As I mentioned about a year ago, many of my friends and family expressed concerns for my safety when they learned that I frequented Chicago-area gun stores and ranges. They worried that gun owners were racist, and would open fire on me for being an African American. Such concerns were totally unfounded, and I experienced not a shred of racism from gun store/range owners, employees, or customers. Instead, I found my fellow Chicago-area gun enthusiasts to be kind, helpful, and fun to be around. I recently moved to Iowa, and therefore had to find gun stores and ranges near my new home. The same people who were (incorrectly) concerned for my safety in Chicago area gun stores/ranges renewed their concerns, saying that while I got lucky in Chicago, I was certain to experience racism at Iowa gun stores/ranges. Having been to three gun stores and a range, I can now say that their concerns were once again unfounded:
Iowa Gun Stores
Starting with the Iowa gun stores, I found the owners, employees, and customers to be just as friendly as those in Chicago. In fact, I would say that the customer service was a bit better. I again experienced not a shred of racism, whether in the store by myself or with my fiancé (who is Caucasian). Indeed, things were so uneventful that I can’t really think of anything else to say.
A Members-Only Iowa Gun Range
I’ve also joined a members-only gun range that is about 10 miles from my new home in Iowa. The range is down a gravel road, in a secluded part of the countryside. Since this range is a private club, they could lawfully choose to deny me membership based upon race, and there is nothing that I or anyone else could do about it. When I arrived at the range to see their facilities and then possibly join, about a dozen people were shooting trap. Despite the dire predictions of some of my relatives, not one of them opened fire on me. I went over to the range caretaker, and expressed interest in joining. He explained the club rules, dues, and range locations, then gave me an application. I filled out the application, wrote a check for the (quite reasonable) yearly dues, and was given my membership card on the spot.
The next week, my fiancé and I went to th range to fire my new Rock River Arms AR-15. When we got there, four other people were already using the 200 yard rifle range. When we arrived, they came over to say hello and introduce themselves. We discussed guns and gun laws for a few minutes, during which time I learned that one of my fellow club members was from the Chicago area, and had once lived about a block from the apartment where I lived until last month. Another member lent me his staple gun to hang up my targets, since I had neglected to bring one. Yet another person offered to let me use his 20x – 60x spotting scope, since I had brought only a 6x scope, and was having difficulty seeing where I had hit my targets. One of the members helped me persuade my recoil sensitive fiancé that the AR-15 would be much more enjoyable to shoot than 3″ magnum slugs from my shotgun. My fiancé and I then finished shooting, went home, and had lunch, despite some friends’ concerns that we would promptly be shot by members of the gun club.
As I’ve found time and time again, gun owners are good people, and fears of racism are generally unfounded. While I’m certain that there are some racist gun owners, just as there are racist doctors, lawyers, bakers, and cops, I have yet to encounter even a single racist gun owner. Instead, the gun owners I’ve met have been universally kind, helpful, and all around great men and women.