What I Learned About Gun Owners By Becoming One Myself

  • Source: Fatherly
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R.J. Young never liked guns. The author grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a place steeped in gun culture and awash in Confederate flags. As a young black kid, his parents taught him that guns can get you killed; that not every police officer wants to harm you, but not everyone is willing to give you the benefit of the doubt; that you need to be aware of the gun in the room; that it doesn’t matter how good each person is on the other end of a gun — they still have the same power, the same trigger finger, and they can still squeeze it. 

So R.J. didn’t have a relationship with guns. Until, that is, he met the woman he would marry and, in the courtship process, bonded with his future father-in-law over his enthusiastic gun ownership. RJ then decided to delve into gun culture himself and understand why people own guns, why they need them, and why they won’t give them up. So he did. The resulting book, Let It Bang: A Young Black Man’s Reluctant Odyssey into Guns, chronicles his journey and serves as a stark reminder that gun control is not a one-sided issue. We spoke to R.J. about his journey into gun culture, what he learned, and what it means in the larger picture. 

So you’re a card-carrying NRA member. Why did you, after a life of never owning a gun, decide to join?

I didn’t join the NRA because I wanted to be a card-carrying member of the concealed-carry clique. I joined the NRA so I could get the instructor certification.

Why did you want that?

I wanted to answer a basic question: Can a good guy with a gun be better than a bad guy with a gun? To become certifiably masterful with a handgun is one of the best ways to answer that question. I got an NRA certification because nobody could tell me shit about whether or not I’m good with a gun or whether or not I understand them. There’s something very, very important in society about being known as an expert in your field. You need to be to have something important and smart to say about it.

So, as an expert, what do you think about the state of gun rights and gun ownership in America?

People are afraid. Most people are unwilling to acknowledge not just their fear, but the fear of others. Everybody seems like they want a gun or they are afraid of a gun. I say in the book that I fear that black folks and white folks are both getting dumped on because they’re afraid that each other is going to do something to one another.
Source: Fatherly

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