A few weeks ago I had the privilege of teaching with some friends from Walk The Talk America. Part of my work here in Oregon is in suicide prevention on top of all of the other work I do. My time spent in suicide prevention has lead me to join a few different suicide coalitions. One is helping direct the Oregon Healthy Authority on good policy that will NOT infringe on others rights but will help save lives. The other is a small newly formed nonprofit focused on supporting responsible gun owners in their moment of crisis. It is this coalition that is very special. It is small, nimble, and poised to help make a huge impact in the mental health community. It is the goal of the Oregon Firearm Safety Coalition to help protect the rights of gun owners all while helping to ensure they get the help they need at a time of crisis. It was in this coalition that I met a very sweet lady that works for the United States government. She is a researcher on firearms and suicide prevention. We have been working together via zoom on this very important mission for over a year.
We met in real life at the training. Throughout the training she was very engaged and had very important questions. The questions came from a place of genuine curiosity. As we taught, the information seemed to finally resonate with her. It was like she had a great “awakening.” This was huge for her and for us as presenters. This personal growth in her will arguably help her be a more effective advocate for those that she serves. Having better understanding of firearms and how they function and the proper terminology will be very beneficial to her position in the federal government. When it was my turn to present, I was able to do what I do best, talk about guns. It is a passion of mine, teaching the public and presenting “facts over fear” when it comes to our firearms. It is my belief that there is no such thing as “bad guns,” only “bad owners.” Similarly to pit bulls, there is no such thing as a bad pit bull only a bad owner. As a society, we spend so much time demonizing the tool and not holding people accountable for their personal behaviors. This is a big problem and I work very hard to “normalize” responsible gun ownership. The majority of this work helps protect children through safety and accident prevention. We are closing in on 23,000 kids reached and I believe we will be able to cross 23k this upcoming weekend. It is this mission that has taken me all over the country and put me in front of many different audiences. It is a position in the 2A community that is very important to me. Our guns are NOT going anywhere! We have to be able to ALL work together to solve the problems that we face as a nation.
As I continued my presentation, I started demoing all types of different firearms. When I got to a Semi-automatic handgun which just happened to be a Glock 19. I saw her eyes light up. I believe because we were in a safe and controlled environment, it empowered her to ask very important questions. I know that she had been wanting to ask for a while. She just never had the opportunity to do so in person. I moved closer so she could get a better look. I could see genuine interest in this platform. At one point I showed her personally how I load and unload it. Once loaded she was inquisitive about the loaded chamber indicator. I showed her and she actually ran her finger across it. I lit up!! I was so excited for her. She was finally in a position where she could learn from a non biased position. This will be a benefit to her research going forward and in turn will help save lives. Being able to bridge the gap between guns, mental health, and scientific research will hopefully help save lives all while saving our rights. This is where we need to be. We need to be in front of the doctors and the clinicians that are on the frontlines of suicide prevention.
The goal is to end the anti-gun stigma that is associated in that community. If we can end the stigma, there is a chance responsible gun owners will feel comfortable asking for help in a time of crisis. We have to create space in a time of need. WTTA is making a valid conversation in my opinion. It is highly effective from a gun owner and instructor point of view. It is these conversations that are so important right now. Many are talking the talk very few are truly acting in an effective way. WTTA is doing the work that needs to be done. I am proud to partner with them.
After her epiphany I went on to the AR15. This platform is easily misconstrued and demonized by many, either by the media or politicians. Our rifles are constantly under attack because of the importance that they serve in our society and how readily available to the public. This is important because they serve a valid purpose and more relevant than ever before. What is important to realize about the AR15, is that there is over 20 million rifles in our country. They are used in less than %1 of all violent crime. More people are killed by fist, blades, or hammers than rifles. There is definitely a negative stigma associated with the scary black rifle, mostly because of lack of information surrounding the platform. I enjoy breaking this platform into many different parts. This helps me address different questions as they come in. The questions come because of the way I present the information. I do it in a way that is easily understood by all. Normally it is because I am working with children or those that are new to firearms. My friend shined in this part of my presentation. Her questions were on point and very specific. I could tell that she did have a preconceived notion on my rifle, mostly because of the information she was familiar with. She also said that she had never seen an AR15 in person. As we talked the information came out. It was like talking to an old friend. This was very helpful to all in the room because we were able to take the conversations in many different directions, all important to what we were talking about. I also broke out a AR15 pistol, that was suppressed. I explained the differences between the pistol and the rifle. I am blessed to have great sponsors like Aero Precision that has provided me with these tools, that I use to teach the public.
It was at this point she was very comfortable. I asked her, “do you want to try handling them?” She without hesitation said “YES!” I was so excited and the room was electric. People were focused on us with anticipation. I showed her how I hold my finger, how I keep the rifle pointed in a SAFE direction, how I hold the rifle, and lastly how I shoulder it. I then handed it to her safely and walked her through the process. She took possession, kept it pointed in a safe direction and most importantly handled it like a pro! The crowd cheered and I was so thankful for this opportunity to work with her. We then tried the AR15 pistol. Same results, she was a rockstar. The pride I felt for her was overwhelming. At a break we spoke and I told her how proud I was for her and I was so happy in her personal growth. She confided with me that this was first time ever handling any type of firearms. She also said that it was a great experience for her, she thanked me for allowing her to feel safe and comfortable. It was learning experience for everyone in attendance. We came from varied backgrounds, diverse in education levels, and life experience. United with a common love for our fellow human being and ability to get out of our collective comfort zones to get to the root cause of a truly important mission to save lives. It was an experience that I will treasure always. Remember, you are not alone, you matter, and there is help available. Stay with us. Until next time. Be safe!