In another thread, I put forward the case that the gun rights issue has progressed to a new stage of intensity. Truly, a new front has opened on this fight for our rights. The days of debating emotional arguments vs. logical ones in public, to sway undecideds and moderates, is waning. As lines of division are drawn and continue to deepen, those folks are choosing sides. As fewer people remain to sway, the chasm between the left and right deepens, and replacing that old dialog is the next evolution of this struggle. We talk about Activism being, quite literally, a "call to action." Organizing like-minded folks to do something so that the combined efforts of the individuals exceeds what any individual could do on their own. Or, put another way, defining points where we can exert pressure for maximum effect. Instead of a thousand men all hitting the side of a mountain randomly with hammers (which bounce off and do nothing substantial), we work together, pick a likely fault, and target that one weak spot so that we can cause the maximum effect for our (collectively limited) time and energy. Thus, a bunch of folks who work for a living, raise kids, have all of life's merry distractions, can actually effect a little change, with our individually limited time and resources. This thread will be dedicated to the discussion of social behavior - image, if you will. What image we project as individuals, and collectively. But first, let me explain why this is necessary, and why "now" is the correct time to have this discussion. Just as we exert combined influence on key political figures through activism, to try to hold our ground on various issues relating to firearms and the right to keep and bear arms, the other side also has their activists and tries to exert influence in much the same fashion as we do. They are also adapting strategies over time, and lately, have been very effectively doing so. Some of this is due to them having mass media on their side, but moreover, they are successfully leveraging social media and networking platforms in profoundly successful ways; most notably, through isolation tactics (de-friending campaigns) and vilification of gun owners as a whole. Bottom line is we're starting to get our behind's kicked in the Court of Public Appeal, and if we don't get ahead of this, and soon, we're going to find ourselves in an untenable position. (As a side note, this is reminiscent in a way to the last time ultra-conservatives lost their britches in a public perception battle, back in the mid to late 90's, as the Militia movement which was then in full stride, crumbled and faltered in a very short time span, under a public relations nightmare) While circumstances are different today, the fact remains the same; once a side in any social argument is effectively vilified, there is effectively zero chance of recovery. Why should we "refine" who we are and what we say and how we act? Here are two images, side by side. Both are of me, taken in fun, some time ago; but should illustrate what I'm referring to when it comes to "refining our image" in the public eye. On the left (placed there as this is the "Left's Perspective"), we have what people would refer to as an over-enthusiastic classic Gun Nut, loaded for bear, to the point he can barely move (literally, it was heavy) with weapons and ammunition. The left would see a man clearly bristling for the opportunity to die a quick and ignoble death, in the coming revolution against superior government forces. This beer & peanuts "Hold Mah Beer Martha, Got Guvment Tyrants To Choot!" is what the left wants to convince everyone who we are. On the right, you have an interpretation of a Modern Country Gentleman. A more refined, sophisticated version of the classic American Rifleman, modernized and equipped for 21st century problems. The problem is, sometimes we see ourselves as that refined, cultured, gentlemanly type... and come across as the .... "other guy." Gun Nuts and Ridiculing Others. The over-exuberance shown by the more hardcore gun owners is telling. Zealots love preaching to the choir, but are not as effective at swaying the undecideds or representing the whole. Take, for example, the nit-picking about semantics, or the ridicule our side tosses out to the other side about "the shoulder thing that goes up" or "ghost gun that shoots 30 caliber magazine clips" or going on paragraphs long rants about why an Assault Weapon isn't really a "real" thing. Do you think they actually... care? Ask yourself, if someone who never owned a gun before sees your post; are they going to rally to your self-righteous, indignant "smarter than thou" cause just because you can .. ridicule someone? Or are they going to say "Good grief, these gun owner types, they creep me out with their 'smarter than everyone' crap, or 'you should shut up because you don't know what you are talking about' rants that I see every time I turn around." Great way to bring folks who don't know anything about guns, in to the fold. Seriously. Make them afraid to even TALK to a gun owner because they know the moment we find out they don't know the difference between a magazine or clip, or they use the wrong special terminology, we're going to think they're an idiot! Yeah, some icebreaker, that. Ridiculing others might be satisfying on some personal, sadistic level. Education is good, but can be done without the ridicule. Try to keep your arguments positive and when you teach, TEACH. But don't take every opportunity to point out ignorance just for the sake of feeling superior. That is ... not gentlemanly. Moving along... God Given Rights. I'm going to push the sheer boundaries of what is allowed on The High Road with this segment, but I'm only doing so because religion does not, and should not, ever be the foundation of a discussion about unalienable, natural rights. There's plenty of folks out there who do not ascribe to A Higher Power who, as all humans do, have the right to defend themselves from attack or oppression. If you feel that God gives you the right to carry a firearm, great, more power to you. But it does not serve the greater purpose of establishing self-defense of life as a fundamental right of every living creature, even those who do not ascribe to a particular religion. When you link the two issues, you commit the most basic of logical fallacies; "appeal to authority,", which (in terms of logic) is an indefensible position. It only works on like-minded individuals; while the world is a very diverse place. It also invokes images, which the other side is quick to jump on, of religious totalitarianism; something our founding fathers took great steps to prevent, as this country was founded on the heels of some rather major and bloody in-fighting between various Christian sects in Europe. Many of our earliest colonial immigrants were in fact fleeing religious persecution in Europe; and in large part, why Article Six of the US constitution was drafted as such. A decade or two ago, nearly 90% of America identified as Christians. That number has declined to below 70% at this point in time. (citations available here; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States) So when you link Guns and God, not only do you feed the Other Side ammunition about our side clinging to tradition over, say, public safety, but you are alienating over 30% of the population of the United States. Case in point? I'm Buddhist. And there's others on here who are .. gasp... Muslim. And others who are.. double gasp... athiest or agnostic. All of whom are gun owners. All on your side in this battle. So quit speaking on our behalf. You want to spread your religion, fine. You want to promote the Good Word, great! More power to you! You can still achieve that goal independent of the gun rights movement. (Just be mindful, once you have publicly identified yourself as a gun owner, ALL of your other public statements are now linked to "gun owners" - because that's just the way things work these days; so keep things civil.) A Gentleman can posit his arguments with logic and does not need an appeal to authority (divine or otherwise), if his argument is sound. If you STILL do not get what I'm saying... just ask yourself how an undecided, on the fence, moderate agnostic feels about these series of pictures which circulated recently. Moving along... Do you have any IDEA what they are putting in your drinking water? Oh, my. All of the conspiracy theories. Our current latest fad is folks discrediting the kid who changed schools from Cali to Florida and happened to be hand-picked by The Powers That Be to be their spokesperson. (The fact he was a crisis actor, by the way, was completely and totally debunked.) But the same thing seems to happen every time. "Oh that had to be a false flag!" or "Oh they brought in a team of crisis actors" or .. my personal all time favorite lunacy "Sandy Hook never happened! It was all faked!" (brought to you by the same folks who think there was a government plot at Nevada, or that the CIA took down the World Trade Centers.) I'm not going to sugar coat this one. When you self-identify as a gun owner in public, and then start spouting and spreading hokey conspiracy theories, you do a tremendous amount of damage to the credibility and respectability of ALL other gun owners. Who is going to take you seriously, or any of us seriously, for that matter, when you immediately go off subject on to some fringe theory and make it your main argument? Look, I'm not telling anyone they can't believe whatever the heck they want to believe. I respect your freedom to latch on to and parrot any and all crazy ideas you want to believe in. That's your right, and your freedom. But what I'm asking, is that you de-link all of of that noise from the gun rights issue. Because - as I mentioned - everything you say after you've been identified as a "gun owner" or "gun rights activist" suddenly becomes relevant. Every portion of your publicly put-forth persona is aggregated in to the general public consensus about issues. Cross referencing them and linking those together is a natural, expected phenomenon - people amalgamate pieces of information in to feelings, and later, those feelings decide how they react on a bigger scale. When there's a small, but measurable percentage of gun owners falling in to the tin-foil hat crowd, the Other Side begins using that against OUR side. Because you've self identified as a gun owner in public, when you serve as a propaganda machine for fringe conspiracy theory stuff, folks inevitably start linking gun owners with the idea that "these guys don't really have a firm footing on reality, here." Which brings me to... Stay On Track. The same thing holds true when gun owners go on random tirades during arguments in public (such as Facebook, whatever) where they will randomly jump from one topic to another. I've seen gun owners go on about guns in a discussion then randomly jump The Other Side about a completely unrelated issue; such as immigration (They're Gonna Bring Shariah Law Here!), or whatever. When you are having a dialog about gun rights, stay focused on gun rights. Even if the other side starts throwing in little tidbits or attacks you about other issues, stay the course! It is a very common tactic when dealing with the Other Side that when you are beating the crap out of them logically, they will begin rapidly throwing unrelated information at you in an effort to unsettle you or get you to make a statement which will alienate their intended targets (the readers of the conversation; the silent undecideds.) Don't fall for it. Stay on track. Stay logical. Resist any and all emotions - even and especially anger. Remain professional, do not fall in to the trap of becoming insolent or haughty at the other person. If you start getting emotional, take a step back for a few minutes. Imagine you're Mr. Rogers or something; you know, your kind, mellow mannered, friendly sweater-vest wearing guidance counselor type. Come back down to planet Earth off of the Rocketship Revenge, and be respectful of the other person. They have ideas, feelings, and concerns just as you do. If you're debating someone about gun rights, you've taken on the responsibility of being their guide to a logical basis of thought. (Or at the very minimum, you're guiding any popcorn eating silent observers there.) You WILL NOT change this persons' mind today. So don't be too pushy, or too overbearing. Use things like "That is a great idea, however... if you think about this other thing, maybe there's a different approach that could be taken." Or "I appreciate your insightful comments. Have you ever considered..." Walk them through a middle ground before you try to drag them kicking and screaming over to the other side. Folks don't change their minds overnight. And when they do change their minds, it's not a leap-across-a-chasm day-and-night change. It is a subtle, nearly imperceptible shift that happens over a longer period of time. It ebbs and flows with each interaction or new idea that comes in to play. And over time, those things get digested and aggregated so that over some months, or years, or even a lifetime, perspective shifts to look at the world a different way. If you are TOO pushy, you'll push them away, I guarantee you. If you get ONE good point across (and allow them to score a point as well, this is a give and take thing), you can get them to start seeing from a bit of a wider, or new, perspective. But it takes time, and you aren't going to accomplish it in one conversation.. Which brings me to... Don't unfriend folks. Seriously, don't do it. It's the primary goal of the other side at this point - to drive a wedge between people, to get them so angry at each other they quit speaking to one another. This serves their purpose because it begins to insulate the previously-undecideds on the other side from any further influence that might drag them away. In the culture war, every time someone blocks someone, or denounces their friendship, the string pullers win another major victory. They want us to be divided. They want the agenda to come before all else. Do you realize how huge of a victory it is for them, when their political agenda suddenly became more important than a friendship that has lasted, say, 20 years or more? Or when one member of a FAMILY stops talking to another over gun rights issues? It's the sort of thing you'd expect to see the Powers that Be manipulating in World War II. Getting the Goebbels-like propaganda machine so spun up and churning folks out, that they turn on their own families and friends. We're already a minority, as gun owners. If we fall for this tactic we lose. Period. Might as well just wad up the Second Amendment, and toss it away folks. Do NOT let them divide us. Do NOT let arguments get to the point it costs friendships or family. Every time you let that happen, you are letting the other side claim a MAJOR victory, because you are now effectively silenced as a point of future influence to their followers. Anyway, that's lengthy enough for one day. What I want folks to take away from this, if you skipped to the bottom, is summarized in the following key points; * Be good to one another. * Be mindful that you are an ambassador to ALL gun owners when you identify as one in public. * Project a positive image which focuses on gun rights when you are on that subject * De-link unrelated issues when you are talking about gun rights * Be aware that ~30% of the country is not Christian, and present your arguments accordingly. * Try to project the image of a Gentleman, and not an overbearing zealot. * Be courteous to your opposition, show them the same respect you expect in return. * Be wary parroting fringe conspiracy theories, they undermine your more pointed arguments. * Do not fall for the trap of isolating yourself from The Other Side, if you do, we will lose, as we are a minority. We need to win the public relations war. Right now, we're losing. It will take everyone's individual effort to change this. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.