Some of my fellow gun owners need to understand that not everyone digs our rights and interests. So, we need to represent the Second Amendment with the utmost respect at all times and ensure that others are doing the same or, one day, we might no longer enjoy those freedoms.
I was reminded of this last week when I saw two things that left me shaking my head in disgust.
First, on one of my commutes, I saw something that I had a few times before that I’m sure you are familiar with, too: the vinyl stickers on vehicles’ back windows that say “(f-word expletive) Cuomo” with what are, in the common vernacular, assault rifles in place of the letters F and K.
The stickers play perfectly to the tropes of the far left -- that gun owners are akin to savages.
Not only are those labels using language you wouldn’t use in front of a child or in public – I hope – they also use imagery of much-maligned AR15s that feed the negative assault rifle narrative and, at the same time, encourage aggression towards the state’s chief executive.
If you don’t agree with him on the issues, fine. I don’t either. That’s been well-documented in this column. But, if you’re going to make a case against the SAFE Act, red flag bills, gun raffle legislation, and more you need to be reasonable about it. Don’t foment hate and violence by association or advance misguided stereotypes.
If you want to win someone to our side and hopefully enlighten them on gun ownership and what it means for putting food on the table and/or protecting family and friends, then do so in a reasonable fashion that shows the virtues and values to the uninitiated.
“F Cuomo” stickers serve only to drive away those in the middle who are unsure of the Second Amendment while making sure the hardcore anti-gunners keep their distance from looking for even some common ground.
The labels do nothing to advance our cause and neither does what I saw while hiking the Feeder Road trail in the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge.
Far back on the trail, overlooking one of the large pools, was a handful of empty beer cans right next to spent shotgun shells. Based on the location and the type of shell they were left by waterfowl hunters.
Drinking while using firearms is stupid.
Polluting while enjoying the outdoors is stupid.
If I think those behaviors are stupid, imagine how stupid an anti-hunter perceives them. Likely, with the swamps being a haven for birdwatchers, there are many such people who walked that trail and saw the mess. It’s bad enough to them that someone is harvesting wildlife, but they’re also doing so unsafely and dirtily.
Those hunters didn’t win any brownie points with those already possessing negative notions about animal harvest.
That shouldn’t be overlooked by other hunters. Repeat offenses can create a large enough cry that certain trails and bodies of water on those public lands could see hunting prohibited. No matter the finer nuances of hunting and the nutrition it provides, it’s hard to win over people who’ve been grossly offended by bad actors.
Those who do own guns and those who hunt know that Bumper Sticker Guy and the Drinking Duck Hunter are very small minorities of the brotherhood and sisterhood of firearms users. The anti-gun and anti-hunt folks should understand that, too.
The vast majority of gun owners and hunters maintain and use their equipment safely and with respect and harvest wild game with care. We’re everywhere, too – close to 15 percent of Niagara County residents are registered handgun owners and many more own rifles and shotguns. Literally tens of thousands of us within the county are armed and in many ways. We aren’t practicing boorish behavior -- we’re behaving so well that we haven’t offended others with our guns and many don’t even know we have firearms. We are the rule, not the exception to it.
My challenge to gun owners is simple. If you associate with or know someone with an “F Cuomo” label, encourage him to take it off immediately. If you are Facebook friends with alleged Second Amendment advocates who share equally ugly memes online, stop them. If you know of unsafe hunters, reform them immediately or call a game warden.
Left unchecked these people are our own worst enemies. They claim to care about gun ownership yet do just about everything in their power to get others to not care for it. Aiding in the promotion of negative stereotypes feeds the other side and the rules they want imposed.
We gun owners are unique in that we represent our passions and rights 24/7. What we do or don’t do can have long-lasting effects on communities and the environment. That said, we must treat all that we do and all whom we interact with on the Second Amendment with class and dignity. If we don’t and allow a few bad seeds to make the good guys look rotten then we will see our rights continually eroded, something we know too well in the Empire State.
From the 15 April 2019 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News