Image Credits: Bailey LaSage

To begin this article, I had originally planned on starting with some examples of how NRA members have been portrayed in the media and social media sites over the past few months, but many are too vulgar to repeat. Quite frankly, I am ashamed that many are unable or unwilling to engage in an intelligent conversation about current events. In order to seek solutions, there must be discourse.

Following shootings across the country, many are quick to put the blame on our country’s largest pro-gun lobby, the National Rifle Association. They quickly demonize family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are members and make up the organization. This shows an obvious disconnect between what the NRA and what it’s members stand for and what is assumed it stands for. NRA members are being portrayed as things they simpler aren’t – hateful, evil, and even terrorists. These stereotypes are being perpetuated by the media and individuals online. The stereotypes simply have no basis in the truth.

I want to challenge those stereotypes.

Shortly before my 20th birthday, I joined the NRA. Growing up in Wisconsin, some of my most cherished memories of growing up are hunting alongside my dad, learning not only about firearm safety, but also the important role hunters have for conservation. My dad empowered me with the knowledge and skills to know how to handle a variety of firearms in situations from hunting to trap shooting to target practice. The discipline and respect I learned around firearms has carried over to other areas of my life. It has helped me grow as a person because of it.

Expanding off of this and with the more personal research I did, the more I became concerned that these memories I made with my dad, ones that I would hope to experience with my own children, would no longer be possible as many looks to demonize all firearms in their gun control measures. In addition to that, I want to be able to protect myself with a concealed carry weapon. Being a young, independent female, I know without a doubt that a firearm is the greatest equalizer in any situations that could harm my well-being. All of these things were under threat from those seeking to take away a constitutional right I hold in a high regard.

This lead me to the conclusion that joining the largest and most effective pro-gun lobby in the country would be one step in the right direction to protecting this right. I am a NRA member, and also a conservative, but I am still a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I am still a human being who is looking to protect a fundamental right to our citizens in this nation.

By demonizing the NRA, many are alienating Americans from engaging in discussions about the issues at hand. NRA members believe that our Second Amendment rights help us defend the rights protected in the first. While it may be easier for some to blame this organization for the problems that can come with firearms, I hope we will use the national attention surrounding gun control to engage in a deeper conversation about these issues. The issues at hand are about more than firearms themselves, but larger philosophical differences people in our country have. Blaming and finger-pointing is easy, but coming to the table to engage in discussion is harder. Now is the time to do what is hard.

Please look to have to a conversation before assumptions are made. The NRA is not to blame for recent shootings, the people who committed the heinous acts of violence are. We mourn alongside those who have been killed and affected by these tragedies, we pray that gun violence will end. We also know that the end of gun violence does not have to come at the expense of constitutional rights.

I challenge you to think before you demonize the NRA. To think before you stereotype its members. Its members are made up of millions of every day and patriotic Americans. I would be willing to bet you have someone close to you who is an NRA member. Maybe, they’d enjoy to start a conversation and even share their “why” with you.

Bailey L
Bailey is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who enjoys writing, traveling, and coffee. When she isn't working, you can find her with her nose in a book or planning her next adventure.

Read more articles