Originally Published on WAJR Morgantown
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Owners of the Big Daddy Gun store in downtown Morgantown are planning to open their location in two months as debate for and against continues. Mark Oliva, Managing Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation believes guns are largely misunderstood and most opinions don’t come from first-hand experience.
“I think there is genuine concern and I think what the ownership group has done to answer those questions has been far and above what some other businesses have done when they moved into their locations,” Oliva said
The pandemic created new trends in gun ownership, according to Oliva. In 2020, 40 percent of new gun buyers were women and gun purchases were up across all demographics and ethnicities. The most popular choice for buyers is a pistol and surveys said most purchases were made for personal protection.
“We had 21 million background checks across the country in 2020 for the sale of a firearm,” Oliva said. ” That by far shattered any previous record we had, follow it up in 2021 with 18.5 million background checks for the sale of a gun.”
Oliva said people that are not familiar with guns are very unlikely to change their perception until someone can take the time to answer their questions and try to mitigate their concerns. He said people on both sides of the issue in Morgantown should have a completely open dialog.
“Learn about it and learn what it is and what it isn’t,” Oliva said. ” I think most people, once they start to realize what it is and what it isn’t start to understand a firearm is an inanimate object- it’s a tool.”
Oliva said education is the key to the two sides coming together. The members of Protect Morgantown may never want to own a gun, and the gun community may never completely agree, but each side can learn enough to appreciate the other.
“I’ve never taken anybody to a gun range and not had them walk away from that firing line with a smile on their face,” Oliva said. “When they understand this is not only a constitutional right, as much as they might disfavor that right, it’s still a right they can exercise at their will.”
Oliva said guns are a part of the American way of life- hunting, target shooting including collegiate and Olympic level competitions. But, he said safety and understanding guns is what responsible gun owners are dedicated to.
“We encourage people to learn how to use their firearms properly, learn what the laws are in their state and follow those laws,” Oliva said. “But, bring others along the way.”
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