I am a pro-gun-control liberal who does not believe in the Second Amendment.
I also possess five guns: three handguns and two rifles -- one which I built myself from parts. It was fairly easy and a lot of fun, as I am an engineer by training.
I also believe that guns at home are more likely to result in injury than be used successfully for home defense, so I believe in storing them at the local gun club or armory.
I used to run a very popular internet forum. In that job, I witnessed a great diversity of opinions. I learned one big thing: no matter how unreasonable you think your opponent is, he knows many important things that you do not, and you need to understand those things to have any hope of reaching an agreement.
Many blue state liberals feel an increasing sense of helplessness when confronted with another mass shooting. After every shooting, no new legislation is passed and research even shows that gun laws tend to loosen as a result. During Obama's time in office, over 100 million new guns have been sold. What can you do?
Well, I am here to tell you the first thing you need to do if you want meaningful gun control legislation to be passed in America.
If you want to personally do something that will help, here it is:
You Must Learn How To Use A Gun
Sounds crazy, right?
Almost every gun control advocate I know hates guns and wants nothing to do with them. They are vaguely (or very) afraid of them, and believe that if they fire a gun or buy one, they will suddenly become a gun nut or turn evil.
That is nonsense. You need to understand guns intimately if you want to regulate them.
This kind of thinking is common sense when it comes to making laws about anything else, yet somehow it flies out the window when it comes to regulating something as simple and dangerous as guns.
Being a gun owner who doesn't believe in the Second Amendment is really lonely. My liberal friends react with a sort of politely sanctimonious horror to learn that I own all these weapons. My gun friends think it's absurd and despicable that I can be into guns but not support the Second Amendment. But it gives me a very special insight into the gun debate, which is this: many gun owners would be willing to support reasonable gun control but they will not have a conversation with gun control liberals because without exception, every time you open your mouth to speak about guns, you reveal that you know absolutely nothing about how guns work.
Do you think it's reasonable for old white men who say things like "the female body has ways of shutting that down" to make laws about abortion and contraception?
Do you think it's reasonable for people who have their emails printed out for them to make laws about encryption standards and internet governance?
Do you think it's reasonable for people to make traffic laws and emissions standards if they've never owned or driven a car, or even ridden in one?
That is the kind of thing you are expecting when you want to regulate guns but have never used one in your life.
You need to learn how to fire a gun, how to be safe with a gun, how to clean and take apart a gun, and you need to know what the process is like when you buy a gun.
Still don't believe me?
Simple Things About Guns That Every Gun Person Knows That Every Gun Control Advocate Doesn't
I'm going to present a series of misconceptions that you probably believe. What's interesting about these is that without exception, almost every gun owner will get these right, whereas almost every non-gun-owning gun control advocate will get them wrong (apologies in advance to gun people who read this; I will be glossing over minor technicalities).
I'll explain why each one is wrong, and offer an analogy to familiar liberal issues often aligned with gun control.
1. Which is more powerful, a WW2 rifle, or the modern M16?
WW2-era M1 Garand
M16 US military standard-issue
Which one of these is the more powerful rifle?
You would probably say the M16. You'd be wrong.
The WW2-era M1 Garand rifle fires a larger bullet with nearly twice the muzzle energy of the modern M16. (The reason we use the M16 today is due to other characteristics relevant to battlefields and military operations, beyond the scope of this piece) A round fired from an M1 Garand can tear through multiple targets while the M16 cannot.
Why does this matter? Because it leads people to say things like the AR-15 (the civilian model of the M16) is "the deadliest rifle" or to misunderstand how it's not appropriate for hunting. That's true that the AR-15 is not appropriate for hunting, but not because it's a scary military rifle -- it's because it's underpowered.
Making this kind of error because of assumptions you think are reasonable but really aren't is like insisting that abstinence-only programs prevent teen pregnancy. They don't.
You're letting plausible-seeming assumptions lead you to be grossly misinformed about how and why things work and the many factors involved.
2. A silencer allows you to kill someone with a gun quietly.
This is false, and entirely a Hollywood construct. There is literally no device in the world that will make a gun quiet.
A typical gun discharge is somewhere in the range of 150 to 170 dB.
Adding a silencer (or as the gun community prefers to call it nowadays, because of this myth, a suppressor) will lower that volume to about 130 dB at best.
Here is a list of common noise levels:
10 dB: pin drop
30 dB: whisper
60 dB: conversation
90 dB: lawnmower
110 dB: being at a rock concert or near a jackhammer
140 dB: jet engine at takeoff
How often can you fail to hear a jackhammer even a block away from your house?
Nevertheless, silencers are banned in a number of states (e.g. California) but not for any good reason -- entirely because those who support a ban only know about them from films and not reality. Being near a firearm is damaging to your hearing even with ear protection. The correct nanny-state legislation would actually be to mandate that all guns include silencers on them to protect the hearing of sportsmen and shooters.
Believing otherwise is like saying that making contraceptives and sex education available to teens will result in promiscuity, earlier teen sex, and more pregnancies. It's untrue and contradicted by the evidence. Places with comprehensive sex education have lower teen pregnancy rates and teens delaying their first sexual activity.
Thinking otherwise only happens when one has been fooled by false and sensationalist media, while the true, evidence-based solution is to encourage broader adoption.
3. "Hollow-point bullets are cop-killers, there is no legitimate use for these and they should be banned."
Saying this to a gun person will immediately reveal that you don't understand anything about how bullets work.
Bullets roughly do one of two things when they hit a human being: they either over-penetrate and shoot all the way through, or they "mushroom" (deform) and stay inside the first thing they hit. The "hollow" part of hollow-point bullets is what makes them deform.
In a home defense scenario, the most important thing you are taught is to avoid either 1) missing the bad guy and shooting through a wall and hitting your loved ones on the other side, or 2) hitting the bad guy with a bullet that does the same thing because it went through him entirely. You want bullets that stop in the first thing they hit: hollow-point bullets are the ones most likely to do this.
Thus, hollow-point bullets are the opposite of cop-killer bullets: they are the ones most likely to be stopped by a cop's protective vest, rather than punching through it.
In most cases, using hollow-point bullets is one of the safest things you can do.
The reason you may believe otherwise is because the information you got about hollow-point bullets is from 1980s-era sensationalist media, and not any real understanding of how bullets work. You're misinformed because of someone's fear-mongering, like how anti-abortion activists believe that the only thing Planned Parenthood does is provide abortions, rather than 90 percent of their services just being medical and pre-natal care. You're missing the facts, and like anti-abortion activists, haven't been interested in educating yourself.
Don't be like that.
Bonus round: "The killer used an automatic weapon. There's no reason to own those and we should ban them!"
When you say this, every single gun owner can instantly tell that you don't know anything about guns.
There are two things wrong with this statement:
1. The killer did not use an automatic weapon. Automatic weapons have been banned since 1971, and their possession is strictly controlled. It's very, very hard to get one.
2. The killer likely used a semi-automatic weapon. This is not a semi-automatic weapon:
The killer did not use a weapon like this.
A semi-automatic weapon is a gun that fires ONE bullet each time you press the trigger. To fire another bullet you need to press the trigger again, individually. One press, one bullet.
For example, this common hunting rifle is a semi-automatic:
A semi-automatic weapon is differentiated from non-semi-automatics because you don't need to manually pull the little handle back, eject the cartridge, hand-load another one, and then fire. It does not "fire bullets continuously while you hold down the trigger." A semi-automatic rifle is a pretty reasonable thing to have because when you are hunting or target shooting, you don't want to hand-load every bullet one at a time. It's primitive.
Every gun person knows this, and when you say something like claiming the killer had an automatic weapon and that they should be banned, you immediately reveal a total ignorance the same way anti-abortion people do when they say things like "the morning-after pill causes third-trimester abortions, so they should be banned." All it does is show that you don't know simple key terminology, or even what the existing laws are.
You cannot say "we need to ban automatic weapons" and expect to be taken seriously in any discussion of guns ever.
Now that you know this, go look and see how often this statement is made. You'll find that it's everywhere, and you'll begin to see how much ignorance there is. It's why people who own guns tune you out, even though many of them supposedly agree with you.
Who cares? We need to do something! Anything!
But, how much would you want to listen to a politician who made statements about abortion or women's bodies like the ones I've listed above? That's what you sound like when you talk about gun control. You literally don't know what you're talking about and need to educate yourself.
One of the things gun control advocates seem to think (consciously or subconsciously) is that guns are sinful and shouldn't be touched. Like if they believe they should be regulated or banned, they themselves shouldn't ever fire one, learn about one, or own one, otherwise you'll be somehow contaminated or something.
You know how some people think sex is sinful and dirty? They need to get past that and see that sex is natural and healthy, but with well-understood risks. Viewed pragmatically and without mystique, those risks can be managed with education and reasonable policies. The same is true of guns.
One of the more popular gun control ideas is that guns should be regulated like how cars are, by requiring registration, training, and insurance. You can learn to drive a car, enjoy driving, collect cars, all without being a dangerous driver or believing that it should be a Constitutional right.
If you want to regulate something as complex as guns in America, be willing to understand them intimately. Guns are a powerful tool, but you are a responsible adult and you can and should learn how to safely use and store one if you want to advocate for regulations that will affect 300 million Americans.
The more passionate you are about regulating guns, the more you personally need to be familiar with guns, how to use them, how they work, and how they are bought and sold.
Take the first step to doing that.
Here's what I'm offering you
If you are a friend or acquaintance of mine who favors gun control, I will teach you how to use guns.
I will take you to the range, explain gun safety to you, show you how to use common rifles and handguns, and even show you how to purchase a gun- I've found that this is important to understand, since many proposed regulations involve the purchasing process, so it's important to understand the experience.
I am friendly to your cause, and genuinely believe this will help you achieve your aims, and help promote the conversation that needs to happen in this country for us to move forward.
If we don't know each other personally or you live outside California, ask your local gun friend.
I have found that gun enthusiasts are without exception friendly and helpful. A gun store or a firing range is one of the most polite places you'll ever find yourself (for obvious reasons). You won't be shunned or made fun of for your ignorance. They are eager to demystify guns and teach new people.
Give it a try, you will be glad that you did.
This is the first step.
A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.