Dear ‘not the media.’ Please stop calling us ‘gun owners.’ There is no such thing.

To: “Not the media” generally, and Paul Farhi of the Washington Post specifically

From: A.G. Wallace

Subject: “Gun owners.”

Folks, I know a lot of you don’t like the people who have chosen to own guns. I’m aware you think we’re anti-government theocrats who don’t like firefighters, roads, or libraries (yes, I see your tweets, editorials, and articles, on this topic — thousands of them). Of course, I disagree with you. I know a lot of fine people who own guns. But that’s not why I’m writing.

I’m writing because I have a request: Please stop calling us “gun owners.”

Fact is, there really is no such thing as “the gun owner.” It’s an invention, a tool, an all-purpose smear by people who can’t be bothered to make distinctions.

There are hunters, plinkers, target shooters, skeet and trap shooters, competition shooters, collectors, LEO’s, secret service, active duty military, national guard, long range shooters, short range shooters, indoor and outdoor shooters, cowboy shooters, criminals, bank robbers, gang bangers, contract killers, and mobsters (hey, criminals need roads, too) who use handguns, rifles, shotguns, semi-auto, bolt-action, lever-action, single-shot, tube-fed, black powder, rimfire, centerfire, 9mm, .38, .40, .45, .223, .308, 30-06, 410, 20 gauge, 12 gauge, and a whole lot more that won’t fit here.

All of these, collectively, now constitute “gun owners.”

We are millions of people making hundreds of millions of individual decisions about how we perceive the world and how to characterize it. We all don’t agree on what type of firearm is best, what caliber, or when to use it.

So even if a story in the Washington Post about a mass shooting infuriated you and your editor told you to join the pack in writing about it with the same exact talking points as every other journalist, “gun owners” aren’t responsible for that shooting. Their guns aren’t responsible, either. Nor is Smith & Wesson, Winchester, Benelli, Beretta, Browning, Savage, or Colt. Nor is NRA or NAGR or Gun Owners of America, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, or Safari Club International.

Lumping these disparate entities under the same single bland label is like describing the pack journalists of the newsroom as “the media.” It’s true, but effectively meaningless.

We not only don’t agree from organization to organization, or gun show to gun show, but we don’t agree within our own households. The political arm of the NRA isn’t the editorial side of Shooting Times. Gun bloggers aren’t the Civilian Marksmanship Program. None of these people alone reflects the definitive, collective judgment of Gun Owners.

It’s true that many people – including those in “the media” – say they mistrust “gun owners” and hold us in roughly the same contempt as Vladimir Putin, Colombian drug cartels, or the “gun lobby.”

But I suspect that people don’t really dislike us as much as they say they do. After all, we are the producers that make America function. We buy newspapers and watch TV news (less and less these days, thanks in part to your incessant lying about “gun owners”), we are truck drivers and supermarket workers, school teachers and janitors, white collar and blue collar workers, entrepreneurs and wage earners. Everything we produce is consumed gratefully. People actually like and trust the products they’ve selected for themselves, which is why they keep coming back to our businesses day after day.

And yes, many people say us “gun owners” are biased conservatives. I suppose it would seem that way since liberal politicians and their supporters (including “the media”) have been saying it for decades. Surely, some of us do display a tendency to favor the conservative position. But these are anecdotes. And like all anecdotal “evidence,” they are subject to confirmation bias – the tendency to look for things that reinforce one’s worldview, thus creating a perpetual-motion machine of self-righteousness.

In closing, a word of advice: The next time you’re tempted to grumble about “gun owners” for some perceived trespass against The Truth, subject your grievance to the 27 words that we all learned about back in grade school. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The right. Of the people. To keep and bear arms. Shall not be infringed. Who wrote these words? Where did they write them? Why did they write them? And so on. (Astoundingly enough, the “why” is both the easiest part of the equation and the part that “the media” seems unable to grasp.)

You’ll discover that your complaint is specific to a single violent act of an individual, not generally inclusive of “gun owners.” You’ll discover, too, that calling out “gun owners” makes about as much sense as calling out “people.” Some are violent, some aren’t. But they’re not all the same. It pays to know which is which.

Thanks,

A.G.

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