 rifle, shot the attacker, causing him to drop his rifle and return fire with a pistol before jumping in his truck and fleeing. Willeford and another bystander followed the murderer until he wrecked and took his own life with a gunshot to the head.
Maybe you remember Jean Assam, who volunteered for the Safety Team at her church in Colorado. She, too, ran toward the gunfire, ending an attack before the murderer was able to enter the main auditorium where a thousand people were worshiping. Or Jack Wilson, who was at the back of the Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, when a man pulled out a shotgun and gunned down two church members. Jack stopped the attacker with one shot as the man was turning on the congregation.
Evil is out there.
While statistically, most of us will never be the victims of violence or need to use a gun for personal defense – I’ve personally carried a gun on a routine basis for over 40 years now and have never had cause to draw it or even put my hand on it, against another person – the possibility is still there. I’d much rather have a gun and not need it than need a gun and not have it.
The fact is about two-thirds of “gun deaths” are suicides – a serious problem that needs more attention, especially from the gun community – while the vast majority of the rest are criminals killing other criminals. Beyond that, there are cases of robbery, occasional home invasions, domestic situations that get out of control, and very rarely, some disturbed person who decides they are going to become famous by killing random strangers in a school or shopping mall.
We can make the point that the 100 million-plus lawful gun owners have never been the problem. We can tell people that only a tiny percentage of the 400 million plus guns in circulation are ever used in any sort of violent crime. We can report that so-called “assault weapons” are only used in about two out of 100 murders and that blunt objects and knives are used much more frequently to kill people. And we can talk about our rights and the Constitution.
Still, none of those things is going to be effective unless we can first establish our own humanity and engage people with our own powerful, emotional stories.
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona, and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.org.