Some men, when they retire, take up fishing, others golf. Not I. Perhaps decades of watching deer romp through my garden subliminally planted the notion. Or binge-watching “The Rifleman” reruns on Saturday mornings. Whatever the reason, I surprised my 64-year-old liberal self recently when I realized I wanted to try a new pastime: shooting.
I learned something quickly: There are not many left-of-center gun owners. The connection between guns, God and conservatism remains a bit of a mystery to me, and — as I found at my first NRA convention — balancing on only one leg of that triad can be stressful.
What better place to shop for your first rifle than among the 15 acres of guns and materiel that recently occupied a corner of downtown Atlanta for three days? I know the NRA’s reputation, but I went to the convention with an open mind, prepared to have my stereotypical notions challenged, and hoping to connect with gun owners who feel, as I do, that it’s high time the organization returned to its roots as a group promoting gun safety, training and responsible ownership. I’d heard, encouragingly, that 90% of NRA members support universal background checks.
Indeed, the attendees were a more diverse group than I’d expected, with the notable exception of race. Amid the three Bs — beards, baseball caps and bellies — there were cute elderly couples walking the exhibit floor hand in hand; mother/daughter pairs; even entire families. I met a teacher from Indiana pulling her young son in a small wagon through the cavernous exhibit hall.
by William Alexander