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That’s a tough one

Reader Mike asks:

Susan Harris has hit upon a subject with which I have personal experience – actually changing someone’s mind about firearm use. I am a recreational shooter who punches holes in paper targets with both handguns and rifles. I have been a shooter for over a decade. My wife has no problems with my hobby and has encouraged me to teach our children both firearm safety and how to shoot well. However, I have found no way to get my wife to try sport shooting with me, due to her negative experiences with firearm victims when she worked in an Emergency Room as an intern in medical school. The emotional and negative experiences with gunshot wounds have, as she admits herself, overcome her rational understanding that sport shooting is an entertaining and safe hobby. Any suggestions on how to reconcile her rational understanding with her emotional reaction?

Anyone? I’d say it’s tough to get past emotional reactions which is why I don’t address those.

13 Responses to “That’s a tough one”

  1. Tam Says:

    You know, not everyone is going to be a shooter, for whatever reason.

    I don’t hang out on any golf-specific web forums, but are guys there as worried about getting their wives to come golfing with them as male shooters are to get their S.O. to the range?

    I’ve only known a couple of women who were shooters and who had beaux that weren’t at all interested, and neither one really wrung her hands about getting her fella to the range.

  2. Laughingdog Says:

    A couple of the guys that I ride with in my motorcycle club are married to nurses, and have the same problem.

    From what I can gather, it’s not that they’re that terrified of being on the bike. They just can’t get on it without thinking of the motorcycle victims they’ve dealt with, making a motorcycle ride the exact opposite of a relaxing form of recreation. I wouldn’t want to shoot, or ride bikes, either if it just made me think of my worst days at work.

  3. retro Says:

    Buy her a copy of the book “Dial 911 And Die”. It’s aimed directly at women and self defense. If that won’t do it, then probably nothing short of her being attacked or threatened by a hostile will do the trick.

  4. Rob K Says:

    Mike, get over it. It’s not your job to get her to shoot anymore than it’s hers to get you to enjoy her favorite hobby. I think the only thing you can reasonably expect from her is to understand the 4 rules, and know how to safely check that a gun is unloaded and put it away safely. Be thankful that she’s supportive of you and your kids shooting, and leave it be for now. Later as she sees the rest of the family having a good time shooting without her, she may find a desire to join in.

  5. Mike Says:

    Thanks for the responses, and thanks to Uncle for posting my comment so it got more attention. Wow – responses from people whose blogs I read! I don’t see my wife changing her mind any time soon, but she is “gun-safe” and as noted does support me as a shooter. Over the past decade as I have acquired various firearms, and shot everything from 22 plinkers to milsurp rifles to modern deer rifles with the kids, she has gone from having “absolutely no interest in firing a gun” to following a relative of hers on a deer hunt, to speculating that maybe she’d like to try skeet (in which I have zero experience) someday in the future. So time will tell.

    The Sue Harris article was interesting in that the author was able to generalize beyond her own acknowledged anti-gun prejudices, to discuss how gun-rights supporters (and anti-gun supporters) are able or unable to convince others to agree with each other’s perspectives on the subject of guns.

    There are multiple ways to get people to change their minds on important issues, either through logic, exposure to overwhelming facts, convincing arguments, emotional appeals, or demagoguery. The question then becomes, why aren’t we (or the other side) convincing more people of the rightness of our way of thinking?

    As with my wife, sometimes there just is no desire to participate due to overwhelming negative conditioning. That I can at least respect, having seen it in action personally and recognizing the strength of the personal experience. Heck, I drank no white wine for almost 5 years after my first serious college drunkfest, which featured a jug of Gallo Mountain Chablis and a Christopher Lee horror movie called “Chalice of Blood.” (By the way, to any NCSU janitorial service workers from the late 1970s, sorry about that mess in the student union bathroom stall. I should not have had lasagna at the Rathskeller before my drinking binge….)

    So can we convince anti-gunners of the rightness of our way of thinking, or do we need to achieve peace with them through superior firepower (at the polls, of course).

  6. SayUncle Says:

    mike, also check out Sebastian and Ahab.

  7. KCSteve Says:

    Since she can safely clear and store a gun she really only needs to do one more thing: learn to shoot a gun.

    She doesn’t have to get good at it and she doesn’t have to like it. She just needs to be good enough to defend herself and your children if need be. I’d say if she can pass the Missouri CCW qualification she’s good to go – and that’s just 15(?) out of 20 into a B7 at 7 yards. Shouldn’t take her more than one trip to the range.

    One suggestion for when / if she does make that trip – in addition to seeing if she’d like to start with a .22 while going over the mechanics, have her double-plug (ear muffs over ear plugs). Women tend to be more sensitive to the noise of the shot (it increases their perceived recoill).

    After the one trip to make sure she can protect the family I’d just make it a point to let her know she’s welcome to come along on any range trips and leave it at that. Well, except for seeing if you can get some help on skeet shooting – I’d encourage any shooting activity she’s interested in.

  8. Lyle Says:

    I once tried to get my wife interested in guns.


    She’s terrified of them and hates them (I won’t go into her history). After years and years of being around me, however, she does recognise the RKBA.

    Couldn’t ask for more. When I go to the range it’s either by myself, a friend, or with the kids. That’s just fine. I like my alone time once in a while.

  9. Ambulance Driver Says:

    I’ve been a paramedic for fifteen years. I’ve worked in an Emergency Department for a couple of years now.

    I’ve seen my share of gun violence. You might say that people with unnatural holes in their bodies are my stock in trade.

    Day in and day out, you see the violence and horror man can inflict on his fellow man – even their own families – and you either become jaded and callous, or it breaks you and you leave the environment.

    I suspect Mike’s wife falls into the latter category.

    As a medical intern, I’d imagine she’s seen a large number of people mangled or killed in traffic collisions. I call them collisions rather than accidents becuase an accident is truly unpreventable. The vast majority of the deaths and injuries in those collisions are preventable. Wear your seatbelts. Hang up the cell phone. Don’t drink and drive. Pay attention.

    Yet I’ll bet she’s never considered automobiles as a tool of death and destruction that should be banned outright. She doesn’t have that visceral reaction to cars (far deadlier every year than guns), because she owns a car. She drives a car. Everyone she knows drives one as well. They’re simply tools.

    Get her to view guns in the same way, and she’ll get over that fear. Do it just like your old man probably did when you were a young teen – start slowly, and let her realize how fun it is. Let her take a slow drive down a few deserted country roads, so to speak.

    Good luck.

  10. chris Says:

    im in a similar boat, my wife witnessed the gun murder of a sibling at a very young age (under 5 years of age)… so shes adamant about having no interest in shooting… however, she has gone from being a total anti to being someone that expresses interest in what i do… the other day she stated that if she were to ever have a gun it would have to be purple camouflage with butterflies on it… when i informed her that a paint job like that could be done for under $200 she rolled her eyes… slowly, it seems like shes coming around… and since i didnt get really into shooting until about august, i consider this good progress for her and i… im thinking that for her next b-day ill get a custom painted stock made for a 10/22 and give it to her as one of her presents… not the whole gun, just the stock… im guessing that after she sees it sitting around for several months, shes going to get curious about what it will look like when its completed…

  11. Xrlq Says:

    Any suggestions on how to reconcile her rational understanding with her emotional reaction?

    My suggestion: don’t. If she objected to you shooting, or taking your kids shooting, that would be a problem demanding a solution. But the fact that she doesn’t want to take up knitting is no more of a problem than the fact that my wife doesn’t want to listen to heavy metal and I don’t want to play bunco.

  12. straightarrow Says:

    I’d say it’s tough to get past emotional reactions which is why I don’t address those. -Uncle.

    Probably right about that. An emotionally held belief usually cannot be changed by anything except an even worse emotional experience. Sadly, it is often one last breath too late.

  13. Laughingdog Says:

    “I once tried to get my wife interested in guns.


    She’s terrified of them and hates them (I won’t go into her history). After years and years of being around me, however, she does recognise the RKBA.”

    There’s another risk you take when introducing your wife/gf to shooting that I would imagine a lot of people here don’t really consider: she gets hooked. Come over to my place and watch me and my wife argue over who gets the last box of .45 ammo sometime and you might reconsider pushing the issue.

    As long as your wife doesn’t have a problem with you owning or shooting guns, you really don’t need anything more.

Remember, I do this to entertain me, not you.

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