Now before anybody loses their mind and decides to boycott our company because we’re talking about guns, please understand this is a discussion. Feel free to comment your opinions below. This is not a statement about what we should or shouldn’t do. This is simply observations and viewpoints based on my experience as an avid hunter, former special operations veteran, business owner, and father.
So. Guns and FEAR.
Due to the recent mass shootings and the rampant media surrounding the events, our inboxes have been swelling with emails from people asking us to post our opinion on guns and gun control. To be candid, we’ve held off on anything politically sensitive for the past few years because we were going after a few USAID contracts in Afghanistan, but since they didn’t see Combat Flip Flops as a fit for the criteria of increasing small business manufacturing, increasing exports, and helping women, it’s all fair game now.
This is Part 1 of the Guns and FEAR discussion, so it’s going to have a little more backstory. I promise the next articles will get directly to the point.
Being a veteran in the Northwest is a weird thing. All of my veteran and military friends on the East Coast thing we’re long-haired, dope smokin’, closet Democrats that don’t like servicemembers, the military, or anything associated with the color Red. Our local neighbors view us as closet Republicans--driving big trucks, talking openly about hunting and shooting, and maintaining a polite, quiet nature when the political absurdity gets going.
Candidly, we love our servicemembers, this nation, and we’re right down the middle politically. Combat Flip Flops consists of the mixed-bag of viewpoints, and we seem to operate quite well in pursuit of a larger mission. We discuss our experiences, thoughts around a subject, then let it go in order to get work done. A difference of opinion doesn’t make you bad. It makes you different. And that’s OK.
My viewpoints on guns goes back to Thanksgiving 1983. My dad and uncles were directed to get the kids out of the house, and we went to the backyard to shoot a milk jug with a .22. I’ll never forget my uncle telling me he could shoot the cap off the jug. I didn’t believe him. Then he did. That started my fascination with guns. Sight picture, trigger control, breath. Rifles, handguns, and anything that went bang. We were kids in the ’80s. Guns were still cool then.
That fascination turned into a love of hunting. Spending time outdoors with friends and family in the pursuit of an adventure and dinner on the table. Everybody attended a hunter’s safety course and spent a few years hunting with adults before we could go on our own. By high school, I always had an over-under 12 gauge shotgun behind the seat of my truck. Often, our parents would send a group of us out to a farm for a weekend to walk miles while shooting birds. None of us ever shot up a school, died, or felt the need to shoot one another.
Then came the military. More training and responsibility around the use of firearms. Small arms such as the M-4 (Military version of the AR-15), light machine guns, heavy machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, cannons, rockets, etc.. Got to play with all of the toys, and it’s the same thing--personal responsibility around your firearms.
After a few years of service, Lee and I made it to the Ranger Regiment. The most elite infantry unit in the world. Our mandate was to be the best riflemen in the world. And we were. Any “accidental discharge” (AD) of your weapon was cause for immediate dismissal from the Ranger Regiment. This went for everyone from the lowest enlisted to the highest officer. There was no messing around when it came to weapons and safety because it was never the weapon that did wrong--It was the person.
By the time I left the military, I really didn’t care to pick up another gun. If I could see it, I could hit it. Kinda boring. I still loved hunting and picked up a bow instead. Every now and then the guns come out to pass along the lessons to our children or enjoy a day on the range with friends, but it’s not really a big deal. It’s just a gun. It’s a tool. A metal device that fires a metal projectile through the explosive force of gunpowder at the direction of A PERSON.
I know… lots of backstories. I’m getting to it.
The casual nature of how I view guns has caused a lot of discussion around the office. Sometimes I’ll bring the guns into the office because I don’t want to leave them in my truck. Coworkers will walk in and see a pistol on my desk or a rifle leaned up against the wall, and it causes an observable reaction. Then the discussion begins.
I’m a believer of the 2nd Amendment. Governments are evil things, and eventually, they’ll try to take everything from you through the power of law or force. You can comment below on this, but history doesn’t lie. If you’re not skeptical of the government, I’m sure you're skeptical about your safety around certain people. Being able to defend yourself is a basic human right. You should have the ability to be equally or more armed than anybody willing to commit a violent, illegal act toward you or your family. And my last major point about guns is the security of food. If shit hits the fan, we all should have the ability to put food on the table via hunting.
Others in the office have an intense fear of guns simply because they don’t know much about them, never been in a situation that required the use of a gun for self-defense, or had to put food on the table through hunting. They’re just scary things that the media tells us are bad.
It’s the easiest emotion to create and has a powerful effect on the body, reasoning, and leaves subconscious imprints within a person. The after-effects of fear lead to confirmation bias, assumptions about large groups of people, and irrational stress. I never understood how this could be so rampant until a discussion after a recent school shooting.
Our Customer Service Manager, Jill, is the sweetest, kindest, most caring person you’d ever meet. Our “Mama Bear.” Prior to taking over Customer Service at Combat Flip flops, she served as the Principal’s Secretary in local elementary schools for 17 years. During the school shooting discussion, she stated that she was in the “Hot Seat” for 17 years and concerned about assault weapons and shootings.
“Hot Seat? What’s the ‘Hot Seat’ Jill?”
“If a shooter is on campus, they have to come in through the front doors, and all of the doors lock behind me. I was responsible for the notification and ensuring the building’s security system locked down. The person in the hot seat is totally unprotected.”
Can you imagine being an unarmed elementary school secretary facing an angry, chemically imbalanced, person with hate on their heart? C’mon now. Work your empathy muscles here. Put yourself in that situation and imagine what it would be like. Imagine the thoughts that would run through your head every time you turn on the news and see a school shooting. You’d probably think, “That could be me. This scares me. We should do something about this issue.”
The data doesn’t matter. The mental issues don’t matter. The pharmaceuticals don’t matter. The probability of it happening doesn’t matter. What matters is the FEAR.
That FEAR is what’s driving the majority of the discussion today. If you remember one thing from this article, remember this. IF IT BLEEDS, IT LEADS. The media gets massive traffic and viewership when school shootings happen. They don’t really report data, just a lot of speculation and talk that increases the FEAR and keeps you tuned to their channel. They’re not going to take the time to go through the data; they’re not able to report the person’s medical history, they’re not going to attack their pharmaceutical sponsors. They’re going to keep you glued to the channel through the easiest emotion to elicit--FEAR.
There can be no rational discussion around guns when media-driven FEAR drives mass irrationality. George Carlin’s line, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups,” is applicable in this case. Now before you go and think I called you, “Stupid,” consult the definition.
having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.
It’s not a lack of intelligence by any means. Lack of common sense likely, but not lack of intelligence. People confuse familiarity with fact. If the money-making, speculating, FEAR driving media keeps telling you that the guns are bad, then over time, you’ll believe it. It’s merely repetition and bad on them, not on you.
So. Guns and FEAR. There can be no intelligent, rational discussion right now until we address the FEAR. This action is not going to happen by those that are afraid. It’s going to happen by those that aren’t afraid to exercise a little empathy, seek understanding, and engage in the discussion in a healthy, meaningful manner.
In the next couple installations of Guns and FEAR, we’ll talk about the issue with the media, government, and potential options for responsible gun ownership.
About the Author: West Point Graduate, Special Operations Army Ranger, Entrepreneur, Public Speaker, Henry Crown Fellow.