From Michael Schwartz
To San Diego CityBeat’s Ryan Bradford,
I read your recent article on the Crossroads of the West gun show, held in Del Mar on December 14.
The way your half-drunken friends treat pistols makes them representative of gun owners as much as their alcohol abuse makes them sommeliers or enologists. I do commend them for unloading the pistol’s magazine before letting you handle it, which is far more like the safety precautions I am used to seeing from gun owners. (Note: a “clip” loads a magazine. A “magazine” holds ammunition. Your friend unloaded the pistol’s magazine.)
I do appreciate your attempt to understand gun owners by attending the gun show, but it left me asking two questions. What does a horrific crime like Connecticut’s Sandy Hook have to do with a Del Mar gun show, and why didn’t you actually attempt to understand gun owners while attending?
Sandy Hook was a crime committed by a mentally disturbed adult who stole a firearm by killing his own mother. He wasn’t a gun owner. He didn’t pass a background check. He didn’t use a licensed dealer to buy a gun like every attendee of a California gun show is required to do. Shooting wasn’t a hobby or sport of his and he certainly wasn’t trained. The Sandy Hook shooter’s hobby was playing violent video games that were probably much like the violent movies you talked about making while you were in high school. Did you write a similar article to this after you went to Comic-Con?
The very troubled Adam Lanza, the crime he committed, the inability to stop Lanza once he started shooting children, and his suicide have nothing to do with the law abiding firearms hobbyists you saw attending the gun show in Del Mar. Do you also attend Octoberfest and criticize attendees as being completely heartless for not doing more to memorialize the hundreds of thousands of victims of drunk driving?
I agree, Sandy Hook was as horrible a crime as we could imagine. I commend you for remembering it and, as a writer, attempting to understand it. But, you criticized an entire group of people for being ugly and suggested that they play “kill/kill/kill” due to their looks — how does that honor the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy and its victims, or help to understand the mentally disturbed man who committed it?
The answer is, it doesn’t.
As thousands of San Diegans woke up the morning of December 14 with the intention of having fun and maybe getting a good deal at a gun show, you actually had the Sandy Hook tragedy in mind, but could only come up with snarky Tweets of shallow insults and overpriced beer.
I was at that show in December manning a booth. I met and had conversations with a number of people, including:
- Double amputee Marines
- A widow who had questions about how to properly sell her late husband’s firearms
- A group of transgender ladies who organized their own shooting club
- A woman who owns her own business and started carrying a gun after she was attacked
- A physician and his wife who graduated from Tulane and own guns because they witnessed first-hand what happened after Hurricane Katrina
- A teen from Ramona who hunts with his dad every year
- A man who escaped from Vietnam in 1975 and uses a gun to protect his family’s shop
When I read your article that condemned and criticized an entire group and culture because of their looks, I wondered how many of the people I met were those you considered from afar too physically unattractive to be in public.
I won’t argue your hard-hitting, journalistic point about their lack of comeliness, because their looks didn’t really occur to me as I was busy talking to them in an attempt to judge them each by the content of their character. Considering how many times your article talks about the male anatomy, how many times you used the “F” word, your first impression of seeing people touch a gun, and how upset you were that you were unable to locate any attractive people at a gun show on the second anniversary of Sandy Hook, the content of their character was the last thing you had in mind.
Please do not take anything I have written to be an insult or an attack. I believe I have only identified differences between you and the people you observed at the gun show. The real purpose of my letter is to let you know that differences in looks and culture are okay, Mr. Bradford. I understand that your one and only try at understanding gun owners was blocked by your prejudices and biases against those who are different. I am extending an invitation to take you to a range, teach you to safely handle and operate a firearm, and answer any question you have about guns or gun owners. Reaching out to those who are different to share my culture is something I try to do to bridge gaps in understanding and end hate.
I know our meeting will be worth your time despite the fact that I’m not that pretty myself. I am confident that you and I can put aside our differences and find opportunities of understanding and similarities that will result in a chance for you to grow as a person and a writer.
“The world is full of people who have never, since childhood, met an open doorway with an open mind.” ― E.B. White
Schwartz is the Regional Coordinator of Gun Owners of California as a volunteer.