Went to the range today. Had my Smith and Wesson Mode 57 .41 Magnum in it's hip holster, and because it was fairly warm out, I decided not to put my long-sleeved cover garment on over it as I gassed up my truck.
As I went into the 7-11 after filling my gas tank, I noticed a few looks from a couple of customers and the counter girls, but hey--the staff here all know me and even thought my firearms are concealed 95% of the time, they shouldn't be surprised. But one woman in line behind me obviously was surprised. She followed me out into the parking lot after we'd both paid for our purchases (I gotta have my coffee) and she managed to work up the nerve to call out to me:
"Excuse me...are you a police officer?"
"Why?" I asked, even though I pretty much guessed why she wanted to know. "Is something wrong?"
"Well it's just that you're carrying that gun, and I'm not used to seeing something like that."
I looked over towards the only vehicle that she cold possibly by walking to, expecting to see Maryland plates on it, or tags from some other foreign place, but they were just plain old West Virginia tags. "Must be a transplant," I thought.
"Actually, Ma'am, anyone who can lawfully own a firearm can carry it openly in West Virginia," I explained. "It's perfectly legal, even if you don't see it very often in this part of the state."
"I didn't know that," she admitted. "I guess that I'm just not comfortable seeing it like that."
"So you'd be more comfortable if I put a jacket over it so that you couldn't see it?"
"Yeah...well, uh no." It seems that I puzzled her with that one. "I mean, it's not that I don't mind guns. My husband has guns. It's just..." and she kind of trailed off.
"It is completely legal," I told her again. "Your husband could do this, too. So could you."
"Well I have Mace," she replied.
"That's a good start," I told her. At least she's thinking self-defense on some level.
At this, she opened up. She told me about her self-defense class that taught her to use the Mace, ("I'm supposed to hold my breath when I spray, because they say that I could get some in my face, too.") and she let me know that she was at least starting to get on the page. ("I keep my Mace in this special pocket in my purse so I can always get my hand on it without fumbling or losing it in the bottom of the bag...")
We talked for a bit, there in the parking lot, and after a few minutes, I asked her if she was still bothered by the sight of my revolver.
"Not anymore," she said, smiling. "I guess I just hadn't thought about it before, but
now htat I have, I guess there's nothing wrong with it."
Yay me. Score one for the gun folks. A non-gunnie decided that we're not that bad after all. Note to self: Buy cookie on way home.
Then it was out to the range, where I met with a friend and went out to the firing line. There were only two other shooters there: a husband-and-wife pair, shooting a .22 rifle. As I unloaded my two rifles--the .300 AAC AR and my old AR-15A1--the husband looked at them and asked, in heavily-accented English: "Are those the so-called 'assault rifles' that everyone is making such a big deal about?"
"Yes they are," I replied. "Say, where are you from?"
"I'm from Albania," he said. "Not Chechnya. Don't worry."
"No worries," I said, smiling as I set the rifles down on the bench. "I have these."
He laughed, too." Yes, I guess that you don't have need to worry."
I saw an opportunity here. "Ever shoot one of these?"
"No, no I have not."
"Well let's fix that." I quickly loaded half a dozen rounds into the magazine, slid it into the well, and pulled back the charging handle. "Here. Give it a try."
I walked him through the function and controls quickly, then turned the rifle over to him. I was pleased that his first question was "Where's the safety?" Shouldering the rifle, He slowly aimed and began firing at a steel target at 100 yards. He hit it on the third try, and then he hit it with every subsequent shot. When the bolt finally locked back, he handed it back to me with a big grin on his face.
"I've never shot one of those before! That's fantastic! No kick at all!" Then he asked if his wife could shoot it, so I loaded some more rounds into it and gave her the same basic primer. She shot it fairly decently as well, and when she gave it back, her grin was as big as his.
"All that fuss over these in the news," he said. "But I see no problems with these. These are great!" With any luck, I've planted a seed that will grow into two more AR owners and voters with a desire to defend all of our gun rights.
I hadn't really set out to be the Johnny Appleseed of gun rights when I went out today, but with just a few minutes and some basic courtesy, I managed to leave three gun-novice strangers with better opinions of guns or gun owners than they'd had when they got up this morning. Not a bad tally, if I do say so myself, but just imagine if we all went out and did that tomorrow--every singe one of us gun owners. We could change the tide of this country totally within a week or two as far as our gun rights are concerned.
Oh--the .300 AAC rifle test-fired flawlessly. Only issue was the front sight tower and gas block were just a degree or two off of top dead center, so it shot markedly left at 100M. But that's a quick fix, and it'll likely have been corrected by the time you all read this.