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How to Talk to a New Gun Owner

Frank Miniter | Published on 6/19/2020

“Well, I need a gun.”

The statement was delivered without warning and in a completely understated way by a longtime friend, a person who’d often treated the fact that I own guns as if it was a guilty secret best kept between friends.

Somehow, I didn’t laugh, even though it was like he was channeling his favorite comedian: Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah (my friend calls Noah “a journalist;” given what now runs as news on the front pages of newspapers like The Washington Post, maybe he does have a point about journalists today).

It flashed through my mind that, as the editor in chief of America’s 1st Freedom, I’ve heard from a lot of people who write about guns that they are suddenly hearing from all sorts of people who’ve long either been opposed to this freedom, or at least have been ambivalent about it, all asking what guns they should buy.

Answering this question is very personal, problematic and pregnant with yet more questions, as such a person has a lot to learn before they’ll have the knowledge to answer that question for themselves, as they must.

I told this particular person that, after a gun-safety lesson, I would take him to a range to help him get over the initial hurdles, but that after that, he needed to seek further instruction.  

I then told him to join the NRA. He laughed and said, “Yeah, I guess—”

I cut him off as he attempted to rationalize his ignorant opinion to me, and told him to check out the NRA’s many resources for new gun owners, such as, NRA Publications’ YouTube channel and the NRA’s Guide for New Shooters. I gave him quite the speech then about all the NRA does, as I decided he’d asked for it.

He took the medicine without too much of a struggle. He then said, “I guess the media has really given me a false impression of the NRA.”

“Oh, you think so now, huh?”

I then told him there are millions of others coming now to the same realization he is. Actually, gun sales have been rising for some time. A close look at firearms’ manufacturer data, as compiled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), shows that gun sales have basically been rising since about 2000.

More recently, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) adjusted National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS) data—adjusted to account for checks that likely weren’t sales—shows increases (when compared to the same months in 2019) of 19% in January, 17% in February, 80% in March and 69% in April.

In May, to get more detailed data, the NSSF surveyed gun stores. The survey found that 40% of people buying guns were first-time buyers. Most of them were buying semi-automatic handguns. They also found that an estimated 40% of these first-time buyers were women. The main reason these people gave for buying guns was “personal protection.” Also, about 25% of these first-time buyers said they had already taken some form of firearms-safety course, and 63% asked about where they can find a firearms-safety course.

All this adds up to more than 2.5 million new gun owners in just the first few months of 2020.

My friend is now one of these new gun owners. He needs more instruction, but he is listening, and is serious about learning to shoot and to store guns safely. His first gun is a shotgun, but he is now applying for his handgun permit (this takes about a year in the New York county he lives in),  so he has begun his journey into taking responsibility for his freedom.

Recently, he said to me: “This is quite the daunting gauntlet they’ve set up for people who only want to enjoy their Second Amendment rights.”

He didn’t say this flatly. He said it with exasperation. This time, I did laugh.