Ten Tips: How to Talk to Liberals About Guns


  1. Language Choices: The way we talk frames everything else and couldn’t be more crucial because the real goal is persuading others. For example, when people discuss why they own firearms, it frequently comes from a perspective that makes the issue seem overly individualistic. Take a more collective approach and use words like Community Defense. Avoid cliche stances and arguments. Employ current terms that identify your social awareness. Learn the history of government sanctioned violence in America. Explain how oppressed peoples have always banded together using every tactic of resistance at their disposal, including arms. Point out how gun restrictions historically disempower such marginalized groups. Clearly condemn White Supremacist and police terrorism.


  1. Humanize Adversaries: Understand that people who support gun control don’t hate freedom, they just hate seeing dead children on television. Conversely, make it clear where your own beliefs come from. For myself, I purchased my first gun after an extended research project about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It impressed me that such effective mass murder could take place largely with machetes and made me reevaluate what causes violence in societies. I wanted to become a more valuable member of my community in case of collective attacks against vulnerable people, as has happened in America before.


  1. Make Concessions: People often enter a political debate convinced that compromise means weakness but there’s nothing wrong with flexibility. Good faith negotiations require that on both sides. Recognize we never get exactly what we want in life and especially not in politics. Pick a few things worth bending around. Maybe that’s raising certain age limits, or requiring more intensive safety classes for concealed handgun licenses or regulating bump stocks like full-auto rifles are already.


  1. Check Your Privilege: People often take this the wrong way, but it’s not so hard to understand. Just be honest about who you are and how you got where you are. For example, I arrived where I am in life through tons of hard work but unavoidably also by taking advantage of my ruling class race and gender. That doesn’t mean everything came easy but it sure helped give me a leg up over many other people and it’s foolish to pretend that isn’t part of my success. Don’t let reality make you defensive, but instead take it as a lesson in humbleness.

Donald Trump

  1. Burn the NRA: This is a great time for anyone who cares about the future of self defense to incinerate  their NRA card. When gun control supporters criticize them, vehemently join in. Point out how during the early 20th century, when Black Americans were put on trial for defending themselves against lynch mobs, they sat on the sidelines as leftists like the attorney Clarence Darrow upheld the 2nd Amendment in court as a human right for everyone. The NRA is racist, a fear mongering disaster and completely incompetent. Don’t hesitate to distance yourself from that cultural trash inferno.


  1. Avoid Macho Posturing: Remember that advertisement from a few years back suggesting an AR-15 could reissue your “man card?” Ever notice how many guys like to pose for internet photos with their pistol pointed directly at the camera? What about all the machismo flying around about how .45 pistols are more manly than 9mm? These are all pretty much the definition of toxic masculinity in action and turn otherwise sympathetic people against gun culture.
  2. Health Care Hypocrisy: There’s few things more embarrassing than when 2nd Amendment supporters suddenly become mental health advocates. If you are a Conservative, Liberals will immediately want to know what you have ever done that could strengthen the social safety net in general or specifically provide funding for mental health care. Besides scapegoating the mentally ill, should it turn out you voted for candidates or policies that actually reduced access to such services, this political dodge won’t fly very far.


  1. Big Picture Mentality: It’s the long view that matters. People focus on particular details or anecdotes that reinforce their narrative but remember that social violence in America is a giant spectrum. It goes up and down through complicated factors unrelated to how many weapons are available or what regulations exist. Don’t let sensational incidents distract from the fact that most gun related deaths involve pistols, close proximity and a small number of shots fired.


  1. Less Flag Waving: Most Liberals have a knee jerk reaction against the kind of bloated pageantry that many right-wingers enthusiastically embrace. They are rightfully suspicious after so many terrible disasters from the Vietnam and Gulf Wars to the Patriot Act came packaged inside red, white and blue wrapping paper. Ideas should stand on their own merits without patriotic camouflage. Don’t let gun rights be visually lumped in with so many other failed and ignoble exercises.


  1. Don’t Open Carry: I understand how for many folks, the open carry movement is about culturally normalizing firearms and raising awareness. These are completely worthwhile sentiments. However, if you’re trying to win people over by showing off a black rifle in the deli line, some reevaluation is in order. This comes across as an intimidation tactic and makes few friends compared to the numbers it alienates.

29 thoughts on “Ten Tips: How to Talk to Liberals About Guns

  1. RP

    Be carful on how you speak to others, and then Check your privilege. Not sure the idiot who wrote this takes their own advice seriously. Burn the NRA? Why, because of BS propaganda you bought in to about the NRA?

    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      I don’t need to buy into BS NRA propaganda, I’ve heard it from them personally. One of their fundraisers called me last year or so trying to tell me they needed my money because some UN resolution was about to pass that would invalidate the 2nd Amendment. That kinda fear mongering just feeds off weak minded people and is totally unethical. However, the main reason to burn the NRA is because of the reasons I listed which are counterproductive and turn people against the 2nd Amendment by association. I’ve ran a pro gun table at anti-war rallies, immigrant rights marches, anti fascist events and the first thing people ask is “Are you with the NRA.” As soon as I say no, people are happy to learn about community defense and the long pro-gun history of the left.

      1. JimTheo

        Really? The NRA is the ONLY national legacy group that has but ONE single issue-and thats in support of YOUR rights to own and use a firearm. That’s it. Nothing more. They oppose laws, treaties and politicians that work to stamp out that right. You think that ITAR is supportive of the US Constitution and its amendments? How about you read it yourself directly FROM the feds –https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-06-03/pdf/2015-12844.pdf
        Read page TWO and note where it starts to regulate dissemination of “Technical Data”. You don’t think there is a problem? Well then, try to get the working diagram of a modern firearm, technical data to REPAIR one yourself. Ain’t gonna happen as they are restricted. Try and contact S&W or any other manufacturer for a manual of disassembly and you will get the “Due to ITAR restrictions, we cannot divulge that info”

        The NRA does not support this international treaty the affects the operation of the US constitution, and this treaty most certainly does. Don’t kid yourself and don’t try to BS your readers.

        Point 3 for Concessions? I would if it were reciprocal-but generally it isn’t. To most of them,the whole issue is similar in concept to being half-pregnant. Citizens have forearms or not, nothing in between. Points 9 and 10 are well taken though.

      2. Ross Eliot Post author

        I wasn’t talking about ITAR. That’s outside the scope of my reference and probably it’s own article eventually. I mean the NRA calling people up and claiming the UN is about to come grab their guns, which I’ve heard personally. If I kept making absurd arguments and manipulating people’s fears to extort money from them, I’d have no credibility. When gun owners rely on the NRA as their one hope to save gun rights, they marry themselves to it’s regressive legacy. I’ve only been as successful as I have been supporting gun rights by attacking the NRA at every strep and declaring that I’m a heavily armed American and the NRA doesn’t stand for me.

      3. JimTheo

        Lemme see here… the one organization that solely focuses on maintaining US citizens gin rights is not perfect, and is better to throw them under the bus cause of pushback from those who disagree with them. Yup they are not perfect, but they have much more clout that ONE internet writer.

        Your attitude is akin to the shipwreck sailor floating in the middle of the ocean in a raft when after a storm he decides to abandon the raft cause he got too wet from the rain.

        You gotta be kidding me and everyone else reading this blog.

      4. Phillip

        The NRA had felt the need to chime in on the NFL protests through its NRATV arm. Dana Loesch’s “Clenched Fist of Truth” video said to me, a liberal gun owner, one thing: “The NRA has chosen sides in the culture wars, and it’s not yours.”

  2. Charlie

    I completely disagree with the open carry part. There are some states that will deny a concealed carry permit on the basis that you’ve smoked pot. Because it’s federally illegal, even though pot is recreationally legal in those same states. So you’re only choice is to OC.

    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      I totally understand you there. My statement was directed at the open carry movement, which seeks to normalize firearms in public but often ends up unnecessarily scaring people who didn’t expect to encounter a person, for example, with their AR at low ready in a department store. Someone who just wants to carry a pistol openly for their own defense is entirely a different situation. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  3. hemo cyanin

    Incredibly well done. As a liberal and lifelong gun owner — although I choose to mitigate my NRA membership by also belonging to the ACLU — well, I really wish more of my conservative friends would hear what you are saying. Everything was really on-point. I’m really tired of the notion that if you are staunchly pro-2A, you also have to buy into a whole slew of other issues ranging from religion to abortion. You don’t, and when people try to tie the 2A with all that right wing stuff together, all they do is alienate potential supporters.

  4. Anon

    This reads like an anti-gunner trying to pass themself off as a gun owner. Of course the author is some ponce from Oregon what a disaster. “Let’s all kumbuya and make semi-auto function listed as machine gun, what could go wrong?” Worthless mouth breathing stupidity OP, shame on you go eat Tide(If you aint already).

    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      This particular Oregon ponce had been conducting firearms safety among leftists communities for around 15 years, educating others about gun politics via multiple venues, training local anti-fascist groups in small arms, plus even organizing a fundraiser that benefited a right-wing gun rights organization. In other words, my kumbuya is all real life action. Yours is just tedious ones and zeros on the internet.

  5. Scott

    Well said. I’m a liberal. You hit every single issue that drives me nuts about dialoguing on guns. Especially the lack of compromise. I don’t even believe in a gun prohibition. Most liberals know it wouldn’t work at this point. But when we run into those completely uncompromising characters who won’t budge an inch? It makes the most reasonable among us scream “Fuck it. Ban the guns. I’m all out of sympathy.” And let’s be real. Anyone who thinks that absolutely nothing can be done about gun violence is wrong. Liberals are going to get a national gun control law passed eventually. Why not steer things in the right direction? Or help inform the discussion about what we CAN do rather than shoot down people’s efforts at making things better? Because acting as an obstacle will cause people to regard one as an obstacle. And then they’ll go reform from a place of ignorance. And the 2A advocates who could’ve added to the discussion would suffer the consequences.

    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      That’s absurd. Just as silly as Liberals dismissing everything on the Right as fascism. I’m sure you’re smarter than that. What a boring and typical blindspot so many fall into.

      1. JimTheo

        You really think that is absurd do you? How about it’s not..


        http://www.wwlp.com/world-news/new-stricter-california-gun-laws-to-take-effect-in-2018/1082515869 . Note that #one makes no difference as it is already covered in Fed law :https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1117-restrictions-possession-firearms-individuals-convicted

        This includes the ability of any judge without the benefit of proof, to have the authorities seize the firearms, mostly on the ability of “hearsay”. Sounds just ducky.

        I guess if there are a couple of turds in the soup it’s still ok to back it, even though you think the NRA is hollow.

        Just SMH

      2. Ross Eliot Post author

        Oh, I’ve never demanded perfection from the NRA or any other group for that matter. I’ll even tolerate a few turds in the soup. My problem with the NRA is fundamental, no matter how many short term victories they may accomplish. Gun rights can only survive if they expand beyond stereotypes and for ages the NRA shown little interest in that. In fact, instead of widening their appeal, the NRA has welded itself and gun culture by extension to the personality cult and regressive policies of a widely detested president. That’s shortsighted vision and I prefer to think long term.

  6. Gun Safety

    I believe in compromise. So what’s your part of the compromise? Will you support easier access to silencers, short barrel rifles, national conceal carry? Or are the only compromises you are interested in those where the other guy compromises and gives up more of his rights?

    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      Nope.You have it exactly. If I was going to accept more regulations, for instance of pistols, I would want to see relaxed regulations on rifles of any length, carry reciprocity, all that stuff.

  7. Jeffrey Liakos

    Ross Eliot, here are 3 questions I would like your thoughts on: 1: What would have stopped the Pulse nightclub massacre-fewer people with firearms or more people with firearms? 2: Why are gun-related tragedies politicized instead of seen as a law enforcement issue? 3: Since gun control is a policy that fails every time it is implemented, why not just eliminate the policy?

    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      1. More. However, realistically not by much. A person intent on massacring people in such crowded circumstances could probably not be effectively engaged before killing a large number of people. Even security with sidearms at the front door would be ill matched against a determined individual with a rifle. 2. I would say they are politicized as a law enforcement issue. People’s knee jerk reaction is often to ban everything that seems like a social problem, and then give law enforcement more powers to do so. It’s difficult for a more nuanced approach to take hold when the subject is so emotionally fraught. 3. It’s important to be realistic about what’s possible. We just don’t live in a society that would support abandoning all gun controls. Therefore, I’d rather try to guide what restrictions will exist than simply fight a losing battle against any at all.

  8. Nate

    So this is what you are saying. Shut up, surrender without a fight, and accept that I am smarter and more virtuous than you. All the while, you and damn near every other liberal has not so much as entered a gun store ever. For the fear that you might learn something provided your eyes don’t melt out of your head like the ending of the Ark of the Covenant at the sight of all those scary black killing machines. Stop telling me that you are right when most of you can’t string a coherent sentence much less an argument without resorting to bleating like the sheep in Animal Farm, “Guns Baaad”. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. And if I disagree with you I must be a racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, fascist Nazi and I must be lynched for the greater good.
    The best part is, you don’t care about guns, not really, you don’t care about people, not really, you don’t care about freedom, not really. If you did, you would love all the freedoms, not just the one you invent, which is the freedom to restrict other people’s freedoms. I care about the women who are raped, I care about the children killed in mass shootings, I care about everyone. That is why I urge everyone to exercise their right to self-preservation. Note I did not say anything about guns, because I am not even talking about that; what I am talking about is that you should value your own life and the life of your friends and family over that of someone who would do you harm. Weather that harm is derived from crime, or crazy or a religion bent on the eradication of all those who refuse to submit. What it comes down to is, do I have the absolute right to keep myself and those I love alive and safe? If the answer is yes, you probably own a gun, if not, then well, good luck with that whistle.

    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      That’s a pretty substantial chunk of feedback for someone who clearly didn’t even read the article. It’s also hilarious you imagine myself and other well armed leftists are afraid of learning something in a gun store. Where do you think our firearms come from?

  9. Mike

    A necropost, but I think a reasonable one. Since this was written, the NRA’s extravagant and wasteful spending and essential takeover by vendor Ackerman-McQueen have become public knowledge, causing many former supporters to redirect their support to groups like the 2nd Amendment Foundation, Gun Owners of America, or related groups. The NRA wanted people to think they were the only game in town, they never were. Here are a whole bunch of groups; https://www.pewpewtactical.com/nra-alternatives/
    Many of the general groups have strong links and work together regularly and with the NRA on those occasions it is actually working for firearm rights..

    Some are also some great examples of these groups addressing areas that matter to liberals that Ross raised. Example:Washington State voters passed a poorly written universal background check initiative that made it almost impossible for people experiencing significant suicidal ideation to have a trusted person hold onto their firearms while they got help. Who stepped up and quietly worked with the Washington State Psychiatric Association to identify the changes needed and to get the law changed? The 2nd Amendment Foundation. They are also one of the two groups leading the Safer Homes Coalition working to fight the #1 cause of gun related deaths, suicide. This is where mental health and firearms really intersect, not mass shootings and not homicides in general. see https://saferhomescoalition.org/about-us/our-team/

    Who is still pushing a national version of a universal background check law that contains exactly the same flaws that would prevent these life saving transfers to friends and relatives? Everytown for Gun Safety and the Giffords Center. Seriously. I wish I was joking. I also wish I was joking saying that not member of the Washington state congressional delegation, democrat or republican even tried to raise this issue the last time the law came up for debate. Not one. There is plenty of health care hypocrisy around and it’s found across the political spectrum. But some firearm rights groups have shown real concern about mental health and not just after a mass shooting.

    Too often, the NRA hasn’t even pushed for firearm rights when it has had the chance if it might interfere with fund raising. The NRA opposed the lawsuits that became Heller vs DC and McDonald vs. Chicago until it was clear they were happening whether the NRA wanted it or not. They didn’t want a ruling that the 2nd amendment was also an individual right….might get in the way of fear mongering I suspect. And there is something more people need to realize: the NRA is only powerful because of the intensity of support of firearm rights supporters. Many people for gun control and some against it think the NRA is driving support for firearm rights. It isn’t. It’s following supporters and working hard to extract money from them for its own use. Many gun control advocates imagine that if they destroy the NRA, politicians will stop opposing gun control as they will no longer fear the NRA. They will not. They don’t fear the NRA. They want the support of its supporters. Having the NRA, its thinly veiled racism, and its support for a range of right wing culture war issues that detract from the real focus, out of the picture would make the people powered nature of its actual strength much more apparent. It might be one of the best things to happen to people who care about firearm rights. The resources and support that they soak up would be better directed to more effective organizations that do more than fund Wayne LaPierre’s lavish lifestyle. Canning the NRA isn’t just good for talking to liberals about guns and having them listen, it is arguably good for firearm rights period .

    1. Ross Eliot Post author

      Here’s a necro-response! Thanks for all that additional info. Another thing that struck me recently was how in the aftermath of the 2012 Clackamas mall shooting, the NRA immediately ran a film crew out to conduct an interview with the CHL holder who played a role in stopping the assault. Then 2 weeks ago a mass shooting against BLM activists was ended when an anti-fascist with a CHL used their AR pistol to disable the attacker. It’s a scenario pro-2A groups should jump on: “Crazed Murderer Stopped By Brave Citizen with Scary Black Rifle!” Except the killer was a Trump/Qanon right wing conspiracy believer, so they would rather ignore the incident or spread misinformation about it.


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