Since the start of the pandemic and the corresponding Great Gun Run of 2020/2021, we’ve seen millions of Americans embrace their Second Amendment rights for the very first time, and not all of them are conservatives worried about their individual freedoms being taken away. There’s been a rise in the number of self-described liberals with a growing interest in gun ownership over the past 20 months or so as well, including Samuel Ligon, a novelist and teacher at Eastern Washington University.
Ligon recently wrote about what drove him to take class on basic firearms handling as he debated buying a gun, and as it turns out, it was conservative 2A activists that had the biggest impact on him.
This was a few months after the BLM demonstrations in Spokane, Washington, when the militia was out at night with their guns and camouflage costumes. Kate and I saw them on TV and Twitter, in Spokane and all over the West, men with assault weapons ready for war.
I’d seen them in Olympia, too, armed citizens asserting their rights. The third-grade teachers would usher their students back to the buses, their Capitol tour abruptly over. This was before the Capitol grounds were fenced, before people started shooting each other during weekend protests. In August, Kate and I saw a guy at the Country Store shopping with his wife and toddler with a gun on his hip, a posture I found idiotic, intimidating, infuriating. He was why I wanted to go to gun school. I hated him for walking around like that.
I didn’t tell Kate I was going for weeks, and when I did tell her, she didn’t say much. In fact, she didn’t say anything. I considered canceling, but it had been so hard to get a spot. Everyone wanted to go to gun school. The pandemic — or something worse, whatever it was that had been tearing us apart for years — was working our fear, making some of us conclude that we might have to shoot somebody soon, which is what we mean when we talk about self-defense.
For Ligon, it was the armed response to the “demonstrations” that made him want a firearm for protection, but for many others, it was the riots, looting, and violence in cities from coast-to-coast that made them think about their Second Amendment rights for the first time in their lives. And even after the riots and demonstrations subsided, the violence has remained. Ligon doesn’t say anything about the crime rate in Spokane influencing his desire to own a gun, but homicides in the city doubled in 2020 compared to 2019, and I don’t think the “militia” was responsible for any of them.
But it wasn’t just Ligon who was interested in picking up a firearm. His brother told him he’d bought a gun. His brother-in-law admitted he’d bought a shotgun, though he hadn’t yet purchased any shells.