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Conversation with an anti-gunner

I walked into the office where our town’s library supporters hold periodic used-book sales. Before I could reach the shelves, the manager — as pleased with herself as a kindergartener on show-and-tell day — handed me a sheet of paper she was about to tape to the wall.

The page, torn out of a notebook, held a crude pencil drawing.

The picture, though hard to make out, was of a live baby on one hand and a dead toddler on the other. Between them was a figure of a man holding a rectangle, pointing it at the dead child.

“REPUBLICAN ABORTION,” the text read: “Don’t kill them before they’re born; kill them after they’re born.”

It took me a moment to realize this was a representation of the latest “progressive” Twitter meme: Those evil gun-lovers (Republicans by definition, don’tcha know?) don’t approve of abortion, but they’re perfectly happy to have living children shot to death. The rectangle in the man’s hands, it turned out, was her attempt to draw an automatic weapon.


Now, I know this woman — not well, but by long, casual acquaintance. Call her Wanda. Everybody who values the local library knows her as a tireless and effective volunteer. OTOH, everybody who follows local politics knows her as an ardent activist in our small, but assertive, “resistance” group.

But she knows me, too, and if she’s ever listened during our many chance conversations, she knows I’m a libertarian/anarchist. Why she handed me that thing, obviously expecting me to agree and cheer her Twitterpated cleverness, I couldn’t say.

Handing it back and curbing my irritation at being confronted with propaganda at a charity sale, I said, “Wanda, I don’t agree with you on this issue. I’m a gun-rights supporter. I don’t want to engage with you about it, because this is an area where there’s no middle ground, there’s no place for a meeting of minds. So let’s just leave it at that and not butt heads.”

She would not leave it at that.

She proceeded to barrage me with every bit of the standard anti-gun cant. The children this. Machine guns and bump stocks that. “Canada and Sweden this. Somebody’s got do DO something that. Nobody needs this. Sandy Hook and Parkland that. Exactly like a car so on so forth and etcetera.

Every freaking cliche in the disarmament repertoire — none of it backed by anything but headlines, Twitter, and emotions.

At that point, had I had my wits about me, I’d have either walked out or I’d have re-stated, “I’m not going to engage,” then ignored anything further she said. I knew she’d just keep talking at me about the subject as long as I’d allow it, so walking out was probably my best course.

But so much of what she blurted was so blatantly, almost cosmically, ignorant! So voluminously, verbosely ignorant!

I tried to answer or at least provide a different perspective. I told her about Gary Kleck’s research on defensive gun uses. I noted the connections between genocide and disarmament. I pointed out that the kind of laws she wanted weren’t effective. I reminded her that most of the big school shooters either got their guns illegally or through failures of existing laws and systems. I asked her if she knew about the biggest-ever school massacre in the U.S. — which wasn’t committed with firearms.

It was like talking to human Jell-O.

Her side of the conversation was ever-shifting and filled with non-sequiturs, unpredictable wobbles of subject. If I even came close to making a good point, she’d zoom off in some other direction. Example:

She: “You can’t fight a government with guns because the government always has more.”

Me: “Really? Vietnamese peasants beat the most powerful military in the world. Resistance movements in Europe couldn’t stop Hitler, but they certainly put a crimp in his plans and saved innocent lives. Look at Afghanistan. A bunch of tribal goat herders first defeated the British, then the Russians, and now they’ve fought the U.S. military to a standstill.”

She (triumphantly): “But you wouldn’t want to live in Afghanistan, would you?”


Not until after I left did I guess what she meant: You wouldn’t want to live in any country that had enough guns to defeat a government. Me, I was thinking more along the lines of not wanting to live in an Islamic, warlord-controlled, tribal hellhole where women have no rights and little boys are raped for sport. But to her, guns was all that counted. If Afghanis could drive three of the biggest empires on earth out of their country, by definition they had too many firearms.

And although of course she didn’t say it aloud and never would: Everyone should submit unquestioningly to the superior force of the strongest government. Because a nice, settled tyranny or successful foreign invasion is always preferable to the chaos of armed resistance. And of course our government always knows what’s best for us — as long as the right people are in charge.


She also had the curious attitude that, since she had never needed a gun, nobody else could ever need a gun. She recalled times she’d been perfectly fine without a firearm in a dubious circumstance, therefore anyone else’s desire to own a gun for personal or community protection was sheer paranoia.

Similarly — yet more weirdly — she was convinced nobody could possibly build guns at home (as I said many would if her laws were passed). Why not? Because she didn’t know how to build a gun at home. She thought the very idea was outlandish, ridiculous, impossible. “You could build a car at home, too,” she snipped, “but nobody would try.” She had no idea that a firearm is a much simpler mechanism than an automobile. Didn’t realize a well-equipped garage workshop and a capable operator could produce a firearm. Or multiple firearms. (Good thing I never mentioned 80% kits or 3D printing.)

And: “We don’t need guns. Because to solve our problems we have ….” and here she started ticking items off on her fingers “… the vote. And universal education. And …”

At that point I stopped her to tell her how effective I thought those things were for protecting either individual or political freedom.


I don’t know how long we talked. Ten minutes at most, just the two of us in the store the whole time. We covered a lot of territory in those minutes because of her rapid subject switching. I felt like she was firing at me with a fully automatic, random spray-and-pray anti-gun cliche weapon. The only bit of old nonsense she didn’t verbally fire was Kellermann and his “43 times more likely” fraud. Oh, and she left out Saturday night specials, too; but then, those are passe in this era of “semi-automatic machine guns” and Republicans who want all the dead schoolchildren only a “high caliber magazine” or a “shoulder thing that goes up” can produce.

She knew nothing beyond Twitter level. She’d never cared enough to inform herself on the issues. But by damn, her ignorance was passionate, and she knew she was right about everything.

I belatedly got smart and left without looking at the books for sale.

The only positive is that the conversation was civil on both sides and never ventured into Twitter-rage territory.

But I was, as they say, triggered. Quite rattled inwardly. I knew I shouldn’t have engaged at all and I was ineffective when I did.

I do my damnedest to avoid discussions with emotionalist slogan-slingers. On the occasions I get sucked in, I find it a scary reminder of the mindset of those who most avidly want to control others. They don’t need facts because they have ideals. They don’t need research because data and case studies are cold, and they’re such warm, caring people. They don’t need history because they’ll do it better when their sort are in power. They don’t need knowledge of human nature because people will change when laws tell them they must. They don’t need economics because as long as it’s “for the children” no cost is too great. They don’t need to listen to other points of view, because the slogans they’ve memorized say everything that matters. They do need guns and bigger prisons and the world’s most enormous and invasive killing force to make their fantasies come true, but they don’t like to think about that. After all, they’re the nice people — unlike us paranoid, murder-loving savages.


There was only one moment where I may (it’s impossible to know) have reached her. Even then, I don’t think I reached her in a positive way.

She: “Nobody will ever come after you. You’ll just have to become more responsible and register your guns with the government, just like you do your car.”

Me: “Ain’t happening, Wanda. Even in places like New York and New Jersey, where people are a lot more conditioned to government intrusions than we are, compliance with their new gun laws is practically nil. Nobody can know the exact figures, but the best guess is that only about five percent are obeying the kind of laws you advocate. Almost nobody. Everybody else is just keeping their guns private and keeping their mouths shut about it.”

Non-compliance was among the many things about which Wanda had no clue. Apparently she had never even considered the possibility.

Finally, in that moment, she appeared to believe something I said. Finally, she didn’t change the subject to The Dreaded Bump Stocks or “the children” or hunters who carelessly shoot horses. She just went silent — briefly, but wide-eyed with alarm.

As I left, she was tearing off a piece of tape to affix her impromptu poster to the wall. I doubt that’ll help the library any; not in this rural, pro-gun community. Me, I’ve been a regular at the monthly used-book sales, but that was my last.


  1. deLaune
    deLaune March 6, 2019 3:27 am

    Very nicely thought through and written; I especially like the paragraph beginning “I do my damnedest to avoid discussions…”
    But the title could be improved. How about “Claire and the Tar Baby”?

  2. Jorge
    Jorge March 6, 2019 4:24 am

    Funny, I just had a similar experience. With an American, who ranted about the US but also about Costa Rica. I tried not to engage but he would not let up. Finally I just walked away.

    My conversations with Costa Ricans on this topic tend to be very civil and focus on the utility aspects. In CR and indeed in most of the world the concept of “rights” is very different than the one in the US. Rights here are something granted by government and codified into law. So I tend not to talk Rights much as I would like to.

    Anyway, I would not skip the monthly book sales. Just ignore her. Go, look at the books, get what you want and leave. Roll your eyes at whatever he tapes up.

  3. mobiuswolf
    mobiuswolf March 6, 2019 5:48 am

    Coversation with a dipshit. Is that redundant?

  4. Shel
    Shel March 6, 2019 5:55 am

    I agree with Jorge; it’s not good to allow someone’s ignorance to negatively affect your behavior.

    There is a bunch of stuff on the ‘net about how conservatives’ and liberals’ brains are different. This one seems as comprehensive as any.

    I always end up thinking about John Glubb’s “The Fate of Empires..” in which he talks about how in the last stages, internal conflicts grow worse.

  5. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal March 6, 2019 6:14 am

    You’ll never be able to reason with anti-liberty bigots. Reason, logic, and principles are foreign concepts to them. They live in a world of cognitive dissonance that doesn’t even make them very uncomfortable. If they feel it, they’ll just blame you for triggering them.

  6. Bob G.
    Bob G. March 6, 2019 7:37 am

    Good essay, Claire, and timely, as this subject is going to keep coming up with the statist majority in the US House of Representatives. I love how they’re the “kind and gentle” ones, who want to employ others to use deadly force on their behalf to make the rest of us comply with their ever-changing wishes.

    Today it’s bump stocks and “full semi-automatic” rifles. Tomorrow it’s jail time for using the wrong pronoun.

    Wanda would have trouble coping with what a lot of my friends build in their garages. Everything from custom motorcycles to AR-15s and even AKs (which are MUCH more challenging for a home hobbyist than an AR: I’m even thinking of scratch building my own AR lower from sheet metal and scraps, but I’m not even going to try to build an AK receiver!).

  7. ellendra
    ellendra March 6, 2019 7:52 am

    “You could build a car at home, too,” she snipped, “but nobody would try.”

    Actually, people already do. Enough that, at least in Wisconsin, the DOT even offers a special license plate for home-built vehicles.

  8. just waiting
    just waiting March 6, 2019 8:13 am

    The saddest part is the damage she is doing to the library. You won’t go back to the sale because of Wanda’s “politics”. I wonder how many others have decided to skip the library because of Wanda as well? There’s a time and place for everything, this wasn’t either.

    Have you thought about mentioning your conversation to the library director? I know, that would be snitching. But maybe she needs a talk about appropriate topics for conversations with visitors. Better than having the library suffer.

  9. Chris
    Chris March 6, 2019 8:26 am

    Too bad, in retrospect, that when she handed you the paper you didn’t rip it up. She relinquished it to you voluntairily, so at that point it was yours to do with what you wanted. I suspect the conversation would have followed a whole different course.

  10. Joel
    Joel March 6, 2019 8:31 am

    “emotionalist slogan-slingers”

    Thank you for that.

  11. Tahn
    Tahn March 6, 2019 9:43 am


    I have found that when responding to gun grabbers, especially women, I tell them that as a father and grandfather to women, I will not listen nor support ANY attempt to weaken women’s ability to defend themselves and that I totally believe in a woman’s right to be equal to men in their right of self defense. After I say that, I ask them, “Don’t you believe in a woman’s right to.equality in self defense?

    Usually, they don’t have much of a come back, except a blank look, although I did have one woman spit and sputter she was so mad. She didn’t have an answer though.

  12. dorvann33 234
    dorvann33 234 March 6, 2019 10:03 am

    I remember talking to one anti-gunner who kept tell me I was paranoid to think someone might need guns to defend themselves from the government because the US government would never use force against its citizens. I then reminded her that the US government removed millions of Native Americans by force and who is to say if that could happened again.

  13. Grant
    Grant March 6, 2019 10:23 am

    Twenty odd years ago I spent some time doing bulk distribution of the Omaha World Herald in Lincoln. I filled vending machines and dropped bundles off at stores, including a 24 hour convenience store where Richard was the manager and worked nights. We had interesting discussions, he was a former English teacher and liberal, and of course, anti-gun. Sadly, he must have been taking some money to support his ex and family as well as his second family, and one day I arrived to find district managers in the store. He had driven all the way to western Nebraska where his parents lived, taken one of their guns, and committed suicide. I suppose it was his way of helping increase gun death statistics as well as to hurt his parents at the same time. Messy thinking and a messy way to leave, hurting as many as possible.

  14. Shel
    Shel March 6, 2019 11:15 am

    I think just waiting’s idea of talking to the director is an excellent one. You aren’t snitching; she was doing this at work. Pushing political opinions under that circumstance is inappropriate at best. People who advance those ideas definitely don’t care about subtleties like courtesy and appropriateness; they are determined to steamroll their agenda by any means possible. Trying to convince her of anything makes me think of the wise advice, “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

    In a place where I have recently worked there was a person whom I’m convinced has clinical Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A social worker I talked to told me that insurers don’t want to pay for therapy for that condition (or for Borderline Personality Disorder) because therapy tends not to be successful. I came to the conclusion, after some thought, that it’s simply a technical name for *ssh*l*.

    The suicide story is a particularly sad one. I was told once of a case where a mother got her grown twin children on a party line and told them, “Listen to this,” whereupon she blew her brains out. Currently I have two good friends who are having serious marital troubles; police have been called a total of three times that I know of. The guy most likely has drug problems. I’m staying as far away as possible.

  15. brew
    brew March 6, 2019 11:44 am

    “Because a nice, settled tyranny or successful foreign invasion is always preferable to the chaos of armed resistance.”

    That alternative is unacceptable. Blithering idiots like Wanda just don’t understand that.

  16. Claire
    Claire March 6, 2019 12:03 pm

    Thanks for your standard excellent input, guys. And I’m sorry for making a BIG STUPID TYPO right in the first line. (Fixed now.)

    I confess I did think about alerting some “higher up” about Wanda politicizing the book sale. I decided not to for several reasons (aside from the snitch factor).

    Wanda has done a remarkable job with the book sale. Five years ago it was just a jumble of unsorted books, a real mess. She stepped in, took it over, and turned it into a beautifully organized little shop. She’s also the entire staff of the event, even though she’s unpaid. Month after month, she gives a ton of her time to it and does the job well.

    Also — sigh — our state has one of those ghastly red-flag laws, where practically anybody can call a raid on anybody else’s house, claiming they’ve got guns and are dangerous people. Imagine making an enemy out of an anti-gunner who had the power to do that to you? Would Wanda do anything so horrible — even though she believes all gun owners are, by definition, dangerous people? I doubt it. But I prefer to stay on her good side.

  17. larryarnold
    larryarnold March 6, 2019 12:32 pm

    I’ve talked to my share of anti-gun folks, and, as I expect you did, try to politely use facts to counter their arguments.

    I remember encountering one at a private party. She talked at me for ten minutes or so, then gave up. After the party the hostess apologized, and I told her it was not a problem. After the interchange, one of the guests had complemented me for keeping my cool, and two others signed up for one of my classes.

    If other folks are listening in, there’s a difference between winning the argument, and winning the encounter.

    Go back to the book sale. If you’re really feeling the burn, don’t report Wanda to the library director, donate some used books to the sale, through the director. You know, those books. You already have one to pass on, right?

  18. John Wilder
    John Wilder March 6, 2019 7:16 pm

    I’ve seen that the greater and more powerful the argument, the MORE set an anti-gunner gets in their mindset. They cannot process logic and slip back to emotion. Their amygdala just shuts them down. Thankfully they’re so outnumbered here (95 to 5) that our rights seem to increase every year.

  19. maDDtraPPer
    maDDtraPPer March 6, 2019 7:57 pm

    It is an emotional issue. Unfortunately emotions and facts don’t really play well together, if at all. We are all guilty of it in our own lives, illogically yelling at our dogs, the TV or the car that won’t start. Most of us are smart enough to know better and or recognize the difference (and be embarrassed by it). However today it seems like feelings matter more than facts, or rights for that matter, and emotions are running wild in politics and causing some serious problems which will lead to dangerous places.

  20. Jim
    Jim March 6, 2019 10:39 pm

    Too bad you didn’t tell her about Kit Cars, one could very well build their own cars.

  21. Ron Johnson
    Ron Johnson March 7, 2019 3:12 am

    It is nearly impossible to argue someone into accepting your position. Humans are just not wired that way. Being a slow learner, I have spent much of my life being argumentative, almost all of it wasted.

    On the other hand, doubt is a slow acid. “Yeah, that’s a lot of deaths from gunshots…I hear guns are used defensively about 1 million times per year…I wonder how many lives are saved.”

    That doesn’t always work, and one doesn’t get the immediate satisfaction of seeing one’s tormentor crushed by superior logic, but surprisingly often it causes the other side to reconsider elements of their arguments.

    I had a frustrating discussion/argument with a conservative friend this weekend. It was one of those wide-ranging formless conversations that results in disagreements over damned near everything from immigration to foreign policy to 911. I made no points because I didn’t heed my own advice. He stayed solidly in his camp, and I suspect I just made him more intransigent. On the other hand, he brought up some things about 911 that I had not heard, causing me to doubt things I thought were absolutely true…there’s that acid again.

  22. deLaune
    deLaune March 7, 2019 3:23 am

    Ron makes an excellent point.
    A couple of years ago I was talking to a man from my church. He was a real “Team America” patriot. I simply asked him, “where does the Bible say, ‘the best defense is a strong offense'”? We never spoke on the subject again.
    Six months later, he was enthusiastically explaining to me that a standing army isn’t Biblical.
    Planting seeds…

  23. s
    s March 7, 2019 9:58 am

    In my freshman year at college, a professor told me
    “Never talk to anyone whose gain is less than one.”
    It has served me well – when I have the discipline to heed it.

  24. Noah Body
    Noah Body March 7, 2019 11:27 am

    I know it seemed like an exercise in futility, but you never know. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe you planted some seeds of doubt. Sometimes people do change their positions. Case in point: Paxton Quigley.

    In fact, if you encounter Wanda again, you might mention that to her. Maybe recommend books by Paxton Quigley, and mention she used to be anti-gun, but changed her view after her friend was raped.

  25. M
    M March 7, 2019 5:09 pm

    So – this where “we” are at in Public Discourse? She has already won (right or wrong) because Laws cause fear. If anything this isolates in one small snippet our entire system of Governance…kneel and you’ll be left alone…for now

    “Also — sigh — our state has one of those ghastly red-flag laws, where practically anybody can call a raid on anybody else’s house, claiming they’ve got guns and are dangerous people. Imagine making an enemy out of an anti-gunner who had the power to do that to you? Would Wanda do anything so horrible — even though she believes all gun owners are, by definition, dangerous people? I doubt it. But I prefer to stay on her good side.“

  26. AG
    AG March 7, 2019 10:55 pm

    Enough reasonable folks being on the receiving end of similar bizarro outbursts is what has created and made popular the non-playable character (NPC) meme.

    Then there are the burgeoning fields of r/K selection theory and BioLeninism that go a loooooong way towards explaining similar…. psychosis.

  27. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2019 12:58 pm

    They *do* need guns and bigger prisons and the world’s most enormous and invasive killing force to make their fantasies come true

    Wanda, and 200 million of her fellow travelers, are not unarmed innocents. Wanda may be a good library volunteer, but she also built the machine for mass murder. It doesn’t matter why she did this; what matters is she can’t be talked out of it.

    Now that AOC plans to strip you of fossil fuel energy, this military is pointed directly at you. There are no more gulches to retreat to. Education-based approaches to liberty have been tried since the ’70’s — the 1770’s — and are an objective failure.

    Wanda and her massively-armed employees will be telling you to get on the green new deal boxcar. Will you impose freedom at gunpoint? Or will you obey the majority because it’s legitimate? The reason hundreds of millions have to be held at gunpoint is because nothing less will stop the nationalistic socialists.

  28. Dave Snellings
    Dave Snellings March 10, 2019 10:36 am

    You have aptly articulated the frustration of trying to educate a person on the left. First…….as only time demonstrates, but is not generally apparent in the beginning, no amount of facts you offer this person will persuade them, because………FACT IS, they are not interested in being objective or finding truth.
    They are mindless, feel good, idealists who are steadfast in their beliefs………and NOTHING short of being mugged or raped will cause them to consider any other points of vies……and even then, an experience like that may not sufficiently alter their thinking.
    They are easily manipulated into being useful idiots by the ruling class that wishes to dispose of most of us & keep the rest as their personal slaves.
    I have spent 40+ years trying to educate others about principles of freedom. In that time I only came across, maybe…….3 who demonstrated enough interest to at least seek further documentation or education on the issues. Those folks were instinctually interested before they met me, but did not know where to go to get more information.
    I (generally) don’t waste my time on face to face engagements beyond the time it takes me to ascertain if the person is objective & has demonstrable interest in truth.
    I will take the (small amount of) time to forward articles / videos to my mailing list, usually with some brief history of the subject & some commentary, in the hopes that………maybe I might catch one of them “in a weak moment” which would encourage them to look at the information………..and possibly care to objectively consider it.
    My wife says I’m just wasting my time, because in her opinion, when they see something “political” from me they just delete it. She’s probably right, but there is always a chance, & I don’t have that much invested in it.
    Nevertheless, silence implies consent. I do not consent & morality & honor dictate that we all should do whatever we can to push back against oppression.
    You (are obligated to ) do whatever you can, & after that, it is what it is. “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not just do nothing. What I can do I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.”- Edward Everett Hale
    I will never willingly submit. As corny as it sounds, I would chose death over forfeiture of liberty. Living as a slave is not living…’s simply existing with the understanding you will be abused every day until you die…….That’s not for me.
    Thank you Claire for your persistence in the pursuit of spreading the theme of liberty. I have never read anything you ever wrote that I did not agree with.

  29. Anon
    Anon March 11, 2019 10:43 am

    Interestingly, I find the same kind of reaction you encountered when it comes to vaccinations. The amount of vitriol, based wholly on headlines, and the “you’re endangering my child” declarations are rampant. The view that questioning vaccination policies and efficacy is “a rejection of science” is given without a thought to the question of liberty (or a review of the science of vaccine damage, who funds the studies given in defense of the status quo, etc.). And this all on a gun forum! You just never know where the resistance may reside.

  30. Val E. Forge
    Val E. Forge March 11, 2019 2:53 pm

    I have found its best not to mess with “true believers” but rather harvest the much more abundant “low hanging fruit” of people who were not raised with guns and haven’t really given the question much thought one way or another. You’ll convert FAR more of them to our side than the Wandas of the world. Trust me. I’ve done it. I ran women’s firearms classes for years. It works. Its a numbers game folks.

  31. Desertrat 1
    Desertrat 1 March 12, 2019 11:21 am

    As a generality, I’ve noticed that the less that some person knows about an issue, the stronger their opinions…

  32. Antibubba
    Antibubba March 13, 2019 6:58 am

    “Would you like to go to the range with me sometime?” can go a long way toward changing a mind.

  33. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair March 14, 2019 7:13 am

    “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” — George Bernard Shaw

  34. NITZAKHON ProIsrael
    NITZAKHON ProIsrael March 19, 2019 9:23 am

    Welcome to TEFLON INTELLECT land…

    As many others have, correctly, pointed out – you’ll never convince someone whose basis for believing something is EMOTIONAL, not fact-based. And that’s the problem. However, echoing those others, there may well be others around you who listen who aren’t so emotionally vested in their belief that they’ll say “Waaait a minute… I think I want to look something up here.”

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