I haven't taught in a university setting in almost two years. Certain economic forces caused my former employer to find a cheaper alternative to part-time and adjunct faculty members, which was fine by me since I made very little money toward the end of my university career. Since then, I've been able to maintain a relatively healthy and lucrative private teaching studio that I run out of my home. By and large, I try to follow the maxim of "Always carry, never tell." As a result, very few of my students know just how much of a gunnie I am, and that's fine.
A few weeks ago, I was at a local training facility retaking some basic shotgun training. As I came out, I ran into one of my older students as he watched his wife handle a snubbie. Let me set the scene for you...
My student is a black man around the age of 60. He was also a relatively big local player in the Obama campaign. He's well educated, but has also spent the bulk of his adult life in academia. As such, he's about as liberal as anyone I've met.
As I came out of the range and into the shop with my 870 in tow and my Glock 17 on my hip, he registered the kind of surprise I expected.
"Doctor! What are you doing here? What's with all the firepower? Are you expecting an invasion sometime soon?"
"My only expectation is to be prepared in the event one happens... I'm surprised to see you here."
"Well, my wife is thinking about buying a gun and getting her permit. I think she's losing her mind."
"If you're ever interested in talking to someone that carries pretty much all the time, I'd be happy to talk about it with either of you. I know it's tough trusting a stranger with all of your concerns in the beginning."
"What's with the rifle? Is that a rifle?"
"Nope. It's a shotgun. This is what I use to defend my home."
The couple was kind enough to invite me to dinner, and we discussed every manner of firearm, what it was used for, the legalities and costs involved, the Four Rules, and some gun-related politics. I offered to bring an assortment of handguns to the range for them to shoot when this question came up...
"How do you feel about assault weapons?"
I answered them with my normal reply, which is "The tool is rarely the reason for the crime. Anyone with malice in their heart can find a way to kill."
"Do you own any?"
"According to the language in the 1994 AWB, yes. Quite a few, actually."
"What would a person like you need with a machine gun?"
And so it went for the better part of an hour... I explained that "assault weapons" were neither "machine guns" nor military weapons. Yes, they may be similar in appearance, but their function is only slightly similar. I assured them that the government took great pains long ago to make many weapons difficult to obtain and subject to strict controls and taxes. The reason the designs are similar is a testament to the ergonomics and reliability of the military design. By the end of the night, without attacking their beliefs or politics, I had convinced an anti-gun guy to come shoot an evil black rifle and some handguns with me and had convinced his wife to get her carry permit.
This is how we change people's minds. We respect their views, we speak to them calmly, and hope that our reasoning resonates with them.