The Great Compromise: Why I Joined the NRA

Two words: Stephen Willeford.

I joined the NRA on November 6, 2017, the morning after the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas.  When I had learned that the man who stopped the shooter was an NRA firearms instructor, I knew I needed to step up off the sidelines and do something.  For too long I yelled at the NRA from the bleachers about how they were too pro-gun control (I still think that) and refused to join. Other groups, like Gun Owners of America, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the Firearms Policy Institute have far better records on standing up for our 2nd amendment rights, but they have, whether they’d admit it or not, not even a fraction of the lobbying power of the NRA.

I decided I wanted more tactical and defensive gun training and I wanted to support an organization that provided those things.  I decided I wanted to join an organization dedicated to fighting for hunters and providing hunter education and gun safety training for kids.  The NRA does those things.  Sure, I disagree with some things they do still.  A lot of people refuse to compromise on this, I understand, but I ask those people, “Do you disagree with your wife or husband about things?  If so, why not divorce them, after all they’re not perfect and apparently that’s your standard for supporting something.” That maybe an extreme example, but all of us occasionally disagree with our pastor and don’t leave the church. And don’t get me started on political parties – I don’t know anyone who agrees with their party of choice lock-step, but they still vote for that party every two years.

I’m glad I joined the NRA and I plan on remaining a member for a long time. I have taken some tactical training in the last year and plan to take more.  Having firearms in your home is good, having your concealed carry permit is better, but having tactical training in addition to firearm ownership is the best you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community. If you’re a gun owner, I highly recommend joining this organization and having your voice heard – both inside the NRA and in your community.  There’s a lot of silent gun owners out there, especially in places like Boulder, Colorado near me.  It’s time that we’re heard, it’s time we take our training seriously and it’s time we start being pro-active in our communities.  

Concealed Carry State of Mind

Recently, over dinner with a not-so-gun-friendly-friend, I was told, “I’m glad people like you have guns, but not everyone is like you.”  While I appreciated the acceptance of my concealed carrying, I explained to him that almost every concealed carrier in America is indeed like me.  I explained that concealed carry permit holders are less likely to commit a crime, statistically, than law enforcement officers. However, it was my explanation of my state of mind about carrying that impressed him the most.

The Stakes Are Higher

It is really easy for most people to get upset at little things.  No matter how small the injustice, as humans, we want the world to be right.  This is why, to give the easiest example, we name call people who cut us off in traffic. As if that somehow fixes the cosmic forces at work.  Even worse, we may honk our horns or flip people the middle finger.  Some of us are naturally better at this than others, but almost everyone is guilty of this in some form.  However, the concealed carrier has to ask themselves two questions:

Is this worth killing or going to jail over?  And, is this worth dying for?

So many times, violent encounters are small incidents, that step by step, get out of control.  We cannot control the actions of others, which is why we carry in the first place, but we have a choice about whether or not to participate in the process.  People are going to be jerks, whether that’s on the road, or in the supermarket, but you have the opportunity to turn the other cheek almost every time before it escalates into something serious.  

Personal Security is Peace of Mind

If you are unprepared for an encounter, you can become scared, which can cause you to act irrationally.  However, if you carry, and are properly trained, you can remain calm because you know you are prepared if things do go sideways.  When things do happen to me, usually on the road because I drive a lot, I remain calm and try to avoid the situation, knowing that if the situation becomes unavoidable at any given time, I am prepared, both mentally and physically, to protect myself and my family.  While there are exceptions to any rule, I know that the odds are in my favor to walk out of any encounter alive and well.

The Cost of Freedom is Responsibility

Our God given, and Constitutionally protected, rights are constantly under attack.  I feel the weight and responsibility of being the best example I can be every day. When people meet me and find out I’m a gun owner, I have the opportunity to either prove that gun owners are responsible and upstanding citizens or I have the opportunity to prove that gun owners are mentally unstable lunatics.  This is even more of an issue for those of us who live in areas that are very unfriendly to gun owners already.  

While the anti-gunners want to paint us all as irresponsible people, leaving loaded “assault” rifles on the table next to our children’s breakfast cereals, the truth is, an overwhelming majority of us are well rounded and peaceful people.  We’re teachers, scout leaders, preachers, parents, and community leaders of all stripes who take our rights and our responsibilities very seriously.  Whether anchored by faith or philosophy, we live lives of integration, we’re not outlaws.  We have what our critics don’t have, that calm, concealed carry state of mind.