Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Education Begins at Home

"My position for many years has been that just as a motorist must have a license, a gun owner should be required to have one as well. Anyone wanting to own a gun should have to pass a written exam that shows that they know how to use a gun, that they’re intelligent enough and responsible enough to handle a gun. Should both handgun and rifle owners be licensed...we’re talking about all dangerous weapons."

-REPUBLICAN Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, as quoted in the Boston Globe, declaring you should have to pass a written exam before you can exercise your Constitutional rights. (Didn't we used to do that with voting, too?)
The Gun Owners Caucus of the Democratic Party of Oregon has several overlapping objectives concerning education. To be most effective, our education efforts need to occur both outside and inside the Democratic Party.

Outside the party our goals are two-fold:
  1. "Win over" and "win back" people who have stayed outside of the Democratic Party because they don't think the Democrats support the Second Amendment
  2. Give back choice to voters who would never register as Democrats by convincing them to take a close look at individual Democratic candidates who may have more in common with them (a rural background, healthy 2nd Amendment support, fiscal sanity) than they may have realized.
From a gun owners' rights position, both of these goals should be attainable because Democratic support for the Second Amendment is clearly more of a regional issue than a national issue. I'd much rather trust my civil rights to own and bear arms to any number of southern or western Democrats than I would trust it to Republicans like Rudy Guiliani (NY), George Pataki (NY), George Deukmejian (CA), or especially presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (MA). So sure, Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy are outspoken in favoring abrogations of the 2nd Amendment, but where are they from? The same states of some of the anti-2nd Amendment Republicans just listed. Given that Republicans and Democrats from the same states tend to be weak on 2nd Amendment protections, one has to assume they are representing the wishes of their local constituents and not a national party consensus.

All I can say to Republicans, Independents, or minor party candidates is--don't assume the "D" on the ticket means anti-gun or that the "R" means pro-Seocond Amendment. It tain't necessarily so. Learn what the CANDIDATE says and stands for (good advice in all cases.) Chances are that in many regions (like Oregon's 2nd Congressional district for instance) the Democrat is as much if not more of a supporter of the Second Amendment than the other candidates.

Inside the party, we also have two primary goals:
  1. Educate non-gun owners about firearms
  2. Educate non-gun owners--including elected Democrats charged with setting public policy--of the benefits of living in an armed society
People fear the unknown. If you don't know anything about guns, then guns are scary. Some weapons are intentionally designed to LOOK scary, so why wouldn't the uninformed judge a book by its cover? When you don't know the difference, you may not realize that automatic weapons have been banned for 70+ years or that any high-powered hunting rifle capable of taking down an elk or bison is also going to go right through most body-armor.

Dan G.'s earlier post urging gun owners to take their non-owning friends out for a shooting experience is a good place to start in this education. And open-minded people should be and probably will be willing to go--honest people recognize their own ignorance, and generally look for education when it's offered. Let's face it, if you've gone your whole life without being around firearms, making the decision to own one or even to respect the rights of those who do may require a sea-change in one's self-image and your view of your place in a civil society. It all starts with realizing that a gun is a tool that serves its master like any other.

Which brings us to the crux of the matter with education--educating people about the benefits of living in an armed society. Aside from the political benefits of an armed society, there are tangible benefits from living in an armed society that gun owners need to make sure non-owners understand. To list one example, the presence of guns in America makes the incidence of home invasions or robberies of occupied homes relatively rare. In supposedly peaceful (read: low gun violence) societies like the U.K. or Holland, the rate of at-home burglaries is about 50%. People who are at home when burglars strike--especially when the victims don't have weapons--are very likely to be assaulted. Guns being in the hands of the public turn at-home burglaries into a game of literal Russian roulette for would-be burglars because they have no way of knowing which home owners are armed and which are not. Consequentially, they don't happen very often because burglars fear being shot. So the non-owners get a free ride--lower at-home burglary rates--as a result of guns they don't even own. Of course, for this formula to work, burglars need to know that at least some portion of the public will have guns "at the ready," that is, in the bedside table and not locked in a safe. Let non-gun owners know about things like this which they may not have considered.

This is only the first of many examples of how guns, rather than causing violence, actually have a profound effect on the dynamics of crime and public safety (not to mention politics) in this country. And it's only one of many conversations gun owners need to have in their efforts to win the hearts and minds of their political detractors.

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