Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Loneliest Liberal: The Liberal Gun Club takes on the NRA

Man bites dog

By James Knudsen

The standard for selecting which stories to follow in news reporting goes something like this: “Dog bites man,” not a story. “Man bites dog,” a story. Recently I was involved in an event that falls under the latter.
    As it states in my bio, I am a gun owner. I have owned firearms since 2001. Along the way I’ve learned to reload ammunition, refinish gunstocks, and disable guns for use on stage, and about seven years ago I decided that I also wanted to be able to teach firearm safety. In order to do that I had to take an NRA (National Rifle Association) approved instructor’s course. I eventually received certifications for the Basic Rifle and Basic Pistol course. The biggest issue for me, was that I was sort of obliged to join the NRA. There are few organizations as polarizing as the NRA. And it should be noted that that goes for both poles. Most people feel the NRA is too extreme, and there are some who actually believe that it isn’t extreme enough.
    In any case, the alliance between James Knudsen and the National Rifle Association was never a comfortable one. And that goes for the gun club I was affiliated with when I lived in Los Angeles as well. In fact, the gun culture in general has always been an awkward place for me. Going to the gun store, the gun range, gun classes, and club meetings was always an uncomfortable experience, because I was certain that it was painfully obvious to the others in the room that on some level I wasn’t one of them. And that level has always been political. Even if most gun owners aren’t members of the NRA (they aren’t), the rhetoric of that organization is slanted such that the majority of Americans, who by the way aren’t gun owners, are inclined to think that all gun owners are of the same “coo-coo for cocoa puffs” mindset as NRA President Wayne LaPierre. Much of the lonely in Loneliest Liberal stems from this issue.

So imagine my delight when I discovered The Liberal Gun Club. Yes, you read that correctly, a gun club for liberals, progressives, tree-huggers, and people who voted for Barack Obama. The club originated in the Bay Area and has seen a dramatic spike in growth following the 2016 election. It was organized to…well, I’ll just let the mission statement speak to that:
The mission of The Liberal Gun Club is to provide a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legislation, firearms safety, and shooting sports.
There, that didn’t hurt, did it?

And it didn’t hurt to spend time around a group of gun owners who don’t automatically launch into a tirade about our 44th President or the Sierra Club. My first, and thus far only encounter, was on April 29, 2017, at the Meet in the Middle meeting held in Morro Bay, California. The name of the event refers to the two large groups of members in California that are currently located in the aforementioned Bay Area and Southern California. As the lone participant from the Central Valley, I offered that if they really wanted to meet in the middle, my hometown of Tulare, California was probably closer to the mark.
    The first half of the meeting was held at the San Luis Obispo Sportsmen’s Association, for a morning of smoke and noise. The number of Subarus and Priuses in the parking lot made it obvious that something out of the ordinary was afoot. Once I found my way to the firing line, it was clear that I was among members of my own tribe. After four or five hours of shooting we broke for lunch and then reconvened in a conference room at a local hotel. The meeting began with introductions and segued to plans for growing the club, breaking down the results of an online survey of the membership, and deciding where they wished to put their energies.
    The election of Donald Trump has spurred activism among Progressives of all types. The Liberal Gun Club, despite having been in existence since 2008, is hoping to catch some of that enthusiasm and perhaps shift the thinking of the liberal establishment in the process.

Copyright © 2017 by James Knudsen

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