Art by Peyton Stotelymre / Daily Nexus

I come from the land of lifted trucks: big Powerstroke diesels rolling coal down the street, Confederate flags mounted and flapping away in their beds. I come from the land of cowboy boots and camo Mossy Oak hats, of lite beer and sold-out country shows, of “goddamn Chaldeans” and Obama-faced toilet paper bought online for $7.99. It’s the land of trailer parks and liquor stores on every corner, the land where “MAGA” bumper stickers cover the remnants of faded Bush/Cheney ’04 ones. I come from the land of suburban horse owners, the land of pregnant girls walking at high school graduations and of early-20s marriages. It’s the land of regular Planned Parenthood protesters and occasional Christians.

Where I come from, Trump fans aren’t creatures lurking out in the briar somewhere. They’re my friends. Some of them are my closest friends still. They’re the friendly people at Yogurt Mill who put extra cookie dough in my orders. They’re in my family, even: my uncles and my father.

Unsurprisingly, most people I know and am acquainted with in my hometown vote Republican. What may be surprising, though, is that I’m from Southern California. I’m from the southeastern part of San Diego County, colloquially and notoriously known as “East County.” East County is both a place and, at times, a pejorative. To be called “East County” is generally not a compliment, though I suppose some may take it as such.

Despite being a product of California, East County is indeed a red majority; a 2014 poll saw around 16,500 conservative voters to 13,600 liberal. It makes sense. I never felt like I was on common ground with anyone there, not ideologically, at least. Honestly, I’m not quite sure where I got my Godless Liberal™ ideals from. My mother’s a liberal moderate, a nice shade of robin’s egg blue. My father, though we seldom discuss this stuff, is, I know, deeply red. He always beams with nostalgic pride when he remembers how I, at age two, went around one Halloween reminding others to “Vote Republican!” Those were simpler times.

It is because of my father that I know my way around a firearm. To many at this school, that may sound like a betrayal. A red sympathizer? A village child in cahoots with the man-eater from the jungles? Absurd! Well, allow me to make this my confession, then. I hunted a lot when I was younger, and I continue to go one or two times each summer if I have the opportunity. I won’t speak to any condemnations you may have of my meat-eating ways, but I always took pride in the fact that at least some of my food was killed and prepared in a respectful way. More so than the shit at the supermarket, at least.

I have shot, cleaned and otherwise handled a good amount of shotguns, rifles and handguns. I have safety training (received when I was 12), and I have respect for all firearms and a very clear idea of their purpose: to kill. Yes, you can say that it’s to defend, you can say that it’s a tool, or you can claim that it’s handy for when they inevitably rally the next militia, but a firearm’s main purpose, regardless of context, is to kill.

I don’t know if the NRA had some kind of youth-targeted recruitment drive, but if they did, it hit my hometown with the ubiquity of a plague.

As a person who supports the Second Amendment (and one who can grasp just how much power it presents to everyday folks), I must say this: I hate the gun fad that has overtaken young Republicans. I don’t know if the NRA had some kind of youth-targeted recruitment drive, but if they did, it hit my hometown with the ubiquity of a plague.

I can see the big three points they pushed now: 1. If conservative, own gun, 2. Shoot it in the desert with your buddies (booze encouraged, make sure to take pics), 3. Talk about what pussies the Dems are and how they don’t understand. Hell, before this election — and before the righteous political furor it’s brought about — I don’t think most of those I’m talking about even owned firearms. This doesn’t prove causation, of course, but it’s an interesting coincidence.

Every single day, be it on Facebook or Instagram, I see something like, “Great day shooting with the boys!” captioning a picture of some guy I was acquainted with in high school, sans earmuffs, blasting a rock or beer can to smithereens while his other open beer rests nearby.

Every day I see a post from a Young Conservative™ unboxing his new AR-15 (how original!). And always the captions for these photos are some inane variation of “Can’t wait to scare all the liberals with this!” This is where I take offense.
I feel most liberals aren’t inherently afraid of the gun itself. They’re afraid of you — incompetent, childish — and the fact that you appear completely unaware of the awesome power of the thing you’re holding.

Conservatives, don’t misunderstand me. You can be a gun enthusiast or hobbyist, even a gun “nut,” if you’re fond of that terminology, but if you shoot guns on the side of the highway and show disregard for your safety and that of others, you are part of the issue.

If you get a gun because you, as a conservative, feel like you have to, you are part the issue. If you get a gun just because you want to offend the left with your rights, you are immature, and you are also part of the issue.

If we liberals, goddamned as we are, truly did try to strip Americans of the Second Amendment, I’d fight alongside you. The right to own a gun is fundamental to our nation.

If we liberals, goddamned as we are, truly did try to strip Americans of the Second Amendment, I’d fight alongside you. The right to own a gun is fundamental to our nation. A formality, yes, but one of the most meaningful symbols left concerning the rights of the people.

That being said, it should be difficult to acquire one. It shouldn’t be impossible, or even close to it, but the background checks, the training, the wait times … they should all be in place. Yes, I understand it looks like Big Government is cracking down on your rights. However, you should have to prove, to some standard, that you are both mentally and legally fit to own an object that has the potential to kill someone. And the government should do a thorough job ensuring this.

The fact that “gun owner” and “conservative” have become synonymous is hilarious to me and a little sad. This phenomenon is the left’s fault, too; I’m not ignorant of that. Democrats have demonized firearms time and time again and not always with good reason. The ultra left has for some years wanted outright abolishment of the Second Amendment, and at some point — probably in the past couple decades, from my view — those on the right have responded by making the firearm a fetish of the GOP and its “hands-off” approach to the privileges of the people.

It’s a perpetual issue caused in part by flaring tempers and immaturity on both sides. Guns will always be part of some crime, some atrocity or attack on our nation, and therefore the gun debate will blaze on, refueled by concerns old and new. Being vocal is, of course, paramount to defending one’s Second Amendment rights in times like these. However, acting like a child during periods of such grim national sentiment just invalidates any defense one makes.

If you’re conservative and a responsible gun owner — notice the key word — then this article is not aimed at you.
Responsible gun owners don’t shoot outside of designated areas, and they’re not so insecure about their right that they feel the need to rub it in the face of opponents.

Really, just don’t be an ass about it. You want to know the most effective form of protest if you’re pro-Second Amendment? Buying a gun from a reputable source, shooting it safely and respecting it. Think about it.
Guns are not toys, if you weren’t aware already. They are cool and they are, admittedly, very fun to shoot, but they should be handled and perceived gravely. If you use your gun to tease and mock like a kindergartener with a new toy, you might want to reconsider your ownership of it.

Zach Morgan is hoping that you make rational and mature decisions, especially when it comes to guns.