new shooter

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After a bit of instruction, this first-timer had a great time at the range.

Those of us who own firearms are keenly aware that there are a lot of people who think we shouldn’t, or at the very least would like to limit the type or quantity of guns we can have. Given today’s political climate, I’m not surprised to see an increasing number of proposals to do exactly that.

But the one that I saw a few days ago was a little unexpected. I think my grandfather, were he still with us, would be quite shocked that anyone would think the old Marlin .22 rifle that he carried behind his truck seat was an assault rifle. Read through this proposed change to the Florida Constitution:

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The Florida Ban on Semiautomatic Rifles and Shotguns Initiative (Initiative #19-01) may appear on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on Nov. 3, 2020.

Measure design

The measure would ban possession of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. Semiautomatic would be defined by the measure as “any weapon which fires a single projectile or a number of ball shots through a rifled or smooth bore for each single function of the trigger without further manual action required.” Assault weapon would be defined by the measure as “any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunitionfeeding device.” The definition of assault weapon would exclude handguns under the measure.

If a person lawfully owned an assault weapon before the measure’s effective date, their ownership of such weapon would still be legal (a) for one year after the measure’s effective date or (b) after the owner registers the weapon by make, model, and serial number with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Records of such registration would be available for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies but otherwise would remain confidential.

Violating the provisions of the measure would be a third-degree felony under the measure. The effective date of the measure was designed to be 30 days after the measure is approved, if it is approved by voters.{

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I can’t imagine Grandpa registering his li’l .22 as an assault weapon. The idea is so absurd as to border on comical — except that I’m pretty sure the people who wrote up this proposal were quite serious.

How did we get here? I think a huge part of it is that people fear what they don’t really understand. I’ve been around guns and owned them all my life. To many Americans, they’re more abstract. When they’re portrayed as mythically powerful death machines on movie screens, people believe it. That’s not their fault — they just don’t know any better.

So I have a proposal of my own. I suggest that we as responsible and ethical gun owners try to educate our neighbors. I don’t mean you should talk down to them about your rights and how these idiot politicians are trying to run roughshod over them. That may be popular with the choir, but we’re evangelizing here.

The best way to educate someone about guns is to get them to spend some time around guns. Invite a non-shooter to the range. Check out Jenny Malone’s column on page 18 for some interesting ideas. Don’t force the issue. Don’t make it political. All that does is divide us. Just ask them if they’d like to go learn a little and have some fun.

Now, if you choose to do this, you’re accepting a serious measure of responsibility. They probably don’t know anything about gun safety. You’ll need to go over the safety rules with them. When they handle a gun for the first time, they’re probably going to put their finger right on the trigger anyway, so I’d start out with an unloaded (preferably locked open) firearm.

When they actually shoot for the first time, they’re going to be excited. Sometimes excited people point guns in the wrong direction, so I’d give them just one round in the magazine. Ask me how I came to these conclusions.

To the non-shooting general population, a gun is a terrifying boogeyman. But I’ve seen transformations in people after they’ve just shot their first bullseye with a .22 rifle. I’ve watched people learn in amazement that an AR-15 isn’t really full auto and doesn’t kick hard enough to knock them flat — and that the bullet hole was the exact same size as the one from that little .22.

Personally, I’m going to make it a goal of mine to introduce one person a month to the world of firearms. I’m not trying to get new shooting buddies. I don’t expect them to go from anti-gun to Second Amendment crusaders. I doubt if they’ll be scheduling any range time on their own.

But they’ll learn something about what guns are and what guns aren’t, and they’ll have a bit of hands-on experience with firearms that they can look back on when someone offers up some random piece of disinformation as gospel truth.

I’m going to do my part. Will you?

Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or

Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@


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